Benn Deflection Directs Canada to a Title Tilt with Sweden
Mike Babcock had seen enough.
After watching his Canadian team's potent attack stifled time and again by feisty, disciplined resistance from Latvia and Finland, he clearly had come to a conclusion in how to approach the semifinal game against Team USA by putting the obvious two-and-two together:
- The Americans' offense was scoring goals prolifically during the Olympic tournament, successfully adapting to the big ice; and
- Canada's offense was allegedly stronger than America's, but European opponents were virtually shutting it down.
Babcock and his brain trust of accomplished NHL coaches couldn't risk the combination of Team USA continuing its torrid scoring pace with the possibility that Canada might still have issues with lighting the lamp. So it was time to adopt the defensive strategy that worked so well against it. And that started at the blue line:
Team USA was forced to the outside time and again. Few passing sequences got inside the dots. Most shots were from low-probability areas of the ice and easily seen by Canadian goalie Cary Price. Furthermore, he rarely allowed a rebound.
Amazingly, the Americans plugged away at this tactic time and again without attempting any real modifications. Their their efforts were fruitless is an understatement.
Meanwhile, Canada's offense still couldn't score. Ring that up to Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, who was easily the best player on the ice in this game. He was the latest netminder to stand on his head and stone the Canadians time and time again. As with Latvia's Kristers Gudlevskis and Finland stalwart Tuuka Rask, Quick was spectacular when he had to be and consistent whenever else.
As fate would have it, the Canadians got their breakthrough in the only play where Quick had no chance. Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn found the thinnest of seams in the American defense and veteran d-man Jay Bouwmeester of the St Louis Blues threaded the needle perfectly. All Benn had to do was open his blade:
Ultimately, that was that. Even when Quick was pulled for a sixth attacker in the game's last minute, if the Americans were going to get through to him, they'd have had to do it via certified mail.
So it's Canada v Sweden on Sun 21 Feb at 7.00am est. Tre Kronorna is more than familiar with encountering a phalanx at the blue line; they beat it with regularity. They have 'King' Henrik Lundqvist at the top of his game. And yet, if anyone knows the Swedes, it's Mike Babcock. His Detroit Red Wings have nine on its roster, four of whom are active on the Olympic team. Over the years, the Wings have employed numerous Swedish players and borrowed from Swedish strategies, including Scotty Bowman's left wing lock.
Thus, Babcock has seen more than enough to know what's coming on Sunday. And again, it's his move.