February 21, 2014

Canada Shuts Down Americans; Will Play For Gold

"The Price Is Right" for Canada as Carey Price got a 1-0 shutout over Team USA in Friday's semifinal.

Price got a lot of help from his teammates. Despite scoring only one goal, Canada played a textbook hockey game. Offensively they spent a lot of time in the Americans zone, grinding down and tiring out the US defense. Defensively they were air-tight, essentially writing a how-to manual on how to always support teammates.

The scoreless first period was an electric exchange of scoring chances for both teams. The Sidney Crosby-Chris Kunitz-Patrice Bergeron line was dangerous all night, while the Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry-Jamie Benn line gave America all they could handle and then some with their size down low. America responded with good speed on the transition but Canada adjusted by the 10 minute mark and eliminated that from their game.

Canada controlled the game from that moment on. In fact for a narrow one-goal victory, this game wasn't really that close.

Jonathan Quick was strong all night. But even he was unable to stop a Jamie Benn deflection at 1:41 of the second period. Jay Bouwmeester feigned a point shot and made an excellent hard pass for Benn to tip in.

It was the only goal Canada would need. The USA rarely had quality scoring chances in the second and third, with Paul Stastny coming the closest by jamming a puck through Price’s five hole but it rolled wide of the far post.

The key to the game was the play of each nation's blue line. Canada, with 4 Norris trophy candidates and 2 very strong rearguards, played with great composure all night long. They controlled play in their own zone and pinched with impunity in the American zone.

USA seemed to tire under constant pressure and cycling from the large Canadian forwards. They were down a man with Paul Martin out due to injury. Martin had been average 18 minutes per game for USA - the third highest total for the team. And therein lies the ultimate problem for USA: Their third best d-man can not compare with any of Canada's 8 players available. In fact only Ryan Suter would make Team Canada if he were available.

Canada now plays Sweden on Sunday for the gold medal (7am ET/4am PT). USA will play Finland for the bronze on Saturday (10am ET/7 am PT)

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