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

  • I tried it at home

    @ The Soup Fascist: The kid is a fantastic skater but he has all the defensive instinct of France in WWII.

    *slow clap*

    A WWII reference in a hockey forum. I never thought my passion for history and hockey would collide.

    I must attempt it myself… If Ryan Murphy is the WWII France of hockey, does that mean Cam Barker is the Maginot Line (always being walked around)?

    Sorry, I’ll leave now…

    • The Soup Fascist

      Ha. There actually was a line of forwards nicknamed the Maginot line.

      Buffalo’s line of Briere (Frenchy), Dumont (ditto) and Hecht (German) were known as the “Maginot Line” ***.

      So NOW who is the biggest geek???

      *** Not to be confused with the “Maggot” line of Burrows – Sedin – Sedin.

  • I tried it at home

    Hell yeah its insainly expensive!! Especially here in Washington! I pay(for Beer League) 330$ for 12 games plus playoffs. And for my son who plays PeeWee’s I pay $225 a frackin month!!

  • TeddyTurnbuckle

    Watched the game and it was not Subban’s fault although I didn’t like his reactions after the goals. Watching the first five minutes I knew they were going to lose. Canada had no jump, didn’t finish their checks and the defence men were terrible with their positioning and breakouts. I thought RNH was ok but he drives me crazy when he doesn’t skate without the puck. Have to put this one on the coaches for not getting the team ready and lighting a fire under them. I don’t know maybe call a timeout after you are down 2 – 0 and getting totally outplayed.

  • I tried it at home

    BWAAA HA HA HA HA HA. I didnt watch a single minute of a single game of, lets face it, kids hockey, and I still managed to win almost 600 bucks in bets with over-anxious homers on that one game. And they gave me odds. Hee hee. Ok, Canada lost a youth tournament. Whoopee. Cue the teeth gnashing and scapegoating. Am I the only one who thinks these things are way way wayyyy over blown? Play for fun kids, youve got the rest of your lives to give yourself migraines and stress.

  • Time Travelling Sean

    Hockey is stupidly expensive compared to soccer or baseball or basketball. We know the solution don’t we? Tax incentives to parents who enroll their children in hockey, and a subsidy by the Government on all hockey related equitment, because every single Canadian loves hockey, and wants to play hockey, and being from Canada we are all just genetically in love with hockey.

    This is sarcasm, not every single Canadian loves hockey.

  • The Rant

    Really, Subban is only a small part of the greater issue which is hockey Canada and there own arrogance.

    The coaching was horrendous from the onset of selection camp right up to the per-season games.

    Canada was clearly out coached, and when it got bad, the coaching staff failed to react until it was too late.

    Which brings us to the scouting staff…………………….I’m sure I don’t need to say anymore.

    Politics, Eastern bias, and really bad internal decisions let the team down.

    A lot has been made about McKinnon, but to me there is no way in hell he was a better choice then Monahan or Shinkaruk, the team needed more muscle and that was obvious from the selection camp.

    what would have happened if the lockout line was playing in the NHL? That got me thinking, it’s possible team Canada doesn’t even make it to the medal round.

    They say there are more kids dropping out of hockey then there are kids replacing the ones that drop out.

    There are more kids playing soccer in Canada then hockey.

    There is almost twice as many kids playing USA hockey then in Canada.

    This whole thing is becoming a systemic issue, hockey has become unrealistic for far to many kids who want to play but can’t because hockey, hockey camps, and extra development, even to play REP hockey is insanely expensive.

    For every Eberle, Hall or Hopkins there is a two or three kids who just quit cause the parents can’t afford it anymore.

    It’s only a matter of time before USA takes over hockey from Canada.

    Subban is far from the real problem

    sorry about going off. #frustratedfan

  • 24% body fat


    1. The refs embarrassed themselves. Missing the net push off and allowing the Canadian goal

    2. After todays game I am now more convinced how terrible Schiefile is. His production was a complete byproduct of playing with RNH. When it comes to a higher level such as the junoirs he does not elevate to what a 7th overall ahead of Couturier pick should be.

    3. RNH is not as mature as everyone thinks. Untimely retaliatory penalties. Should not have been captain.

    4. Ryan Murphy is terrible. No more sympathy selections. Rush up the ice, cut to the right side, take a low percentage shot and get caught up ice

    5. Riely was ok. I think he is over rated. His shots get blocked and he turns over the pock too much. Better than murphy not as good as Trouba

    6. The coaching was horrendous. We are the dominant team. Start a scoring line. Why chase around there lines. We have the depth. Make them chase us. Than the whole first period only the top two lines were in the offensive zone. Yet the third and fourth lines were on the ice more. After that Nuge line gets stuck out and he takes a dumb penalty. Now the team is behind badly and we need to score so there is no accountability for this shift. The top two lines are now tired.

