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Groan Canada, groan

Untimely goofs and a goaltending tour-de-force by Ryan Miller take down Team Canada


 

VANCOUVER — Before we call the royal commission, or start sacrificing livestock, there’s a statistic worth considering from tonight’s hockey travesty: Team Canada outshot the United States by a ratio of 2 to 1, which is not so much a moral victory as a guy-wire to stabilize our wobbling national pride.

The only score that matters is the one on the blinding, deafening contraption hanging above centre ice, of course. And that read 5-3 Uncle Sam. Which is why U.S. coach Ron Wilson got to needle his counterpart Mike Babcock at the post-game news conference with reminiscences of how the Americans outdid Canada at the 1996 World Cup.

But even Wilson could see the 45-22 total at the bottom of his game sheet, and he wasn’t about to deny that his win came courtesy of the hot handed goaltender he now hopes to ride into the medal round. Ryan Miller, the 29-year-old star of the Buffalo Sabres, was better, much better, than Martin Brodeur on this night, and when you outplay the greatest man to ever strap on pads, that earns kind words from the coach.

“Ryan played every bit as well as I’ve seen him play throughout the season, in the numerous times we’ve played him,” said Wilson, who coaches the Toronto Maple Leafs in his other job. “He makes four or five huge saves a game and he did that today.”

The rest of the U.S. team will be given a morning off tomorrow, Wilson added, deadpanning: “But Ryan will have to work on his puckhandling and rebound control.”

Miller, for his part, described it as one of the biggest games he’d ever played. “I had a Game 7 down in Carolina to get to the Cup and missed that one,” he said. “Winning this one felt really good. We got the goal support, though, scoring five goals against Canada. I thought that was just a great job by our guys.

“When things happened we responded. We didn’t get nervous or anxious. We just kept playing. When they scored that second goal, and we probably had the better chances in the second period and I was really happy to see that.”

The magnitude of the result shouldn’t be overstated—Canada must now play Germany to reach the quarterfinals, but is hardly out of the tournament. Still, it does raise the urgency level of questions that have nagged Babcock since Canada opened the tourney with flat first period against Norway.

One of them revolves around goaltending, thought to be the country’s strong suit as recently as Christmas, but in question in the weeks leading up to the Olympics. Brodeur, perennial all-star Roberto Luongo and Marc-André Fleury, last year’s Stanley Cup winner, all appeared to be off their games. And on this night Brodeur’s legendary penchant for puckhandling got him in trouble, as he coughed up the puck and was forced to cover it during the first shift of the game. A faceoff ensued and U.S. defenceman Brian Rafalski rifled a shot off Sidney Crosby’s stick and into the bottom corner of the net.

Eric Staal tied it for Canada with a nice deflection off Brent Seabrook’s shot, but the Americans replied 23 seconds later, after Brodeur muffed a clearing attempt, putting the puck right on the stick of Rafalski. His old New Jersey teammate made no mistake, pounding it past the sprawling goalie.

Thus began a see-saw battle, with Dany Heatley drawing Canada even at 3:32 of the second before Chris Drury and Jamie Langenbrunner scored consecutive goals for the Americans—the latter coming seven minutes into the third. At that point, Canada threw everything it had at Miller in a series of feverish forechecks, culminating in a power-play goal by Sidney Crosby with just over three minutes left.

It was a tap-in on a lovely pass out of the corner by Rick Nash, but seems notable now for the unconverted chances that proceeded it, including one stunning glove save Miller made on Jarome Iginla while lying prone on the ice.

The last-minute hero for the Americans? That would Ryan Kesler—he of the ill-advised remarks yesterday about how he “hates” the Canadians (which Canadians he didn’t specify, but most assumed he meant the national men’s hockey team). With 45 seconds remaining and the Canadian net empty, Kesler lunged around a backchecking Corey Perry to poke in the insurance goal, his linemates piling on him in joy.

With that, Canada officially moved on, or so the coach would have us believe. “We’ve chosen a longer route to get to where we want to go,” was Mike Babcock’s benign spin, but he’ll surely spend the next 48 hours trying to figure out where he took a wrong turn.

Why, for instance, can’t he seem to find a winger to work well with Sidney Crosby and Rick Nash, potentially his most potent offensive duo? Why does a defensive corps bedecked with Stanley Cup winners and fresh-faced stars seem determined to seek out landmines and step on them? What about goaltending? Babcock said he wanted to look at game tapes before deciding who to start on Tuesday. Yet he allowed that “tonight was a night when we would like to have been better in that area.”

What Babcock can take from this letdown is the obvious fact his team is nowhere near giving up, not on him, not on the fans and certainly not on each other. They took 14 shots in the third and would have taken the Americans to overtime were it not for Miller’s heroics.

“If we play hard like that, if we play desperate like that and control the puck the way we did down low, I like our chances against any team,” Crosby said after the game. “It just didn’t go our way tonight.”


 

Groan Canada, groan

  1. Boy if stats alone justified every decision we make….

    I just can't get over the decision to keep Brodeur in nets. The only thing I remember from him, from the past seasons and past Olympics is that he failed to meet expectations. That people, hockey professionals, are still enamored by his presence, is such an incomprehensible thing to me.

    • He was the goalie when they won the gold medal in 2002.
      He won the Stanley Cup in 2003. And 2000. And 1995. The last Canadian team to win was in 1993.
      He is also won more games in the NHL than any other goalie in history.

