February 26, 2010
Canada Hangs On Against Slovakia
Canada defeated Slovakia 3-2 to advance the gold medal game, but barely.
After handling Slovakia much of the game, jumping out to a 2-0 lead early and upping that to a more comfortable 3-0 lead in the 2nd. They seemed to be in full control half way through the third period, and that's when it all fell apart.
Roberto Luongo let in a softy on the short side to allow Slovakia back in the game. From that moment they stormed the Canadians, taking apart the defense, eventually making it 3-2.
The final minute of play felt like an hour of mayhem, as Canada scrambled and hung on. And then with the clock almost expiring Pavol Dimetra had an amazing chance to tie it all up and force overtime. But somehow a defeated Roberto Luongo got just enough of his glove on the puck and deflected the puck out of trouble for the final few seconds of the game.
Was Canada guilty of looking past Slovakia before the game was over? With the fans chanting "We Want USA" with well over 10 minutes left, you bet they were. Were the Canadians lucky to hang on? You bet they were. They disrespected an incredible Slovakian team and almost paid for it.
Somewhere the Americans were watching all this, smiling no doubt. Their scouts and coaches watched the Canadian defensive game plan in action for half a game. Then they watched Slovakia pick it apart, making their game plan notes fairly easy.
I'm sure I'll have lots on the gold medal game in time. But I want to talk just a bit about Slovakia. They have been amazing in this tournament, knocking of Russia, Sweden and almost Canada. They played a perfect game plan against Canada, frustrating them and the crowd. Had Canada not gotten the two early deflection goals against Halak, well who knows.
They put a heck of a scare in the hearts of all Canadians. I know I will be cheering them on for the bronze. I hope they are not too let down and blow the chance to win a medal, much like Canada did in 1998. It would be a shame to see Slovakia to go home empty-handed now. At age 28 Marian Gaborik - who didn't finish the game with an apparent injury - is the youngest Slovakian forward. This generation of Slovakian players will not be back in 2014, and, despite their passion for hockey, the country is not developing a new generation of players to take over. I'd like to see them get a bronze medal.
Slovak meets Finland Saturday night for the bronze. The Finns, too, will be going through a generational change after this tournament. At least they have players up and coming. I wish them well too. We've had an amazing hockey tournament, let's have an amazing bronze medal game, too.
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That was a wake up call to Team Canada if there ever was one. They are not only going to have to bring their "A" game the rest of the way, but they are going to have to have some "A+++++" performances...or at least act like they want it. Like they did with Russia, for example.
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