USA 5 – Canada 1: Anatomy of an Implosion

Canada suffered an awful defeat in the semifinals on Thursday morning to eliminate them from contention for the gold medal. What happened?

Put simply, Canada was out-played. By my count, the scoring chances were 36-22 in favour of the Americans, who were full value for their victory. This wasn’t a loss to be hung on any individual; it was a total team collapse in the face of a very, very good American team.

Passing Thoughts

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. There are two different ways to judge Ryan Nugent-Hopkins performance. The first is simply to look at his contributions as one would any other player, and by that score Nugent-Hopkins fares well. The first line came close to holding its own in scoring chances (+6/-7 on the game) and Nugent-Hopkins had some memorable moments: a great shot early in the second, a post in the third and a couple of smart plays on the power play, including a sublime pass from behind the net and a ton of patience before taking a shot from low in the right circle. He also blocked multiple shots. The lone negatives were a slashing call after a shift that stretched longer than three minutes (seriously) and the world’s slowest skate to the bench for a change which contributed to the fifth American goal. For any other player, this would have been a fairly good game.

The other way to judge him is as the captain and best player on a great team – the guy who needs to get things done when nobody else can. By that score, Nugent-Hopkins falls well short of other great players in Canadian history. I don’t see that as a completely fair way to judge the individual, but like it or not Nugent-Hopkins failed to live up to the memory of his best predecessors – guys like Jordan Eberle – in a crucial game. From my perspective, that’s because asking anyone to live up to those examples is a tall order.

The middle six. This game was lost by Canada’s second and third lines. The second line was content to trade chances and got burned as a result; they generated only five scoring chances for versus 11 against at even-strength. The third line was worse: after a disastrous first period where they seemingly had no idea what to do in the defensive zone, they finished the game with just two scoring chances for versus 10 against. It’s hard for any team to win when the middle two lines go +7/-21 on the game.

Malcolm Subban. Subban will take much of the blame for this defeat, and he was outplayed by Jordan Binnington (who replaced him after the fourth goal) but it really wasn’t his fault. On the first goal, both members of Canada’s top defence pairing got sucked to the boards, and then Scott Harrington fell over trying to get back to the net. Brett Ritchie was in position to cover but bizarrely left the front of the net; at that point it was over as Subban managed to hold the line with an American alone in front but couldn’t stop Jake McCabe’s eventual goal. The second goal against featured the entire Canadian lineup clustering aimlessly in front of the net, completely abandoning the points and doing nothing but providing a screen for the Americans; the third goal was a text book example of both a bad change and how not to play a 1-on-1 (courtesy Ryan Murphy). The fourth goal saw Xavier Ouellet repeat the Murphy lesson. It wasn’t Subban’s fault: he wasn’t nearly good enough but he doesn’t deserve to take the blame for team-wide incompetence.

Special teams. Canada was remarkably good on the penalty kill – where guys like Boone Jenner and Philip Danault played very well, in sharp contrast to their even-strength struggles. Ty Rattie scored a shorthanded goal, too (more on that in a moment). The power play was less effective – they generated some chances, but not as many as they should have given the talent on the team.

The Ty Rattie goal. The refereeing was surprisingly good early in the game, but came apart in the third. The Rattie goal is a superlative example of incompetent officiating. Rattie hit the crossbar on a great shot, and then collected the rebound off the iron. At this point a whistle was blown for reasons that remain incomprehensible (the official had not signaled for a goal on the shot off the crossbar, which would have been an error but at least understandable). Rattie scored on his next shot. At this point the officials decided it was a good goal despite having blown the play dead. It was a bizarre goal – Ray Ferraro described it as one of the most random he’d ever seen – and the only consolation was that it turned out to be meaningless.

Dirty Canadians. The Canadian entry did their best to back up Nail Yakupov’s controversial assertion that they play well past the line. Both Mark Scheifele and Philip Danault took blatant kneeing penalties, sticking their legs out for the hits. It’s hard to understand why they would choose to make such plays, but they did.

That’s how I saw the game; I’m looking forward to other takes in the comments.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • The Soup Fascist

    I put a lot of blame on the coach. How can a team start out that flat, and never ever regain any momentum as the game progressed. I can’t recall one shift that was promising.
    RNH has his worst game ever, and as Captain should maybe have been part of the inspiring committee to get things going… it was not to be. Not sure he is that much of a rah rah guy., but in fairness he was still a best player on a very poor display. Guys like Hubradaue, Jenner, Stome, Shiffle. I know he’s a kid, but McKinnon was a waste of roster space.
    Maybe the best of best was not picked for this team.
    I blame Spott for most of this at the end.

