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Monday, January 3, 2011

Canada thumps USA

There's not much to say about this one other than to give full credit to Team Canada, who took it to USA from the drop of the puck all the way through in a 4-1 thumping that wasn't even as close as the score would indicate.

The game was really over when three U.S. players stood around while Curtis Hamilton knocked the puck past sprawling goalie Jack Campbell to take a 1-0 lead very early in the contest.

It was a question of who would blink first, and USA did just that. That goal set the tone and the Americans never recovered.

Sometimes, you just have to give credit to the other team. Did the USA team play poorly? Yes, they did. But, that performance should not in any way diminish what the Canadians did, dominating in all facets of the game and putting the nails in the coffin on a 5-on-3 power play during the second period to take a commanding 3-0 lead. Coach Dave Cameron, who has been a model of grace and professionalism in this tournament, prepared his team for the game as best as possible and set the conditions for success. His players then did what the USA could not: execute.

Campbell was outstanding, so this blog was wrong-- it didn't come down to him, because his teammates just couldn't compete against a superior and far hungrier Canadian squad. It was disappointing to see the go-to guys not be able to elevate their play in this one. As if to underscore USA's futility, the lone goal was scored by plumber Chris Brown. That is not to diminish what Brown did tonight, but to server as a reminder that when the offensive stars were needed the most, they were not able to make it happen.

Too many of USA's key players were passengers tonight, while some of Canada's best made the plays that carried them to victory. It's what separates the good from the mediocre, the strong from the average. And make no mistake, the lack of adversity the U.S. faced in the preliminary round likely contributed to their poor effort tonight. With a team that had yet to face the crushing feeling of defeat the way Canada did in losing to Sweden, they looked and acted ill-prepared to deal with the bruising, smashmouth game their opponents hit them with when the puck was dropped.

New York Rangers prospect Chris Kreider showed why he's a gold medal-winning veteran of this squad and one of the most respected young players in USA Hockey when he made no excuses after the game, telling NHL Network's Billy Jaffe: "I think you just have to give it to the Canadians. They came out and played like men."

Team USA can salvage the devastating disappointment of this loss somewhat by defeating Sweden in the bronze medal game on Wednesday. It won't be much of a consolation given the way the team lost tonight, but it's a start.

"We're playing for pride now, we're playing for next year's team," Kreider said. "The guys with character should probably rise to the top, rise to the occasion. Like I said, play for next year's team, play for USA Hockey and play for pride."

Campbell did the best he could, but as we all know, hockey is a team game. Mark Visentin at the other end didn't have to be sensational, but he was every bit as outstanding when called upon. The 18 skaters in front of Campbell didn't bring it tonight and their counterparts were relentless and deserving of every bit of credit that will come their way between now and Wednesday night when they faceoff against a Russian club that fought them hard for the first 40 minutes of the tourney-opening game.

If we learned anything from tonight, it's that Canada will be absolutely ready to make their run back to the WJC summit of success, and for USA, they'll shoot for bronze and hope that the metallic taste of unfulfilled expectations will motivate them to take a page from Canada's book in 2012.

1 comment:

  1. Well, being Canadian i am, of course happy. But going into this game, and quite frankly, the tournament, i didn't think anyone had a chance of beating the US.

    I think if this was a best of 5 or best of 7 that the US would have come out on top.

    It doesn't diminish what Canada did tonight. They did what they had to do'

    Campbell doesn't get a lot of credit in Windsor, but you can see why this guy is going to be one of the best goalies in hockey very soon !!