Home > Uncategorized > Benn there, done that: Canada defeats USA again

Benn there, done that: Canada defeats USA again

Matt Slocum/The Associated Press Team Canada forward Benn Jamie (22) celebrates his goal against USA goaltender Jonathan Quick during the second period of their men's hockey semifinal at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, on Friday. Benn's goal stood up as the winner in Canada's 1-0 victory over the archrival Americans. Canada will next face Sweden for gold on Sunday morning — early morning, as in 4 a.m. PT — while the U.S. is left to play for bronze on Saturday against Finland, which fell 2-1 to Sweden.

Matt Slocum/The Associated Press
Team Canada forward Benn Jamie (22) celebrates his goal against USA goaltender Jonathan Quick during the second period of their men’s hockey semifinal at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, on Friday. Benn’s goal stood up as the winner in Canada’s 1-0 victory over the archrival Americans. Canada will next face Sweden for gold on Sunday morning — early morning, as in 4 a.m. PT — while the U.S. is left to play for bronze on Saturday against Finland, which fell 2-1 to Sweden in the other semi.

I like firewagon hockey as much as the next guy. After all, my interest in the sport was spawned by the high-flying Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s — back in my diaper days.

Yet, I can appreciate a good low-scoring game as well, which is what hockey fans around the world were treated to with Friday morning’s Olympic semifinal between Canada and the United States. As a former puck-stopper myself, I certainly enjoy an entertaining goaltender’s duel and this game showcased Carey Price and Jonathan Quick matching each other save-for-save throughout.

In the end, Jamie Benn’s redirection of Jay Bouwmeester’s shot-pass early in the second period proved to be the difference as Canada prevailed 1-0 and will now face Sweden for gold on Sunday morning. That’s a 4 a.m. PT puck-drop, so set your alarms accordingly . . . or crush a couple of Red Bulls and power through it. Then again, the adrenaline rush of watching your country play for gold should be enough to keep most of us awake, with or without sleep beforehand.

Larry Fisher
Larry Fisher

That Benn’s goal was the only offence in Friday’s contest didn’t diminish the fact that this was a great game played between two evenly matched teams. If not for Price and especially Quick, it could have been higher scoring as there were plenty of chances at both ends of the ice.

That said, I would say Canada’s defence was the bigger story. The Americans were scoring at will coming in, with 20 goals through four games to Canada’s 13 — against better competition no less. And they had to have been hungry for this rematch of the 2010 gold-medal game, wanting to avenge that 3-2 overtime loss with 12 players returning from Vancouver to Canada’s 11.

Phil Kessel, the leading goal-scorer and point-getter of these Games, had an early opportunity after blowing past Duncan Keith and then John Carlson got a clean look from the slot, but Price turned them aside and his teammates kept them at bay the rest of the way.

The Americans didn’t even get a sniff in the dying minutes, making for a somewhat anticlimactic finish as the clock counted down without much suspense — albeit much to the delight of Canadian fans.

Drew Doughty wasn’t as impactful, but Canada didn’t need another goal from its most dynamic defender on this day. Shea Weber was in beast mode yet again — nuff said on him. Bouwmeester got involved offensively with his well-placed assist, then settled back into a mostly defensive role alongside St. Louis Blues partner Alex Pietrangelo. Doughty’s partner, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, continued to earn his keep as a stay-at-home type, and even Keith bounced back from a mistake-prone first period to play an effective final 40 minutes. I’m not even sure if seventh defenceman Dan Hamhuis stepped on the ice? If he did, I didn’t notice him out there, but I guess that’s probably a good thing too.

Up front, Sidney Crosby had his best game of the tournament but still couldn’t find the scoresheet — or the back of the net, now goal-less in five Olympic games since scoring the Golden Goal to end the 2010 tournament. The line of Benn with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf was Canada’s most dangerous even before and after the lone goal, while Jonathan Toews and Matt Duchene were also quite noticeable in their efforts. Patrick Sharp, Patrick Marleau, Rick Nash and Jeff Carter were up and down their wings, chipping in here and there as per usual.

