After winning the first two games of the tournament, while scoring more goals than in the entire Vancouver Olympics, Team Finland went back to the style of hockey that has Suomi written all over it.
That style of play – where forwards are trapped at the blue line – can be overcome by quick and skilled defensemen, who join on the rush with speed.
This was good news for Canada, because they have Drew Doughty, who scored both of Team Canada’s goals Sunday night in Sochi.
“Yes. We have to [jump on the play].” Doughty said after the game about the importance of joining the rush. “Especially when they’re just sitting back like that we have to make sure we have speed, because a lot of times our forwards are going to be stopped up at the far blue line. As much as we can jump in and help out the guys on offense, that’s what we need to do.”
After giving up a goal late in the second period, Canada knew that they had to shift into extra gear to go through the minefield of the Finnish defense.
“Yes, we needed to pick it up.” Doughty said of the third period push by Canada. “We were a little disappointed we let in that goal at the end of the second, we just wanted to get it back. We decided to pick up ourselves, keep possession of the puck, create good opportunities, and we did a good job playing defense tonight.”
And while the Canadian forwards were doing their best to create those good opportunities, and the defense was indeed doing a good job making sure the Finns stay as far away as possible from Carey Price, the experience of being in such a high pressure situation was on Doughty’s side.
“I was probably more nervous in 2010 for sure.” Doughty said of playing on a big stage. “That helped me out. I was just a little young guy there, had so many older guys around me that I didn’t know whatsoever. Everyone was a new face to me. So, I was nervous mostly because of that, not because of the fans, the pressure or the country and all that. It was meeting all those all-star players.
“It wasn’t like I leaned on them for advice vocally or anything like that. Just watching them is all I had to do. I learned so many things by just watching these guys play. It helped me out with this one for sure.
A lot of players, when they play for Team Canada, appear to maybe simplify things a little bit to avoid mistakes. But not Doughty, who seems to play the same game that he plays in the NHL.
“In the first game I thought I struggled a little bit, especially in the first period, but ever since then I have been comfortable.” Doughty explained. “I am ready to go. I am used to the ice sheet. I am used to playing with these guys. I am just excited now. I forget about everything that’s going on around me, and I’m just focusing on that game, having fun.”
Having fun is one thing, but gaining the national team coach’s trust while doing so is another. Mike Babcock sure seems to trust Doughty in any situation.
“Yeah, I guess so!” Doughty said laughing. “He threw me out there a few times in overtime. He even let me play the left side there at the end. When the coach shows trust in you like that you just love it, really. You just take off and go from there.”
And taking off for Doughty is doing something that he has struggled to do in Los Angeles this season – scoring goals. Doughty now had four goals in Sochi in three games.
“I don’t know what’s going on! I don’t score like this in LA at all. So… A lot of this is just my teammates. They have been doing a great job getting me the puck. When you’re playing with these high skilled forwards, all you gotta do is find some room on the ice, and they will find you. I just have to get my shots through on net.”
One of those teammates, Jeff Carter, who trailed Doughty on the game-winning goal, helping to develop the screen for the shot, said that Doughty was “probably the most skilled player [he’s] ever played with.”
“Really? Uh…,” Doughty said a little shocked. “He’s got some skill himself. I love playing with Carts back home, obviously, and he was the big part of that game winning goal tonight too.”
Team Canada now has two days off to get ready for their next opponent, and they do not care who it is going to be.
“We don’t care who we face,” Doughty said with confidence. “We are ready to go. We just need to take these next two days, get some rest. And when we find out who our opponent is, we are going to be ready to play and hope we beat them.”
According to Doughty, the plan is to strictly play the game and win. That’s all. No gimmicks.