Canada will continue its warmup games this morning when they take on Austria. The Austrians will actually try and attack instead of playing sit-back-boring hockey like Norway did yesterday. Canada will score more goals, but Roberto Luongo will likely face a few more quality scoring chances than Carey Price did yesterday.
Micheal Grabner scored three goals in the Austrian’s 8-4 loss to Finland yesterday, and along with Tomas Vanek they will present more of an offensive threat, but expect Canada’s offence to explode.
I didn’t agree with the suggestions that Norway has improved and played a good game yesterday. They generated only four scoring chances the entire game, and spent long stretches in their own zone. It was clear they were fired up to play Canada and it showed with an aggressive first period, but getting out chanced 24-4 illustrates that they weren’t really in the game, other than on the scoreboard.
I didn’t expect them to be competitive. Their own coach said if they won it would be equivalent to South Africa beating Norway in cross country skiing. Their effort was great, but unfortunately they just don’t have the skill to compete.
Austria does have some offensive skill and they are coached to attack, and that means we will likely see more goals today.
Canada’s focus is to get more comfortable and hopefully get some forwards scoring. Canada had great puck possession during the final two periods yesterday, but their passing was a just a bit off, and they didn’t generate many odd-man rushes. Look for that to improve today.
*Edit***. The above lines are the actual ones now.. Just switched Marleau and Duchene***
Team Canada didn’t skate, so these lines are just projections. **We do know for sure that Patrick Sharp and Dan Hamhuis are out and P.K Subban and Matt Duchene are in.
Mike Babcock didn’t hesitate switching out Jeff Carter on the top line, and he’ll likely keep experimenting with different combinations. I think this might be the last game where the 13th forward gets any significant playing time. It is extremely hard to keep 13 forwards involved in the game, especially when none of them are used to making an impact in only 8-10 minutes of icetime.
I suspect as the tournament progresses he will rely more on his top three units, but he is using these first few games to try and find those combinations.
Yesterday, Toews (16:15), Marleau (15:50) and Crosby (15:41) were the only forwards who played over 15 minutes. I suspect we will see similar TOI today, but as the games intensify I’m sure you will see the top guys get more minutes.
The combinations changed during the game yesterday, and we’ll probably see more of that today. Dan Hamhuis only played 9:52, and with 7 D-men it is tough to get all of them involved.
With Sharp sitting it seems obvious that Subban will take his place on the PP. He has a heavy shot and with the offensive zones smaller, the blueline is closer to the goal, so his shot will arrive on goal quicker. I’m a big fan of Subban and he’ll be fired up to prove he deserves to stay in the lineup.
Luongo starts and Mike Smith will dress as the backup. I think Babcock will lean towards Luongo on Sunday, but we’ll see. If Luongo struggles today that could change, but if he plays well my guess is Babcock goes with the guy with more Olympic experience against Finland. Just a hunch.
**That is Austrian beauty Nicola Mar.**
- It is hard to take much out of yesterday’s game. None of the lines really stood out, although I thought Jamie Benn was very good in limited minutes, 8:52.
- The fact Benn wasn’t one of the 47 players invited to the summer camp speaks to Canada’s depth, but it also proves that even the best hockey minds can err when it comes to evaluating talent. Benn played his way onto the team, and I think he’ll get more opportunities as the tourney progresses.
- I can’t get into these early games, mainly because we all know the outcome before the game begins. I’m looking forward to Sunday when the games start to matter, and Canada will face a quality opponent.
- The Czech Republic team is a mess. Why would they dress Ladislav Smid and have him sit the entire game on the bench? I don’t see the point in embarrassing a player like that. If it was a playoff game, then I’d understand going with three pairs, but not in the first game of the tournament. It seems like the coach/management wants to send a message to young Czech players that if you stay home and play you’ll have a better chance of playing in the Olympics. Why else would they have put Petr Nedved on the team and left Jiri Hudler off?
- The Detroit Red Wings sit in 8th place in the Eastern conference, but they are only one point ahead of Columbus, Washington and Ottawa while Carolina and New Jersey are three points back. Pavel Datsyuk is playing injured for team Russia, and now Henrik Zetterberg has a herniated disk. If those two return to Detroit and can’t play or are less than 90%, they have no chance of making the playoffs. I’m guessing Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch will join the caravan of owners urging the NHL to avoid future Olympics. The owners hate that their star players can get hurt during the Olympics and cost them playoff revenue.
- Are you looking for a unique Valentine’s Day gift for your special lady? Today we are helping out Ronald McDonald House. Every day they need to feed 40-60 people, usually parents of sick kids in the Stollery. I’m looking for 10 people, actually 9 because I will take one, to purchase a HOME FOR DINNER package.
It costs $500. RMH will purchase all the food and you and your significant other along with 6-8 of your friends show up at the House and cook dinner for the families. You can pick a date that fits with your schedule.
I have done it in the past and it is a great night out. You can bring your own wine as you cook and visit with your friends. It takes a big stress off of the families, and you’ll feel great. Your lady friend will love that you want to help others and have a unique “date” night. I even have a Valentine’s Day Card that we will email to you that you can give to her showing your Home For Dinner event.
If interested, you can email me at email@example.com before 5 p.m. today. Thanks in advance for helping out families who need a break.
RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR