February 13 2014 01:10PM
Image via Dallas Stars
With no NHL hockey to watch, chew on, and discuss, we've shifted our sights to Sochi, where the Men's hockey tournament is off and running. It'll be a nice, refreshing change to get to watch and write about really good players, after having spent far too much time covering the Pascal Pelletier and Yann Sauves of the world in recent weeks.
Team Canada opened up its preliminary play on Thursday morning with a matchup against Norway. What looked like a potentially lopsided rout on paper took a while to materialize, but eventually Canada's overwhelming skill level finally took over, as they steamrolled their opposition. While the 3-1 score line may not necessarily say as much, it was a pretty thorough domination in the final 40 minutes of play.
Read on past the jump for the scoring chance data, and some thoughts on the game itself (particularly as it relates to the two Vancouver Canucks on the team).
Much to the chagrin of the vast majority of my Twitter timeline, it took Canada a while to kick things into high gear. While I'd say that it speaks more to the team's exorbitant expectations than anything else, people were unsurprisingly freaking out about a 20 minute stretch of play that saw Canada control play for the most part en route to a 6-3 scoring chance advantage. Remember: Canada and Norway played a scoreless opening period in 2010 as well.
The one combination which really stood out from the rest in the opening period was the Benn-Bergeron-Tavares unit, which I guess was considered the team's de facto "4th line". When Canada finally broke through in the 2nd period to get on the board, it was thanks to a delayed penalty call which Benn drew. That proved to be just the beginning of The Jamie Benn Show (which as a result, led to the name change of this very recap).
At one point Ole-Kristian Tollefsen - who had up until that point been running around like a chicken with his head cut off, hitting anything and everything - tried to line Benn up as he entered the OZ. Instead, he was ultimately sent flying to the ice on his rear because after all, Jamie Benn is an indestructible force. Maybe that news hadn't made its way to Norway yet, but after this game, I think the message has been received loud and clear. As a longtime supporter of Benn, I feel like a proud papa today. And to think this guy wasn't even invited to the team's orientation camp!
Shortly thereafter, Benn made it 2-0 following a nice setup by Bergeron. All of that scoring was in the midst of a 2nd period stretch that saw Canada register 13 scoring chances (to just 1 by Norway). People's reservations and anxiety was alleviated for the most part after that, as it was that kind of domination that had come to be expected from them.
Norway got on the board early in the 3rd period to cut it to one, but Drew Doughty restored the 2-goal lead with a wicked goal. An interesting dynamic of the Olympics presents itself with someone like Doughty; if you're a Canucks fan he's a player that you love to hate and cheer against during the regular season, but he's so darn good and essential to Team Canada's success. Everyone suddenly becomes his biggest fan for 2 and a half weeks.
One final note: Chris Kunitz started a little scrum late in the game after hitting a player from behind. He only received a 2-minute minor for it, but I think it's exactly the type of play that needs to be removed from the game and by god I hope the IIHF makes an example of him by suspending him for the next 5 games. Please?
Babcock says coaching staff had their scoring chances at 24 but not enough second chances— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) February 13, 2014
Well dang, if Mike Babcock is going to be doing this sort of stuff then we all might be out of jobs soon! I counted them manually myself, and had Team Canada with 23 scoring chances (with just 5 for Norway). That's close enough to paint the picture. Anyways, since Cam Charron came to the same figure, and did a nice job in laying out his data, I've attached it below. Make sure you go and read his gamer over at Yahoo! as well to help quench your thirst for Canadian hockey:
Pretty good period for Hamhuis. Pretty good game for Kesler. Best day the Canucks have had in six weeks.— Jason Botchford (@botchford) February 13, 2014
As the game went along, Dan Hamhuis saw his ice-time and role progressively increase, as he was playing some next to Drew Doughty by the time all was said and done. He ended his day with nearly 10 minutes of ice-time, a pair of shots on net, and a performance that was pretty steady and even-keeled in what has come to be the norm with him. He looked good in the burn that Mike Babcock threw his way.
I'd imagine getting to actually sit on the bench for a while and take it easy must be quite the adjustment for him, given how heavily John Tortorella has had to ride him in Vancouver with all of the injuries to the back-end.
Regardless of the fact that he really did nothing wrong, he's probably the odd man out tomorrow v. Austria as PK Subban draws into the lineup. Barring some sort of injury or royal eff up on Subban's part, you have to think that there's at least a chance that we've seen the last of Dan Hamhuis in this tournament. If that does in fact happen to be the case, at least he acquitted himself rather nicely with the entire world watching.
Image via TheStanchion
It has already been announced that Roberto Luongo will be getting the start for tomorrow's contest v. Austria (which has a puck-drop time of 9AM PST, once again). It was predetermined prior to the tournament that the two goaltenders would each get a start, before the coaching staff chose the start for the final preliminary game v. Finland (with that guy presumably being the one they'd ride in the elimination games as well, barring some unforeseen meltdown).
Price was solid in his opportunity on Thursday morning, albeit in a fairly sheltered role. While the Norwegian team managed to finish the contest with 20 shots on goal, I'd say that only 3 or 4 of them at most were legitimately dangerous chances. Even Dan Cloutier would've looked good under these set of circumstances, making it tough to evaluate Price (and more importantly, come closer to a decision moving forward). I'll say this about his performance: he made the saves he needed to, and didn't blow it in any way, which most likely bodes well for him.
I guess we'll have to see what Luongo does in his shot against an Austrian team that put 4 pucks past Tuukka Rask in their opener (with former Canuck Michael Grabner potting a hat trick). Barring some sort of extreme case on either end of the spectrum, I assume that Mike Babcock will stick to "the plan" and send Price back out there v. Finland.