5 things to watch for in Canada vs. U.S. men's hockey rematch
Game at 12 p.m. ET streaming at cbc.ca/olympics
If Team Canada is to repeat as gold medalists in men’s hockey, it will have to get past the best team in the tournament thus far from the United States.
Here are five questions facing Team Canada going into the big game, which airs at noon ET on CBC-TV or streaming at cbc.ca/olympics:
1. Will Sidney Crosby ramp it up?
Nobody doubts Sid the Kid’s passion and desire for success, but when you are the undisputed best player in the world, expectations are very high. The effort has been there; the results have not. Two assists in four games just isn’t cutting it. The time for complaining about the multitude of wingers employed on his line has come and gone. It’s time for Crosby to step up and lead his hockey team no matter who he plays with.
2. Can Canada stop Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk?
Kessel and JVR combined for nine goals and 21 points in the Toronto Maple Leafs last seven games before the break and have continued to work their magic in Sochi. Kessel is leading the tournament in scoring with five goals and eight points in four games while his buddy has a goal and five points. Combined they are plus-13.
You know what you are getting from both players – Kessel has a deadly snap shot and can scored from anywhere in the offensive zone while van Riemsdyk likes to park in front of the net and has hands of gold – but that doesn’t make them any easier to stop. Keeping these guys off the scoreboard is paramount to a Canada victory.
3. Will Canada’s own dynamic duo of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry do for it what Kessel and JVR have done for Team USA?
Both Canadian players have played well, but while Getzlaf has a goal and three points, Perry has no goals or points. They are the highest scoring duo in the NHL (Getzlaf is second in league scoring; Perry is seventh) and Canada was expecting more production from the pair in this tournament. Both would probably benefit from a few more minutes of ice time as neither is averaging 15 minutes per game.
4. Will Canada get more offence from its forwards?
It must, if it wants to defeat the high-scoring Americans. So far Canada has scored 13 goals in Sochi and seven have come off the sticks of defencemen — Drew Doughty has four and Shea Weber has three.
Jeff Carter had a hat trick while single goals have been scored by Getzlaf, Jamie Benn and Patrick Sharp. Players expected to score goals, including Perry, Rick Nash, Chris Kunitz, Patrick Marleau, Martin St. Louis and John Tavares, have come up empty. Now Tavares is out for the rest of the tournament and for the remainder of the NHL season with a knee injury. Don’t be surprised if coach Mike Babcock shortens his bench to allow his top three lines to find a rhythm.
5. Can Carey Price out-duel Jonathan Quick in goal?
Price has been very steady in his three starts for Canada, but those games were against teams that had trouble scoring. That will not be the case against the United States. Price needs to shut the door to allow the Canadian skaters to find their games. For what it’s worth, Price’s goals-against average in the tournament is 0.99 compared to 1.62 for Quick.