Jamie Benn’s Army Postgame: Canada v. USA

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Smile, Stevie Y, Canada is off to the Gold Medal Game!

We’d been highly anticipating these 2-3 hours of action ever since Drew Doughty put home the overtime winner vs. Finland last Sunday, essentially providing a blueprint for the route to the medals. Canada/United States, in a rematch of the 2010 Gold Medal Game that won’t ever be forgotten around these parts.

While the game itself may not have been as dramatic as that one four years ago, or even more recently, the one these two countries’ women engaged in yesterday, for my money it completely delivered on its promise. It was fast-paced, it was highly skilled, and the best players in the world were all for the most part playing at their best.

Sure, there may’ve only been one goal scored in the 60 minutes of play, but that hardly tells the story of what was a fantastically played, and uber competitive hockey game. For those of you keeping score at home, it’s now Canada 2, USA 0 in meaningful hockey games in Sochi.

Canada best.

Jamie Benn Has Got it Going On


That one goal was scored by none other than Jamie Benn, as he put some wicked hand-eye coordination on display in tipping Safe Bouwmeester’s pass home. Bouwmeester gets some flack – probably moreso from myself than anyone else – but that was an all-world play in which he put some great vision on display.

But let’s not get away from this site’s patron saint, Benn, who continues to have himself a heck of a tournament. He was right up there with Tavares in terms of the team’s most effective skaters (which is quite a testament, considering all of the big names involved), and with JT now on the shelf, I think he’s got to be in the short conversation for MVP if Canada goes on to win it all.

I particularly liked what Justin Bourne had to say on the Benn-Getzlaf-Perry unit in his recap of the game:

“I just can’t wrap my head around lining up for a faceoff against Ryan Getlaf, Corey Perry and Jamie Benn. I mean, eff me. These guys have some of the best mitts on the planet, and they just happen to be eight-foot-twelve, 600 pounds each (ballpark). They’re just so crafty and strong, trying to D-up on them from the corner out must take so, so much energy. What a game they played today, Benn in particular. The vision and tip on the first goal were silly.”

.. how the heck wasn’t this guy invited to the team’s Orientation Camp? That somehow makes their little ball hockey rendezvous look like an even bigger joke than it already was.

The Scoring Chances

I’ve attached the chance data below, thanks to the fine tracking work on one Cam Charron. As you’ll quickly realize, the Crosby line was pretty darn dominant in this game. While I’m sure there will still be some mouth breathers out there that will point to the donut he has in the “goals scored” column, there’s really no point in arguing with those or people or trying to sway them, because they seem set in their ways.

The fact of the matter is that Crosby did whatever he wanted to out there, and really it was only Khris Cunitz’s lack of finishing ability (to go along with a strong Jonathan Quick performance, in fairness) that got in the way of Crosby having himself a couple of assists in this game. There were probably at least 4-5 golden opportunities for Cunitz, which he unsurprisingly blew. I’m sure he’d be viewed differently were that to be the case. Regardless, the process is there, as is his excellence.

Meanwhile, the Toews line (with Marleau and Carter) were the only Canadians to have a minus next to their name, but that was solely due to circumstance. Babcock once again went to them as the “tough minutes” unit, and for the most part I thought they did everything you could ask for from guys asked to play against Kessel, Pavelski, and JVR. Carter, in particular, came flying right out of the gate, and seemed to be all over the place. Both he and Marleau were nearly rewarded for their efforts near the end of the game as both had a shot at the yawning cage.

Anyways, I just wanted to point that out because putting data like this into context is always a crucial component when it comes to analyzing it. Here are the individual scoring chance differentials:

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Here are the cumulative team totals:

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The Canucks

I have no issue with admitting when I’ve overlooked something in my analysis, or simply blew a call I’ve made in the past. It happens to everyone that finds themselves doing this thing day in and day out (unless you’re a no good fence-rider, and then what’s the point anyways?).

So with that in mind, I’ll fully cop to being wrong about the goaltending situation for Canada. It’d be fair to say that I wasn’t exactly overly confident in the team’s decision to ride with Carey Price as their starting goaltender, especially when they stopped playing the Latvias and Norways of the world, and started taking on real competition.

But now I have to (very willingly, and happily) give Price his due, because he was fantastic. Particularly in the first period, when he made a handful of legitimately tough saves, like the ones on Phil Kessel and John Carlson. As the game went along he was called upon less and less, but was rock solid whenever he needed to be, which is all you really ask for from the guy playing behind a team like this.

Now, he could just as easily go on to have a bad game on Sunday and the narrative will take a full 180 flip (“should of started Luongo!”), but for the next 24 hours or so Mike Babcock and Co. look pretty smart for their decision.