Overall, Canada is looking pretty unstoppable heading into the gold-medal game against Sweden, which is missing injured forwards Henrik Sedin, Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen, not to mention the glaring omission of defenceman Victor Hedman. Canada is also without two of its top young forwards in Steven Stamkos and John Tavares, but still has depth to spare at every position and should be able to use that to its advantage.

The odds will likely be stacked in Canada’s favour and deservedly so, but anything is possible in a one-game, winner-takes-all situation.

My prediction: Canada 4, Sweden 1 with an empty-net goal to clinch the gold and repeat as Olympic champions.

Without further ado, here is my mash-up of thoughts from the Canada-USA semifinal via my Twitter feed (LarryFisher_KDC):

8:52 a.m. = Good morning North America! Barely slept having stayed up to watch Canada win gold and silver in women’s skicross, but excited for big game.

8:53 a.m. = Retweet @Molson_Canadian: Good luck trying to reach anyone in Canada today. pic.twitter.com/yPfFuL2IFG

8:54 a.m. = Retweet @garylawless: “Getting ready for Canada vs USA semifinal and the stakes have been raised #sochi14 pic.twitter.com/OHsaNk3ukJ” #SochiProblems

8:56 a.m. = Here is today’s Tale of the Tape: pic.twitter.com/D3Pb2nUdIg

8:59 a.m. = I predicted Canada to win 4-2 with an empty-netter and I think I will stand by that. Winner will face Sweden in gold-medal game.

9:02 a.m. = Sweden beat Finland 2-1 in the early semifinal, with Erik Karlsson scoring the winner and Henrik Lundqvist backstopping the victory.

9:05 a.m. = Your starting goaltenders, as expected, are Carey Price for Canada against Jonathan Quick for USA. And the puck has dropped!

9:06 a.m. = I said Price would be tested early — and likely often — in today’s semi and he’s forced to stop Phil Kessel on partial break in 1st min.

9:09 a.m. = Kessel is flying in Sochi, with a tournament-leading 5 goals/8 points. That was fleet-footed Duncan Keith that Kessel blew by for chance.

9:10 a.m. = But Canada does appear to have its feet under them now, controlling the next few shifts and getting a couple decent chances on Quick.

9:12 a.m. = Like Sidney Crosby for Canada (2 assists in 4 games), USA’s Patrick Kane (4 assists in 4 games) could be due for an Olympic breakout today.

9:14 a.m. = Matt Duchene, who is filling in for the injured John Tavares on fourth line between Patrick Sharp and Rick Nash, has a lot of jump today!

9:15 a.m. = Duncan Keith, on the other hand, really seems to be struggling early on. He’s such an elite skater, yet has got beat wide a couple times.

9:17 a.m. = Price with a great (and confident-looking) glove save off John Carlson from the slot as Americans pressing for opening goal.

9:18 a.m. = Scoreless at first commercial break but plenty of chances at both ends. By far the best Canadian game (to watch) so far! Shots 7-6 for USA.

9:20 a.m. = If not for great goaltending, this game could easily be 2-2 by now. Price and Quick are both in the zone!

9:22 a.m. = Yikes, Patrick Kane somehow snuck behind Duncan Keith (still struggling) there, but breakaway pass skipped over his stick. #comeonKeith

9:23 a.m. = Watching this game is a good reminder why it’s worth waking up at 4:15 am. (or staying up) for Sunday’s middle-of-the-night gold-medal game!

9:27 a.m. = Is this the game Chris Kunitz shuts up the haters (like me)? He’s been getting better (slightly better) every game so he might be due here!

9:28 a.m. = Canada on the game’s first power play and Crosby seeing lots of ice time, lots of opportunity to make his much-needed impact!

