Friday, February 26, 2010

Canada-Slovakia 2010

The semifinal match between Canada and Slovakia is underway. The winner gets the U.S., which smashed Finland 6-1 this afternoon, all six goals scored in the first period.

Strangely enough, this may actually be tougher for Canada than the Russia game. I expect Slovakia to play cautiously, wait for openings, and rely on their excellent special teams play.

If Slovakia can keep the game close, the way the Swiss did against Canada in round-robin play, they have a shot, not least given all their experience up front (Gaborik, Palffy, Stumpel, Hossa, Zednik, Handzus, etc.), one of the best defencemen in the world back on the blue line (Chara), and an excellent young goalie (Halak, who's the #1 backstop for my beloved Habs).

It's just over seven minutes into the game. Canada's had some good chances, but it's still 0-0.

It's unlikely we'll be able to dominate the play the way we did in the first two periods against the Russians, but we need to keep pushing and pushing aggressively like we did in that game. It was that relentless offense, with great forechecking and cycling, that kept the Russians on their heels, and we can't let up here. (Alhough we also need to watch for, and avoid, broken plays and giveaways/takeaways that lead to rushes the other way. That's what hurt us against the Swiss and the Americans. We certainly don't want to be playing from behind against a hot goalie and a team that collapses into a trapping, stymieing D.)

Now under eight minutes left in the first. A stat just came up showing only four hits by Canada so far. Not good. Not good at all. We had something like 16 in the first against Russia.

Scored! Patrick Marleau! 1-0 Canada -- unless it was a high stick? Looks okay... They're going to video review... And it's a goal. Excellent. 

Okay, I'll be back with more comments later. In the meantime, as always, you can follow me on Twitter. I posted quite a few tweets during Canada's appalling loss to the Swedes in women's curling. I'll tweet a bit during this game, too.


Well. That was intense. And way, way, way too close for comfort. After a strong first period and a solid second one, the third was almost a disaster for Canada. We were lazy, disorganized, and far too relaxed, and we ended up chasing the puck around, and tripping ourselves up, when the speedy, talented Slovaks finally asserted themselves. We're in big trouble against the U.S. if we play like that. (And we need to get a lot more from Sidney Crosby, who was invisible at times tonight. Indeed, other than Getzlaf, Toews, and Morrow, I can't think of another forward who did all that much.)

But. We did what we needed to do, and let's give credit where it's due: this Slovak team is pretty good, and it helps that they have a lot of experience playing together, and they really stepped up in the third period, almost tying it up in the dying seconds.

Ultimately, I'll take the 3-2 victory, but Canada needs to get back to what worked against Russia if it wants to put away the speedy, talented Americans.

We shall see. On Sunday.

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