Feb 21, 2014, 2:55 PM EDT
7-1, 3-2, 5-1 and 5-2.
Those were the scores of the U.S.’s first four games — all wins — at the Sochi Winter Olympics, a big reason why the American offense was so thoroughly lauded heading into the semifinals.
But on Friday, defense won out over offense as the Canadians blanked the Americans in a 1-0 win.
The U.S., which had relied so heavily on its balanced attack in its previous contests, certainly put forth a strong effort and had some quality scoring opportunities. Zach Parise, who had just one point in America’s previous four games, did everything he could to generate offense, putting a game-high eight shots on goal. Phil Kessel, the tournament’s leading scorer, fired four shots on Canadian netminder Carey Price, while Patrick Kane registered three.
In short, you couldn’t accuse the Americans of a poor effort.
Canada ultimately deserves more credit than America deserves blame. The Canadian team defense, which has been superb throughout the tournament, was at the top of its game and did a tremendous job of forechecking, back-checking and winning the possession game (click here to see Canada’s Corsi edge.)
In taking the middle, the Canadians were taking a page out of the book the Latvians and Finns used to frustrate them, showing they have adapted since the start of the Olympics. Adopting those tactics allowed Canada to keep the U.S. forwards from executing their gameplan.
Canada also managed to stay on the attack for large portions of this contest, sapping the U.S. of its ability to stage a sustained offensive. Had U.S. goalie Jonathan Quick not been able to largely match Price’s efforts — he was the busier of the two goalies, stopping 36 of 37 shots — the score could’ve been lopsided.
The number of chances and transition in a 1-0 game wasn’t lost on American head coach Dan Bylsma.
“It was up and down the ice,” he said, per NHL.com. “We weren’t able to counter that, we weren’t able to match that as much as we’d like.”
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