OGDB 3.0: The Real Games Start

Jonathan Willis
February 16 2014 06:36AM

MikeBabcockSochi

Sunday’s match between the Canadian and Finnish men’s hockey teams isn’t an elimination game, but it is the first chance Canada will have to play against an actual medal threat in Sochi. Finland by most estimates ranks fifth among best-on-best teams at games like this, and in the early going has cut through the Austrian and Norwegian entries with the same ease as Canada.

And for their biggest test of the tournament, head coach Mike Babcock has made some lineup changes.

The Lineup

2014 Canada Hockey Olympics

Via TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Canada’s lines today are as follows:

  • Jamie Benn – Sidney Crosby – Patrice Bergeron
  • Matt Duchene – Ryan Getzlaf – Corey Perry
  • Patrick Marleau – Jonathan Toews – Jeff Carter
  • Patrick Sharp/Chris Kunitz – John Tavares – Rick Nash
  • Duncan Keith – Shea Weber
  • Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Drew Doughty
  • Jay Bouwmeester – Alex Pietrangelo
  • Dan Hamhuis
  • Carey Price

The Second Guessing

Roberto Luongo

Let’s start on the back end.

I probably would have gone with Roberto Luongo over Carey Price, but then I would have started Luongo in the first game and Price in the second because I entered this tournament valuing Luongo a hair over Price. Babcock has the order reversed, and honestly the players are so close that it’s impossible to fault him for that. He didn’t have a reason to change his mind, so Price gets first crack at the games that matter.

PK subban

I was surprised to see P.K. Subban scratched; I thought he looked excellent in Canada’s last game and is pretty clearly the team’s fifth-best defenceman, with left siders Vlasic, Bouwmeester and Hamhuis all behind him on the depth chart. It’s going to be very interesting to see if any defensive weaknesses are exposed by the Finns.

The forward combinations are interesting, and seem predicated on the idea that Crosby will be able to power one line and that the important thing is to make sure lines two and three work. It’s not a bad idea; Benn was fantastic against Norway and has been head-and-shoulders above Kunitz, while Bergeron has been quite good on John Tavares’ wing and had World Junior chemistry with Crosby.

If the first line is a bit of a question mark, the second and third look solid. Getzlaf/Perry have been good in both games, and Duchene really impressed with his speed against Austria; meanwhile Marleau leads the team in scoring and Carter was fantastic in Canada’s second game so the “third” line (I have them listed third because Babcock’s been using them as a hard-checking line to some degree) looks brilliant.

That leaves the other guys with Tavares; I think the only question here is why Kunitz gets a spot over a guy like Martin St. Louis who can be plugged in offensively on any line. Kunitz has not had a good tourney, but sticking him in the bottom four is at least better than putting him on the top line.

Finland

The loss of Barkov is a big blow for Finland; he was playing key minutes at centre for the team and is presently the tournament’s top faceoff man with an 83.3 percent win rate.

Fans here in Edmonton have had a chance to see some extremely good Finns up close, and consequently there’s probably a bit of a soft spot for the team; in a game played against anyone other than Canada I’d expect Finland would probably be the preferred winner by Oilers fans. From Jari Kurri and Esa Tikkanen down to Janne Niinimaa and Jussi Markkanen, Edmonton’s been given good service by the country of Sisu.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 WeAreWinter
February 16 2014, 06:54AM
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Corey Potter is playing for Canada today?

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#2 Ari Gold
February 16 2014, 06:58AM
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Corey Potter? Etown doesn't have anyone on the Canadian team!! Corey Perry would be a much better choice.

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#5 Boys on the Short Bus
February 16 2014, 07:19AM
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Very bold playing Potter out of position on the first line. I guess it's early, much too early have Potter on the mind.

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#6 Ambassador humantorch
February 16 2014, 07:21AM
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Kunitz still being in the lineup, especially over a guy like St. Louis, makes me all stabby inside.

The fact that Kunitz is even on the team in the FIRST place makes me even MORE stabby.

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#7 They're $hittie
February 16 2014, 07:47AM
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Despite reffing, Marancin continues to impress.

Malkin and Ovechkin and their two minute shifts is killing the russians.

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#8 billythebullet
February 16 2014, 08:01AM
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MSL should be on one of crosbys wings. period. Despite CBC dress a left dman comment, if pk subban is the 5th best dmen on the team, he should be dressed. Just my opinions.

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#9 sloppy joe
February 16 2014, 09:05AM
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Ambassador humantorch wrote:

Kunitz still being in the lineup, especially over a guy like St. Louis, makes me all stabby inside.

The fact that Kunitz is even on the team in the FIRST place makes me even MORE stabby.

Agreed.

I thought the rationale for including Kunitz (a terrible rationale, mind you) was his established chemistry with Crosby. Given that he's an inferior player at this level, and they're not lining him up on Crosby's wing, I don't see how they can justify putting him anywhere but in the pressbox

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#10 The Soup Fascist
February 16 2014, 09:14AM
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Let's hope coach B is not playing Kunitz over St. Louis to prove a point. Nash and Kunitz to me were the WTF picks and from what I have seen have done zip to dispel the concern.