Two other Canucks notes before we look ahead to the aforementioned Gold Medal game:

a) Dan Hamhuis played a grand total of 0:00. Babcock went ahead and spread out his defensive minutes pretty uniformly across the top-6, with all of them playing somewhere between 18 and 21 minutes. That’s something I’m perfectly OK with. But if you’re not going to play that 7th guy unless there’s some sort of emergency, then wouldn’t it be a savvier play to have someone like PK Subban dressed in case you find yourself in a position where you need goals? Nitpicking, I guess.

b) Ryan Kesler topped 20 minutes in this game, registering only the one shot on goal. The CBC cameras showed him arriving to the arena with a big ol’ bandage around his hand, and at the end of the 2nd period he appeared to gingerly head to the lockerroom after going down to block a shot. I tweeted this earlier, but it’s going to be really cool when he shows up to Vancouver in a Ziploc bag in the form of a pile of dust.

What’s Next?

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Hey, I know those guys! The only thing standing between Team Canada and being back-to-back Gold is Daniel Sedin, Alex Edler, and Team Sweden.

Despite their litany of injuries – heck, they’re missing three of their top 6 forwards in Henrik Sedin, Henrik Zetterberg, and Johan Franzen – they’ve done an admirable job of making it all the way to this point.

Ultimately, though, I think they’re going to find out very quickly that there’s a substantial difference between playing Slovenia and Finland (their two elimination game opponents), and playing this Canadian team. I would be pretty stunned if Canada didn’t roll through them at 5v5, thoroughly controlling play. Whether they’ll be able to actually convert some of that into goals, especially with Henrik Lundqvist back there, remains to be seen.

What also remains to be seen is whether Canada will be able to avoid taking any dumb penalties, and how their penalty kill will hold up against the tournament’s best power play unit. Despite missing two pretty darn gifted offensive playmakers in Zetterberg and Sedin, the Swedes have still managed to boast a savagely dynamic man advantage in this tournament up until this point. I’d say that their only real chance to win on Sunday morning will be if they continue to crush it on special teams.

Make sure you either set your alarm clocks, and load up on the beer.. and we’ll see you guys on the other side!


  • argoleas

    Great game, overall I thought the Canadians owned the game, and the score flattered the Americans.Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Jamie Benn line was amazing,as was Jeff Carter.Price ,and the whole defense corps played incredible.They moved out their zone so well.Sweden will be a different kettle of fish.Notice the trap they played when they were ahead? (against Finland) Hopefully Canada scores first in the gold medal game to throw them out of it.Otherwise, if they score first, I`m worried about Canada breaking that trap style game.(and goalie Lundquist)Just remembering the tussle we had with Finland.But yes, we should be the favorites.

  • argoleas

    The last 2 days only confirm what all the atlas books show – Canada is always on top.

    Great defensive game, which only showed that the best defense is a strong offense.

    Very good goaltending. And I can’t complain about Hamhuis’s lack of playing time. He has himself a nice rest while still assuring himself a medal. Ditto for Luongo.

    The Kesler news is not encouraging.

      • argoleas

        I said offense, not goal scoring. Keeping the puck in the opponent’s end is a good way to defend. Puck possession and pursuit. That’s hockey 101.

        Or as Bush 43 would say, “we fight them over there so they don’t kill us over here.”

  • Mantastic

    That was a thoroughly entertaining 1-0 game and, as Dmitri notes, Canada should control play 5v5 on Sunday.

    And that’s really all we can ask for.

    While I’d take Stamkos & Tavares over H. Sedin & Zetterberg every day of the week and twice this Sunday, Sweden doesn’t have Canada’s depth to make up for those gaping holes in their lineup.

    On a sadder note, Sunday may be the last time we get to see Lou represent Canada on the big stage…

    • argoleas

      Can’t argue with anything except the last line.

      What happened to “the Canucks are destined to miss the playoffs for ever and ever more”? If the ‘Nucks aren’t a playoff team anymore Luongo will have lots of opportunities to play for Team Canada at the Worlds over the next couple of years.

      • argoleas

        I’m not sure why you insist on making up nonsense.

        Considering I thought the Canucks would make the playoffs this year up until their pre-Olympic nosedive, the “forever and ever stuff” speaks to your lack of reading comprehension abilities and/or wilful ignorance.

        Even if it does come to pass that the Canucks miss the playoffs for the next few years, it doesn’t necessarily mean Luongo will.

        And I’m not sure Hockey Canada will select Lou to play at the Worlds or that he would accept at this stage of his career…

  • argoleas

    Carey Price played great!

    That being said, had a great hockey watching party for those who could avoid the media/friend blitz of coverage And watch the game at 7pm pst. That was tough! It was worth it though.

    The Canadians played their hearts out. Especially Sid the Kid, what a tough, nails type of guy.
    Go boys go