February 18, 2014
Calm Down Canada
Canadians are not exactly happy with Team Canada's performance so far in the men's Olympic hockey tournament. They can't score! They've benched the Art Ross and Norris trophy winners! No one can play with Sidney Crosby! Sidney Crosby can't play with anybody!
Canadian hockey fans should calm down at this stage. They are undefeated, have given up only two goals, have their coveted bye and rest day, and are ultimately in a good position to start the medal round, despite their lack of offensive production.
Canada has dominated territorial play offensively. They have heavily outchanced their opponents. So far they have had trouble converting and penetrating the slot. But as long as Canada continues to generate the chances, Mike Babcock is gambling his high priced talent will start converting soon, or at least at the right times.
And if there is one thing I've learned is never bet against Mike Babcock. But the coach will concede that it is not easy, and that the big ice is playing a role in making it harder this time around.
"It's a hard game. The European game is interesting; it's all about defense, the end zone is smaller ... they get out on your D so quick, the dynamic D we have don't get to shoot any pucks; they play man on man and they're on you like glue, and it's hard, and you have to be committed to doing it. And the other things that happens for the NHL player, and probably for you in the media, is the respect you have for the opposition -- you say, well he doesn't play in the NHL. They're playing for their country, and they play hard. And they make it hard on you. So we've just got to keep getting better."
While I would like to see Babcock shorten his bench at times and give Sidney Crosby in particular double shifts to a) get him going and b) confuse defenses, that is the only second guessing I will do at this stage.
In addition, they are playing great defensively. So far there is no goaltending controversy largely because Canada's defense in front of the crease has been so good. Yes, they have only played Norway, Austria and injury riddled Finland, but they have really kept scoring chances down to an impressive minimum.
Winning an Olympic hockey tournament is never easy. And yes, Canada is still a work in progress as all teams ultimately are. But if hockey is art they best remember the gallery opens on Wednesday. It'd be nice if they were showing more by then, but it is okay that they are not.