St. Louis has had some jump and looked better than both IMO. Now is not the time to play the "plugs" with a very good Tavares, for all intents and purposes taking him out of the games as well, simply to prove a point.

I know they are good hockey players and one or two changes on the fourth line shouldn't be the difference maker. I also realize Babcock has forgotten more than I will ever know about this game. But the fact it is when you look at the Zamuner ... er .... Kunitz thing, realize it is really tough to trust any of these goalies and consider that the coach seems bound and determined to dress a shaky Hamhuis and shakier Vlasic, while simultaneously changing PK Subban to PK "Sub-in" - it all starts to add up as the tournament proceeds.

Oh well. Go Canada Go.

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#11 Guy Lafleur
February 16 2014, 09:19AM
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Team Canada should just walk through everybody i mean a Norris Trophy Winning defenceman cant make the team they must be encroyable !!!!

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#12 gongshow
February 16 2014, 09:23AM
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On a slightly unrelated note - I thought that Belov looked really good against the US.

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#13 The Soup Fascist
February 16 2014, 09:31AM
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@ gongshow

Thinking the same thing. One thing I noticed was his gap was way different and once he committed to taking an offensive player he stayed with him vs his habit in the NHL of losing his guy all the time. As well he seemed to be playing much more assertively.

Different system? (Russian coach to Belov "WTF is this swarm you are talking about Anton?). More comfortable on big rink? Quality of Borscht is much higher in Sochi than Edmonton? Who knows?

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#14 toprightcorner
February 16 2014, 09:51AM
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The Soup Fascist wrote:

@ gongshow

Thinking the same thing. One thing I noticed was his gap was way different and once he committed to taking an offensive player he stayed with him vs his habit in the NHL of losing his guy all the time. As well he seemed to be playing much more assertively.

Different system? (Russian coach to Belov "WTF is this swarm you are talking about Anton?). More comfortable on big rink? Quality of Borscht is much higher in Sochi than Edmonton? Who knows?

Connecting Chara and Marincin may be Eakins best move as a coach this year!

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#15 @Oilanderp
February 16 2014, 10:29AM
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Man, this defense is crazy good on the offense!

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#16 Mason Storm
February 16 2014, 11:00AM
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I wish Kunitz would disappear. Worst player by far

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#17 Randaman
February 16 2014, 11:50AM
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Mason Storm wrote:

I wish Kunitz would disappear. Worst player by far

Likewise. One thing I notice with other teams is the fact that they always seem to include a couple younger players to expose them to this level of competition. Maybe it's because they aren't as deep as the Canadians but if you are going to leave St. Louis in the stands why not put a player like Hall on the roster for exposure. I think it is quite obvious that Lowe is not taken seriously or didn't push hard enough for his inclusion. Kunitz, really? I mean come on, when a player (Crosby) has more influence than a member of the management team (Lowe), there are deeper issues here. Frustrated! Hamhuis over Subban? Really?

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#18 oilerman53
February 16 2014, 11:56AM
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Wow you have St Louis sitting in the stands and you leave a speedster bull like Hall out of the lineup and this team is getting schooled by out of NHL players. Hall shows more balls then half of these guys playing for Canada.

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#19 @Oilanderp
February 16 2014, 12:06PM
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This game just shows how powerful a "take care of your own zone first" system of play is. The Canadians are more talented but short of risking a game-changing odd man rush, even they can only take what they are given. In this game it isn't much at all.

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#20 @Oilanderp
February 16 2014, 12:19PM
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Babcock: no doubty drew that play up himself!

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#21 Wax Man Riley
February 16 2014, 12:26PM
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@Oilanderp wrote:

Babcock: no doubty drew that play up himself!

Ohhhh..... I see what you did there...

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#22 Czar
February 16 2014, 12:29PM
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Mason Storm wrote:

I wish Kunitz would disappear. Worst player by far

I'm with you dude, practice ice is all Kunitz should see for the rest of the tournament.

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#23 VK63
February 16 2014, 04:48PM
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Crosby has been far from the best player in the world (or on his own team) in this tourney.

So i was puzzled by Freidman and how he handled the post game interview. It came off as bag licking. I had hopes for Elliot but he is sliding in a very familiar direction as far as CBC employees go. The regression to the mean seems to get them all.

sadly.

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#24 Ari Gold
February 16 2014, 09:00PM
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Canada's D is the strongest in the tournament. Two goals allowed.

I hope Babcock puts Benn together with Getz & Perry. Three bulls on one line will steamroll the Swiss.

I'd love to see Duchene playing with Crosby. No complaints for Bergeron. He was tough on the boards in this game, a much needed asset against the Fins.

Canada needs to tee-up Weber more, more and then more after that.

Send Kunitz back to Canada on a coach flight.

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#25 @Oilanderp
February 16 2014, 11:28PM
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VK63 wrote:

Crosby has been far from the best player in the world (or on his own team) in this tourney.

So i was puzzled by Freidman and how he handled the post game interview. It came off as bag licking. I had hopes for Elliot but he is sliding in a very familiar direction as far as CBC employees go. The regression to the mean seems to get them all.

sadly.

I would vehemently° demand that we trade Crosby, as he obviously is too small and isn't getting it done. CMON MACT!!!!

° # of times legitimately using the word vehemently in a post has increased to 3.

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