Saturday, February 27, 2010

Olympic preview: Canada vs. USA men's gold medal game

The Canada vs. USA game should be very tight.

Where the United States has the advantage:

1. They have a goaltender who is capable of standing on his head and stealing games. We saw this versus Canada in the preliminary game. 42 saves is no easy task.

2. More rest and practice time. They had a bye into the quarterfinals while Canada had to play Germany. Also the game versus Finland was more of an in-game simulator in the semis since they were in front 6-0 after the first period and had the game in the bag.

3. Youth and quickness. The Americans have a young team that will be energized and can really test the defense with their quickness and agility.

Where the United States has a disadvantage:

1. They aren't a very experienced team internationally. The old guard of Gomez, Gionta, Modano, and the like were left home this year in favour of the young guns. We'll see how they handle the pressure of such a big game and if they can keep their emotions under wraps and not take dumb penalties and make careless errors.

2. Lack of adversity all tournament. Other than Canada they have cruised through all their games with no problems. The Swiss game was pretty close but at no point did it seem like they would lose. Sometimes adversity can go a long way in helping teams learn where they need to improve.

Where Canada has the advantage.

1. Home rink advantage. Although the US will be the home team because of their record, the Canadians will have thousands of screaming fans and all Olympics we've seen how the fans have helped give Canadian athletes a boost.

2. Leadership and experience. Crosby won the Cup last year, Scott Niedermayer has won pretty everything you can win, and there are nine players on this team that are Captains with their clubs. So they know how to prepare and perform when everything is on the line.

3. Mobile and punishing defense. Canada has big boys like Pronger who can dish out big hits, players like Boyle and Niedermayer who can go into power forward mode, and a group of mobile defense with hard shots and punishing hits. Other than the preliminary game, the US has not had to face a defense of this calibre.

Where Canada has the disadvantage:

1. Energy? Canada has had to play an extra game and has had a much tougher path to the final having to dispose of Russia in the quarterfinals and then Slovakia in the semis. In such a short tournament that is alot of hockey and some tough games.

2. Can Luongo come up big in the big game? We've seen big collapses by Luongo in the past in game 7s. Up until a few years ago he had played most of his career never making it to the playoffs. Also so far this tournament Canada hasn't had to rely on their goalies to steal games, although Luongo did come up huge in the last 5 minutes of the semi-final versus Slovakia.

So in conclusion both teams have plenty of strengths and weaknesses. I have to root for my country though: Canada 4 USA 2

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