Men’s Hockey Preview- Canada vs. United States

During the past week, the world saw what both the United States and Canadian Men’s Hockey Teams were capable of in their opening games against Switzerland and Norway. The United States managed to get a 3-1 victory over Switzerland in their opening game but started off slow and plagued with turnovers. The Canadian team opened up the Olympics with an 8-0 rout over Norway but head coach Mike Babcock had to take some time during the game to adjust some of the lines. Both teams are solid on paper and should match up well on Sunday at 7:45pm.

Taking a look at the United States, the team has been retooled since the 2006 Torino games but still has some work to do in terms of line chemistry and defense. In games against Switzerland and Norway, the US lines lacked chemistry, created multiple turnovers and allowed lots of odd-man rushes to the net. A lot of those odd-man rushes allowed for goals and good scoring chances for both the Swiss and the Norwegians and will be costly against the Canadians. The United States managed to get more goals against Norway then against Switzerland but the team still looked disorganized as Ryan Suter kept having to forecheck into the offensive zone and players kept getting bunched up together. If the United States wants to have a shot against Canada, they will have to develop chemistry with the lines, become more organized on the ice and limit odd-man rushes.

The Canadians were dominant in their game against Norway but showed signs of weaknesses when they played a physical and determined team in Switzerland. The Canadians have some of the most solid line combinations in Sidney Crosby, Rick Nash and Jerome Iginla on one line and Mike Richards, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau on another. These lines have helped the Canadians get key scoring chances but struggled against a Swiss team that was physical and had solid forechecking. Not many thought the Swiss could take the game to a shootout but by playing physical, having solid forechecking, and getting quality scoring chances, Switzerland took the Canadians to a shootout. The United States will be looking to play physical as well and if the Canadians can throw some bodies around and have their top lines putting pressure on US goaltender Ryan Miller, they will make it tough for the United States.

When looking at goaltenders for this game, Canada has an edge. It hasn’t been announced who will be starting for Canada but Martin Brodeur does have an edge over Ryan Miller. Miller has not performed poorly for the United States but will have to face some of the best lines the world has seen in a long time on Sunday. Miller has proven to be a reputable goaltender in the NHL but has not played under the pressure and has the experience Martin Brodeur has had to face in the NHL. Brodeur has beaten some of the best teams in the NHL, has multiple NHL playoff and Stanley Cup records and has helped the New Jersey Devils win the Stanley Cup in years in which they were the underdog. Brodeur is still one of the top goaltenders in the world and if the US continues to struggle with its lines and forechecking, Brodeur should have an easy time with the Americans.
Even if Luongo gets the nod, Canada will still have a goaltending advantage. Luongo is an NHL veteran, a true leader on the ice and is the first goaltender since the 1947-1948 NHL season to serve as team captain. Luongo may not have had a hard test against Norway but will have a Vancouver crowd behind him and is considered one of Canada’s best goaltenders. Luongo is a veteran with experience and will be relaxed if he gets the nod to play against the United States.

Both teams have their strengths and weaknesses but whoever plays harder and wants it more will end up winning this game. The United States may have issues with line chemistry and turnovers but if they come out determined like Switzerland was against the Canadians, they may be able to walk away with an upset. If the Canadians take advantage of odd-man rushes, play physical and pound lots of shots on Ryan Miller, they could finish the weekend with a 3-0 record.

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~ by jeffrsabo on February 19, 2010.

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