No "IGGY!" this time, and Drew Doughty's overtime winner against Finland probably won't rank up there with Paul Henderson and Mario Lemieux, but considering it may have been the difference between a likely date with Russia and a likely date with Switzerland, it's a pretty big goal.
One trend at Winter Olympic games and recent IIHF world championships is that either Canada or Russia will underperform in the round robin, setting up a date with the other in the quarterfinal, and Canada was narrowly able to avoid that Sunday night at the Bolshoy with a big 2-1 overtime win over Finland.
And yes, the game was narrow. We had wondered what the big ice was going to do to Canadian players at these games, considering speed is such a big factor in the NHL game. With so much space on a European ice surface, however, teams are able to focus on taking away the middle of the ice, forcing much of the game to exist around the outside and the perimeter. Against Norway and Austria, Canada was able to rack up chances by taking advantage of players inexperienced at playing a high level, but the Finns were a very good test for Canada's offence, and as you may have inferred from watching the contest, the defence won, on both sides.
So how did the overtime goal come to be? Well, while Jeff Carter plays on a line with Jonathan Toews for Canada, let's admit right off the top that only one of those players has a reputation as being talked about as one of the best defensive players in hockey. That's Toews, an excellent faceoff man who is often put into offensive situations with his club team in the National Hockey League.
Not to disparage Toews, since he is excellent in his role, but Carter may have made one of the best defensive plays for Canada in the tournament on an excellent rush in transition. After Sami Vatanen was knocked off the puck by Shea Weber, rushing towards the Canadians one-on-four, Carter picked up the loose puck and exploited the change. Recognizing that two Finnish players were converging on the loose puck, Carter immediately took the puck up ice and turned a four-on-four into a two-on-two with his speed:
carter 1 "Defence" doesn't always mean shot blocking and takeaways. It means ensuring the other team doesn't score goals. The Finns were already changing on the previous rush and Sami Vatanen decided to skate the puck right at a wall of Canadian players rather than wait for his mates. Carter exploited three Finnish players charging towards the Canadian net by making them turn around and skate the other way:
carter 2By the time Carter (and Doughty) make the opposing blue line, it's two Canadians against two Finns, making it easier to keep control of the puck when gaining the zone and getting a shot on net away:
carter 3Finland had just the one scoring chance in overtime for either team however: a hard shot by defenceman Sami Salo a minute in. Doughty's winning goal was an underwhelming shot, re-directed in by the own pad of Tuukka Rask, who was rock-solid in the third period. Rask probably stops that shot 96 per cent of the time so Canada got a bit of luck in the overtime, but that made up for Rask refusing to flinch when defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic was presented with a glorious opportunity to break the tie with 33 seconds to go in regulation time.
And it just goes to show: while most goals scored come from prime opportunities, sometimes they don't. Doughty has four goals already in this tournament, and three of them came on low wrist shots just hoping for a re-direct. Ossi Vaananen, late in the second period, did the same, throwing a shot on net and got a lucky deflection off the stick of Tuomo Ruutu for a tie game.
By my count using the definition found over at Copper and Blue, Canada was held to just nine scoring chances in the entire game, after racking up 23 against Norway and 32 against Austria. In a typical National Hockey League game, the average team will get about 15, and seeing games with 20 or fewer scoring chances isn't that uncommon when watching restrictive defensive teams like Los Angeles or St. Louis.
This was the breakdown, by period:
|EV CAN||EV FIN||PP CAN||PP FIN||SH CAN||SH FIN||Tot. CAN||Tot. FIN|
Here's the breakdown by player. The table tallies up how many team chances for or against a player was on the ice for, and is good for determining the effectiveness of certain lines:
|Chances For||Chances Vs.||Chances +/-|
|22 - Jamie Benn||1||1||0|
|37 - Patrice Bergeron||1||1||0|
|87 - Sidney Crosby||2||1||1|
|12 - Patrick Marleau||3||3||0|
|16 - Jonathan Toews||3||4||-1|
|77 - Jeff Carter||3||3||0|
|9 - Matt Duchene||1||1||0|
|15 - Ryan Getzlaf||2||1||1|
|24 - Corey Perry||2||0||2|
|10 - Patrick Sharp||2||1||1|
|14 - Chris Kunitz||2||0||2|
|20 - John Tavares||3||0||3|
|61 - Rick Nash||2||1||1|
|2 - Duncan Keith||3||3||0|
|6 - Shea Weber||2||3||-1|
|8 - Drew Doughty||5||1||4|
|44 - Marc-Edouard Vlasic||4||1||3|
|19 - Jay Bouwmeester||2||1||1|
|27 - Alex Pietrangelo||2||2||0|
|5 - Dan Hamhuis||0||1||-1|
Not a lot of conclusions to draw here, based on the limited number of chances by each team. In regulation, what that Toews-Carter-Patrick Marleau line gained, they gave back at the other end, spending the bulk of their time out on the ice against the Finnish top line of Jarkko Immonen, Teemu Selanne and Mikael Granlund. Granlund has been flying all tournament and carved up Norway and Austria on his own, and was able to generate four shots on goal against Canada, with two of them counting as scoring chances.
Toews and Sidney Crosby taking control of the hard minutes really helps the John Tavares and Ryan Getzlaf lines just flatten the opposition, though both lines were pretty quiet today against the Finns. The flip side is that Finland didn't generate much against Canada, but they have so many offensive centres out due to injury that Finland was content with restricting the flow inside the zones.
Just to give an indication of how much Finland kept Canada to the outside, the Canadians took 27 shots on goal, with 13 of them coming from defencemen. The Canadians held a lot of zone time, but the challenge for them on the European ice surface is going to be to learn to take the puck to the net if they don't want to rely on good bounces and defensive screens giving them goals, which has been the trend thus far. Six of Canada's 11 goals have come from their blueline, specifically Doughty and Shea Weber and the forwards are going to have to start converting their chances at some point.
Thankfully, as noted, Canada will likely play the Swiss in the quarterfinal, and Canada never has trouble scoring against the Swiss. That's all hinging on Switzerland defeating Latvia (they played in the round robin, with Switzerland eking out a 1-0 victory scoring with just seven seconds left on the clock) but making the medal round was never going to be particularly easy, with seven quality international teams and always an eighth that surprises.