As Team Canada’s quest to repeat as Olympic hockey champions began, the team they snatched the gold began their own journey to avenge their defeat in the final game of the 2010 Vancouver tournament. Two different opponents racked up two very different scores, but the score doesn’t make the better team on this day.
Canada took away a 3-1 win over Norway, who impressed all with a solid performance at both ends of the ice. Meanwhile, the Americans had a much more lopsided affair, winning 7-1 over a Slovakia team that includes more NHL talent than the Norweigans.
The Americans have the highest goal differential of any team after one game, but statistically, both teams are first in their respective pools.
The Canadians looked much better on the ice, as they established a business-like approach to the game early, and did not differ throughout the following 60 minutes. The Americans came out like, well, Americans, playing a brash game that found themselves in the offensive zone for an overwhelming majority.
A six-goal second period was more than enough to power the United States, who laid off the gas and played a cool, puck- possession game after forty minutes, and did not score in the third. The Canadians played the same way, and reaped the same benefits, as the game was still a no-doubt victory.
Both Norway and Slovakia made it interesting, however: Slovakia tied the game 1-1 very early in the second period, prompting an American offensive barrage that put the contest away. The Canadians allowed a weak goal early into the third period, but the game was already a done-deal by then, as the Canucks went back to their dominating play off the ensuing face-off.
The Canadians are better off because they executed their game plan throughout the whole 60 minutes, while the Americans went about their win brashly, and even loosely. There was no celebrating on the ice when Canada made it 1-0, but the Americans were a different story on their decisive goals.
Both teams knew they were going to win their respective games, and both teams did just that. However, coaches only coach when there are consistent mistakes, so if the Americans run into trouble on Saturday against home-town Russia, the score could climb against them just as it did for them on Thursday.
The Canadians have another light opponent in Austria on Friday, but will take on Finland on Sunday in their final preliminary game. The Americans face Slovenia on Sunday. I think that Canada will get into top game form against a true opponent (Finland), and can remain in that form for their following games in the playoffs. The Americans, however, could face a similar situation as today’s on Sunday, and it will be a struggle for a team to find their game once in the playoffs when they had to lay off the gas in the match before.
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