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American goalscoring screeched to a halt, thanks in large part to Canadian roadblock

Feb 21, 2014, 2:55 PM EDT

KesselSadAP AP

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.

VIDEO: Highlights from Canada’s 1-0 win

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.)

“It’s disappointing,” American defenseman Brooks Orpik said, per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I felt like we were getting better and better every game. They really stuffed the middle.”

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.

“We wanted to get pucks behind their D, create some opportunities that way,” Ryan Callahan said, per NHL.com. “Thought we did it early, but they defended well.”

VIDEO: U.S. can’t find empty net in final minutes

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.

VIDEO: Ryan Callahan says “it’s a tough one to take”

“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.”

  1. stepanup - Feb 21, 2014 at 3:03 PM

    Just wrote this on the previous post, but it’s appropriate here as well…Canada’s defense was suffocating. Not just the defenseman but the backchecking of the forwards. It was like the Canada was two steps ahead of the Americans and knew what the US forwards were going to do before they did. Impeccable game Canada. The shots do not accurately portray the beating this was. I also feel as though the 2010 team pushed the Canadiens harder than they were today.

    Big brother just gave little brother one hell of a dead arm.

    I don’t blame the US at all. Sometimes you have to admit when the other team is better.

  2. bucrightoff - Feb 21, 2014 at 3:03 PM

    Incredible defense + incredible coaching and game planning = How do you score?

    • barkar942 - Feb 22, 2014 at 12:15 AM

      Absolutely. Lemaire had the Devils trapping and clutching through the neutral zone, forced the Rangers to the outside, made them take low percentage shots that Marty could easily stop, and then after they took the lead, Stevens and Neidemeyer just took any entry into their zone to the boards and stifled every play to the outside and cycled the Rangers out one and done.
      Oh, sorry.
      That game just gave me a horrible flashback to how bad trap hockey can be. The last thing I wanted to see was a horribly boring trap game, but, kudos to Canada for pulling it off, even if it was the worst game of the tournament thus far.
      Now I’m sure that Cindy will be the big hero in the shootout 1-0 win over Sweeden.

  3. nobandwagoners - Feb 21, 2014 at 3:07 PM

    A lot has been said about Canada’s suffocating defense but for large parts of the game, especially the second, Canada spent lots of time in the US zone on the attack. If not for Quick’s excellent performance, Canada would have had a handful of more goals. Call that strong defensive play if you will, but I don’t think enough has been said about the strong attack by the Canadians throughout the game. It’s not like Canada sat back and only waited to counterattack like the Swiss, Latvia, etc.

  4. falstaffsmind - Feb 21, 2014 at 3:10 PM

    Canada played great. US played nearly great. The Canadian defense just did a great job of limiting chance in front of Price. It seemed like all the US shots were from the edges and Price was having none of it.

    • avscup - Feb 22, 2014 at 9:12 AM

      Canada did what they planned. US did not play great. They played weak. Did not consistently go to the hard places with determination. When the middle gets clogged by good players, it’s hard to score but alas you have to do what is necessary to score and the US did not crash the net and get pucks there.

  5. 19to77 - Feb 21, 2014 at 3:18 PM

    Babcock just reaffirmed himself as the best coach in hockey. Every shift was timed almost to the second, he seemed to get every matchup he wanted, the puck movement was drilled to perfection and nobody let their emotions get ahead of the game plan. It may seem like coaching is the easy part when you have an enormous wealth of talent to work with, but ask the Russians how well that logic works out.

    • joey4id - Feb 21, 2014 at 4:23 PM

      Babcock is the Tikhonov of NA hockey.

      • barkar942 - Feb 22, 2014 at 12:16 AM

        No, he is the Lemaire of North American Hockey.

  6. joey4id - Feb 21, 2014 at 3:21 PM

    I agree with all of the above.

    joey4id – Feb 21, 2014 at 2:36 PM
    Well! Well! Well! What an awesome display of d play by TC. Price made the easy stops and TC completely neutralized team USA’s O by cordoning out the middle of the ice in the d zone. Shades of Red Wings hockey played under a great coach. Puck management and positional play was put on display. Awesome.

  7. pftfan - Feb 21, 2014 at 3:23 PM

    At some point, you knew the whole idea of leaving off two top American scorers in order to fill the bottom 2 lines with “gritty grinders” wasn’t going to play in the Medal rounds.

    • joey4id - Feb 21, 2014 at 4:25 PM

      Would not have made a difference. Canada played too well over the whole 200 feet. Can’t blame USA. Kessel can get his MVP, but what really matters is getting gold.

  8. beergold - Feb 21, 2014 at 3:24 PM

    Great game by both teams!!!

    P.S. Brian Burke needs a haircut! Lookin pretty rough old dog!

  9. kangarooparm - Feb 21, 2014 at 3:28 PM

    I’m a US fan but anyone that knows hockey could see that Canada had a step the whole game. Every time Canada had the puck they possessed it and created chances, every time US had puck it was short lived and sloppy other than a few decent chances. Canada played a great game and without Quicker it would have been much worse.

    • avscup - Feb 22, 2014 at 9:14 AM

      Spot on parm.

  10. blomfeld - Feb 21, 2014 at 3:43 PM

    AND CONVERSELY …

    It could be argued that Canada’s goalscoring ‘never’ got going thanks to the American roadblock known as Jonathan Quick ! :) :) :)

    GO QUICK !! … TODAY, TOMORROW AND FOREVER !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    *** Current Top Goalies in the World as per Karl Meyer @ Der Leipziger Sport ***

    1) Jonathan Quick
    2) Henrik Lundqvist
    3) Carey Price
    4) Martin Jones
    5) Corey Scneider

    28) Kari Lehtonen (poisoned?)
    29) Alexander Ovechkin (unaccounted for?)
    30) Valeri Varlamov (institutionalized?)

    • soro17 - Feb 21, 2014 at 4:11 PM

      What about Bernier and Scrivens? Clearly top five. Who is Valeri Varlamov?

      • blomfeld - Feb 21, 2014 at 9:25 PM

        sorry friend, I meant to say ‘Semyon’ Varlamov …

    • elrock7 - Feb 21, 2014 at 4:26 PM

      Who is Karl meyer, and why would anyone care what he thinks?

      • blomfeld - Feb 21, 2014 at 9:33 PM

        listen Elrock …

        Karl Meyer is a famous newspaper publisher and he’s an expert in ‘advanced’ probability theory … and along with people like Josef Stransky and Wolfgang Steiner, I count Meyer as one of my ‘best’ friends !

        ps: Comrade Soro … no doubt Bernier & Scrivens are ‘definitely’ Top 5, however I suspect that Meyer omitted them in the spirit of Olympic ‘detente’ if you will ? :)

  11. terrier92 - Feb 21, 2014 at 8:34 PM

    Thought I was watching a Bruins game today Claude Julians fingerprints were all over this win Canada’s system was very familiar looking to this Bruins season ticket holder

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