  • Rocknrolla

    What a let down…

    My take is that these guys are young players and couldnt regain composure until the 3rd period. Just lack of experience, young kids…But great lessons here for them.

    The funny thing is with a bit of puck luck, better PP, and the USA goalie not standing on his head, we could have had 4 goals easy by the 3rd and had this thing tied.

    The USA player pushing off the net should have been called, but then we got the free goal so it evens out.

    I think a lot goes to the coach here. it was his job to take that time out, calm the team down. Bench the kids with nerves, and steady the boat. Drouin and McKinnon should have played together all tourney, as well as Binnington should have played a couple of the round robins, and Subban on a shorter leash.

    The biggest thing for me is how will this affect RNH. I think in the end it will be a great learning experience. He did not put the team on his shoulders and “Eberle” us into OT, but I think he will learn to be a better leader because of it…Glad he got to go, and am rooting for him to come back Saturday and have a huge game and win us a bronze. Being the #1 go to guy, with all that pressure, and not coming through will affect him…heres to hoping its for the better.

  • That was possibly the worst game Canada could have played. They crapped the bed hard. Nuge looked like crap till the 3rd in my eyes. Ryan Murphy should have not seen the ice unless it was on the powerplay. Brett Richie looks horrible. Lipon and Camara did next to nothing. Harrington feel on his own about 14 times. Canadians could barely make a pass up the ice. That was such a bad game. The only guys I can say didnt look bad was Rattie Scheifle and Dadnault.

    As for Yakupovs comments about Canadians playing dirty how often have you seen a Russian or European player giving someone a spear or a kick with there skate. Its a double edge sword, Canadians play dirty and so do every other nation that plays hockey.

    There was frustration thats why they knee’d the Americans Willis, I would have probably done the same but thats cause I was to competitive when I played.

  • bassguy

    Hi..first time on the nation..really enjoy everyones comments etc..I remember, I think it was 1976..I was visiting regina and my brother and I were all set to watch edmonton eskimos play montreal in the (what turned out to be)famous “ice bowl”…big breakfast, the fridge stacked with cold beer, I think we were even smoking in the house, imagine that!..anyways, we kept hoping that the esks could turn it around but it was a total domination of montreal, who, I guess had staples in the shoes to get traction..who knew…I stayed up with one of my sons last night and watched the 1st and 2nd period and I had that same feeling I had years ago?…this isn’t going to get any better!..but, what I want to say is all these kids have played so was so much fun to see some hockey again..I think RNH will be great from this experience..we can hash all we want about the problems with Canada’s approach and performance..and,… edmonton went from that experience to be arguably, the best football team to ever play in the cfl…thanks

  • Czar

    I’ve made a team for next year that has no returning players. It looks like it could dominate.




    So I need two more players. Maybe from the Q since I don’t have any from there yet. Seriously though that team would win. Of course Hockey Canada will not choose this team they will fill it with returnees and any undrafted nineteen year olds they can find.

      • Well he is an exceptional player. He’s over a point a game on a bad team as a fifteen year old. And by next tournament he’ll have a year and a half of junior level hockey hockey under his belt. John Tavares made the team as a sixteen year old. I think the way he will tear up the OHL next year could force Hockey Canada’s hand.

    • Brent Sutter will insist on the most stacked team possible consisting of the absolute cream of the crop this country can produce, rather than the “role players” we went for this time. And he’ll play the nuts off of guys like the NUUUUGE before the game gets out of hand.

      • Rocknrolla

        Yes, I think if Sutter was there, he would have stopped the bleeding quicker. Funny, but I really think the coaching could have saved the day, and I rarely think that.

        Especially with the last two years lessons, of imploding and being stunned c***s for too long, some of the players were even there last year.

        A great coach would have known that was the biggest Achilles heel of the team, being unbeaten and getting down two goals in an elimination game, and how do you battle back through the adversity.

  • Rocknrolla

    Americans were a better team from the net out, which is where a lot of competitive (playoff)games are won.

    Gibson, Seth Jones, Truba, etc. Also seemed better coached, perhaps a better system. USA National program probably has them playing together more often as a team than does Hockey Canada.

    Nuge looked fine….was in on most of Canadas goals/scoring chances….would still pick him first overall if all the World Jr Rosters were thrown into a draft today. (can see flashes of Gretzky, Sacic, and Datsyuk in his play).

    As for Yakupov….struggled trying to do too much on his own…on the positive side…he can skate…he can shoot…he can create offense…he’s pretty responsible defensively for an offensive threat….and perhaps most importantly to me, he looks physically solid/strong for his age and size….doesn’t appear to by the injury prone type….perhaps built like a Theron Fluery / Brick S**t House type of a body…..which would be refreshing as an Oiler fan.

    FOR THE BRONZE Canada 4 Russia 3