      That is why he gets the respect he deserves.

      That being said, I agree that he is not playing well enough now, and Luongo will likely replace him in the next couple of games at least.

  2. Own the Podium…………………… LOL!!!!!!!!!!!

    • A tough loss to be sure, but we're not done yet.
      I hope you own the immodium and take a double dose , because you've sprung a leak at both ends.

      • Dude?

        "Are civility and common decency too much to ask for?" – Danby

        • I suppose I shouldn't take it personally, but some things do get under my skin. I'll rephrase for Josh:

          Dear Josh.
          Though I am discouraged by last nights loss, I still hold out hope that we can persevere and win the gold medal.
          I do, however, find myself angered with the tone of your post. While "own the podium" is a tad boastful, and not consistent with our humble nature as a nation, it is indeed a noble goal. To laugh openly is your prerogative, but I find it derisive. Even if we are to fall short of our goals, I hope that we can remain proud of the athletes that are truly giving their all.
          In closing, I ask that you might want to reconsider your attitude.

          Thank you Gaunilon, and I trust you'll forgive my outburst.

          • And here I thought you'd just challenge him to pistols at dawn. I'd be your second if needed.

  3. Nah, Canada's finished. Such an overrated team. The USA outworked, and out hustled the Canadians

    • Canada outworked and outhustled the US 45 shots to 23. Get your fact straight.

      It came down to the goalies and I'll say it again, I can't believe a hockey professional made the assessment that Brodeur still had it in him to carry the Canadian Team. He was a very accomplished player but he lost a lot of his game when they changed the NHL rules and has never recovered from that. Admit it! NEVER! Say it again five times out loud on the roof top. NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER!

      Time for these old timers to admit the game has changed beyond their ability to pull off a miracle.

      • You're wrong.

        Brodeur has been ranked one of the top goaltenders in the League for each of the last few seasons, and in fact his New Jersey Devils are once gain near the top of the standings. Brodeur's stats have been very good, one of the best and most consistent.

        Get your facts straight.

        • You're right of course. But you have to admit that in the last year or two we've seen some odd mental errors creep into Brodeurs game. i recall that series against New York where he really blew the series for jersey. Maybe we're seeing a great goalie past his prime?

          • Yeah, well, there was some concern that in the last few weeks leading up to the games he was not playing well, and the same was true of their other top goalie Luongo, but to a lesser degree. A couple of those goals last night were mistakes.

            It's hard to say if he's past his prime based on just a few games. But with every game meaning so much, Canada cannot afford to let him work his way out of it, and I have a ton of confidence in Luongo, so I'm hoping they hand the torch to him for now.

  4. Quite simple really the US has a good team and Canada has a bunch of super players who have not yet become a team …… hope remains.

  5. Hawkey. Isn't that the winter game played with hunting falcons?

  6. …but the Americans replied 23 seconds later, after Brodeur muffed a clearing attempt, putting the puck right on the stick of Rafalski. His old New Jersey teammate made no mistake, pounding it past the sprawling goalie.

    Perhaps Marty had a "senior moment" and thought he was just passing to "his" defenceman?

    All kidding aside, I agree with s_c_f that Marty is undoubtedly deserving to be there, but I also agree that he needs a few games off.

  7. Funny, i was down on the team. Then i watched the 1st and 2nd periods again. Canada did dominate that game until they started taking penaties…that always throws your game out. Yes the US played a good game, but we really outchanced them until the 4-2 goal.
    Hindsight is 2020 but we made the same errror as Turin…when do you drop the older guys? Stamkos should deffinitelybe there, and perhaps Neidermeyer's done..Pronger? I don't know? .certainly Green or Boumeister would have improved the powerplay.

  8. Bouwmeester…

  9. Could we get a copy-editor on that last paragraph? I somehow doubt that Crosby thinks he personally didn't go our way tonight.

  10. Goaltending is a problem for Canada, but I'm not referencing Broduer's performance. It is Canada's constant tendency to make the opposing goaltender look like the next coming of Johnny Bower. Canada's supposed best players simply do not have the ability to score goals in international play. In Nagamo, they ran into a hot Hasek. In Salt Lake, they may have won the gold, but they didn't light the world on fire with their goal scoring prowess. In Turin, they were shut out in 2 of the 3 games. Historically, with a team as ostensibly talented as Canada is, why can they never hit the ground running like the Swedes or Americans? I'm not saying they don't have the talent to turn this around, but in a short tournament like the Olympics it seems unlikely.

    • Everybody has great goaltending these days. As for the goal scoring, i just watched some of the 87 Canada cup…no problem there, all three games went 6.5.

      • Yes, and if they are on a hot streak, watch out!

  11. The goalie should have been pulled.He was having a really bad night, & they havent skated as a team in the games that I have watched.We are certainly not done,I see a Russia -vs Canada at the end.

    • Sorry, Frenchie, but what you see is most likely a Russia vs. Canada in the quarterfinals, if Canada can pull itself together to beat Germany. Beat Russia, you then have Sweden or Slovakia. Pity that hockey is actually a team game.

      • Yes, I see that.Well I think we will beat Germany. But Russia, they have really good players

    • A Russia – Canada final is now impossible. If Canada beats Germany, they will meet Russia in the quarterfinals.

  12. Lucky for them they won. It's 2 to 3 games the last time they did a great job like this.

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