    7. Next the lines. When you are down and things aren’t working you have to reset and try again. Why did it take until the third period for huberdeau to be put back on the top line.

    8. Finally the selection. Yes skill is good. But this is a tourney dominated by older players. Ifyou think Drouin or Mackinnon are going to be better than Strome that is fine. But look at the outcome of this tourney. Strome was Canadas second best player. He is an overager. In a lock out year underagers should not be playing. Now I get it that these two are great, but what did they do. Drouin managed a decent tourney because of the line he was on. Next, We managed to get a lot of suspensions. Why not take Wilson instead of Lipon. At least he would have intimidated better.

  • jeremywilhelm

    Great stuff JW,

    I don’t blame Subban, I blame the coaches who left better goalies off the roster. Subban was passable, that is all.

    Maybe making RNH the captain by virtue of him being an NHLer might have been a bit of a stretch for the coaching staff?

    Scheifle is such a dirty little puke, diving and kneeing at every chance that I couldn’t even bring myself to cheer for team Canada this game. I cannot stand putting someone of that quality on the team when there are many others who could have rode RNH’s coattails without embarrassing Canada.

  • The Soup Fascist

    I know he has been a bit of a whipping boy, save the game against the Russians …. but Ryan Murphy will make M.A. Bergeron look like a shutdown specialist if / when he plays in the NHL. The kid is a fantastic skater but he has all the defensive instinct of France in WWII.

    He looked terrible defensively on several occasions and was a key “contributor” on at least a couple of G.A. that I saw. But the fault is not with him. It should be the with the coach who pushed him out time after time, early in the game. I get when you are down by 4 you need to roll the dice, but early on he should be stapled to the bench until there are PP opportunities (IMO).

    If I am out to lunch, I will blame my comments on sleep deprivation.

    • 24% body fat

      I’ve seen Murphy live a few times and have come away with the impression that he is a great skater and good on the powerplay. He is not a good defenseman yet, who knows if he ever will be.

      I also really don’t like Huberdeau or Scheifele. At least from this point on I’ll never have to cheer for either again.

    • Jprime

      Yeah but the offense bailed him out against the Slovaks. He was also let in a couple of weak goals against the Germans. I’m not pinning the loss on the goalie because team Canada hasn’t had a goalie out shine the team in a very long time; like a Manny Legace or even the more recent Justin Pogge.

    • The Soup Fascist

      I agree, he was not the sole reason for the loss. However the second I see a goalie throw up his arms and shake his head, showing up his D-men, I am pulling him quicker than Mike Keenan.

      Subban’s body language was atrocious after the 2nd goal and it seemed clear he had checked out. The last two goals were poor IMO. Gibson, however was fantastic.

    • Subban had brutal rebound control in all but 1 game. He let in 3 against Germany and 3 against Slovakia. Not exactly a stellar campaign by the guy. By checking out the highlights it was also easy to tell that the Americans had their scouting report spot on too. He goes down way too early and opens up the top of the net.

      Bad goaltending.

  • It’s not all Malcolm Subban. Heck, not even sure you can blame Subban for playing like Subban this whole tournament. He has been this bad since selection camp. He was the 3rd best goalie there and the 2nd best playing for Canada in Ufa.

    Really, I’m more disappointed in Hockey Canada for not figuring out how to choose a Goaltender that can stop pucks.

    Surely the blame for this lies with the subpar coach that couldnt see the obvious.

    • 24% body fat

      Arch, totally agree. Why was there a selection camp for goalies. They had there pick and were not going to change there mind.

      Subban didn’t earn the spot. Also he didn’t play that bad. But his play did not jump out as to not give Binnington one of the first tow games.

      It was his job to lose, and other than one maybe two games he should have lost it. Hockey Canada had there heads so far up their asses with this one. How much more does one need to be outplayed to lose the job.

      On note of that, not to say Subban could have stopped the two non screens. But doing so is stepping up and what keeps us in the games. Ask Strome how good Gibson was. Also, do we not scout Miller and Gudreau. They got two moves. One is cherry pick and the other is the ovechkin slide in toe drag and shout.

  • geoilersgist

    there is a twitter share button now!!! It is going to be a good year.

    I’m disappointed to wake up and find out that Canadians imploded. Thanks for the analysis JW.

  • What I saw: A Team Canadaesque performance by the other team playing Canada. Didn’t like a majority of the coaching decisions made which ultimately lost the game for us. Brent Sutter needs to be a mainstay & why there’s a revolving door of coaches for this team remains a mystery to me

  • On Twitter, Colby Cosh reminds me that the American net was off for some time – and knocked off by an American player – without the referees catching it earlier in the game.

    So ignore my praise for the referees early work – they avoiding calling a bunch of silly penalties but that’s the only positive thing that can be said about them.

    I’m going to blame the early time for failing to mention this initially, but feel free to tar and feather me in anger 🙂