At roughly 9:05 p.m. local time in Sochi every Canadian citizen around the world was already in a panic. The score between Canada and Finland in the final game of the Olympic’s initial hockey bracket round was still knotted at 0-0. For the nation who claims hockey as their sport, this is enough cause to pull out a defibrillator.
Three periods and almost a full overtime later and Canadian hockey fans will sleep soundly tonight as their boys skated past Finland with a 2-1 overtime win guaranteeing them the third spot in the quarterfinal competition beginning this Wednesday.
Since the onset of games began last Thursday many have expressed initial disappointment in Canada’s play. I am not quite sure what qualifies three straight wins, one of them a 6-0 shutout for goalie Roberto Luongo, as disappointment, but if we must pick things apart and give cause for the currently slipping Canadian offense a lack of chemistry would be that reason.
One of the biggest issues Canada faces going into elimination rounds this week is finding a line worthy of team captain Sidney Crosby. The word worthy is not necessarily meant to suggest Crosby is a step above everyone else (although many would argue he is), but more to suggest that playing on a line with the NHL points leader is not average.
Crosby is a scorer, but Crosby is also the best passer hockey has seen in years and coach Mike Babcock has struggled to find wingers that click with that kind of play. A fact made apparent in Canada’s first game against Norway where Crosby’s then linemate Jeff Carter was fed at least three golden chances, all of which he was a second too late for.
Crosby has melded much better with defenseman Drew Doughty, who scored both of Canada’s goals today (Crosby with an assist on the first) and in the end, a win is a win.
But Canada has to be more than Crosby (this is a team sport, after all) and today Finland brought together their own structured offense and one of the best goalies in the NHL, Boston Bruins‘ Tuukka Rask, to capitalize on a few major mistakes from Canada and force an overtime decision.
But while the mistakes were there, today’s game was the best Canada has looked as a team since arriving in Sochi. Maybe it has something to do with the outing to Saturday’s Men’s Curling Match (sporting the signature curling stone hat together is enough to bond anyone for life) or maybe it has something to do with realizing that no matter how much talent is collected in one group, a gold medal on Olympic ice must be earned.
But if potential is any testament of the future for how well the Canadians can play, in the famous words of Bachman Turner Overdrive, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”