February 26, 2014

Absolute Domination



This time there was no overtime, no drama and no golden goal. Instead of high scoring prima donnas, it was a gang of grinders that wore down the competition. This team was head and shoulders better than the ones that won gold in Salt Lake and Vancouver. This gold medal was won the old fashion way - defense and hard work. They were a well oiled machine and there wasn't a single flaw to them. They played as unit, they played as one. Head coach Mike Babcock is a genius. Him and his coaching staff got the players to buy into defense first and score later. The foundation was set early and the rest fell into place. The other teams in the tournament didn't stand a chance. 

They took care of the lightweights fairly easily in Norway and Austria. Latvia gave them a game and but Canada was never in any serious trouble. The Finns always played Canada tough and it took overtime to seal the win. Their next opponent were the Americans. They were firing on all cylinders. They took the Russians into a shoot out and ripped their hearts out in front of their countrymen. The Americans looked unbeatable as they scored at will against their past opponents. Canada on the other struggled to score and many back home were full of angst. The Americans were the road block to the gold medal game. Team Canada didn't seem to worry, they had plan.

All of that worry was put aside as I watched one of the most lopsided 1-0 games, if there is such a thing. The Americans hit a brick wall. It was total domination as they put on a clinic in puck possession, cycling the puck and removing time and space. Most of the time, I'm a basketcase when it comes to one goal games in a round robin tournament. However, this game I just sat back and watched an almost perfect game. I knew this team was going to win the gold. They were unstoppable.

Sunday morning the game started very early and for many in Western Canada even earlier. Several provincial governments made a one time exception in liquor laws and allowed bars to open early. The entire country would be watching. Just like with the Americans, the Canadians shut down the high powered Swedes. It was an identical effort and the Swedes had no answers. Unlike the last game, Canada scored three goals and they came from three players who faced scrutiny - Crosby, Toews and Kunitz. Unlike Vancouver, this game lacked so much suspense that when it ended NBC's Mike Emrick calmly said  " It's a team sport and this was the best team, gold medal.......Canada". I could of swore I heard a yawn. 

For the entire tournament, Canada gave up three goals. They put to rest that Canada can't play on big ice. They never trailed in a single game. The defense was so deep that last year's Norris trophy winner P.K Subban was a healthy scratch most of the games. That alone is mind boggling. They were truly hockey gods.

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