9:29 a.m. = USA kills that penalty off with not much in the way of chances against. Back to even strength now, still scoreless with 6 mins left in 1st.

9:31 a.m. = I guess score updates probably aren’t necessary today because everybody who is anybody is already watching! Am I right or am I right?

9:33 a.m. = The Americans getting their first power play now with Marleau sent off for holding.

9:36 a.m. = Nothing against Sweden, they have great team even without the Henriks (Sedin/Zetterberg) but I’d gladly watch these teams in best of 3 or 7!

9:38 a.m. = Likewise, Canada killed its penalty with no real close calls. And we are scoreless at the intermission of an entertaining first period.

9:40 a.m. = I like scoring and all the emotions that come with goals for or against, but I’m also big fan of great goaltending which we’re seeing today!

9:42 a.m. = Holy Grapes is in overdrive to start this Coach’s Corner…such a speedy talker, must have crushed a few Red Bulls just before segment!

9:44 a.m. = Cherry calls out Keith and rightfully so. He stood out in a bad way during 1st, needs to bounce back for the better in 2nd. #getinthegame

9:45 a.m. = Retweet Tieja MacLaughlin ‏@Tieja_Mac: “A story worth sharing: I passed the hours in Kennewick WA teaching women about the game of hockey in a class that became known as Canada101.”

9:54 a.m. = Commentators had scoring chances at 8-4 for Canada in 1st. Shots were 16-11 for Canada. Sounds about right as puck drops on 2nd period.

9:56 a.m. = Duncan Keith breaks up a 2-on-1 on opening shift of 2nd after a tough 1st for him personally. That’s more like it!

9:58 a.m. = 1-0 Canada, Jamie Benn opens the scoring by redirecting Jay Bouwmeester’s shot-pass. Great shift all around by Benn-Getzlaf-Perry line.

9:59 a.m. = Carey Price looks so confident — calm, cool and collected — in net today. Not to knock Roberto Luongo, but he always makes me nervous!

10:00 a.m. = Canada had all the momentum in the world to start 2nd, but now a high-sticking penalty to Getzlaf gives Americans chance to draw even on PP.

10:03 a.m. = Another kill for Canada and back on the attack they go. Jamie Benn having a whale of a game even before and after his goal.

10:06 a.m. = I think that’s the first time I’ve heard Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s name today…but that’s a good thing for defensive D-man. #quietlyeffective

10:11 a.m. = Is it just me or has the pace slowed a bit in the 2nd? Seems to have settled into more of an NHL game type feel. Maybe more close checking?

10:16 a.m. = Benn nearly makes it 2-0 with his 2nd goal of game, but Quick gets across to stop one-timer, though Benn didn’t quite get all of the shot.

10:18 a.m. = This call kinda hurts for Canada. Kunitz takes dig at Quick and called for goalie interference but Callahan manhandled him after and no call.

10:19 a.m. = Americans now on their 3rd power play of game, this is a key one for them I would think.

10:20 a.m. = Drew Doughty has been a bit quieter for Canada today, but Shea Weber continues to be a full-on beast at both ends of the ice!

10:22 a.m. = Canada finishes that kill off too. Close call tho as Americans poked a rebound through Price’s 5-hole and out the other side of crease.

10:25 a.m. = 1-0 Canada after 40 minutes. Jamie Benn with the game’s only goal so far as both goaltenders have been among the 3 stars so far (plus Benn).

10:41 a.m. = There’s nothing safe about 1-goal lead as we start 3rd period…or a 2-goal lead for that matter as we saw yesterday with Canadian women!

10:43 a.m. = Matt Duchene is very noticeable out there with his blazing speed and I could totally see him making the most of his limited minutes.

10:44 a.m. = Crosby had a really good first period but he’s been a lot quieter ever since. I could also still see him stepping up with a big goal!

10:46 a.m. = Crosby misses another open net, that must be a handful for him in this tournament. Gripping the stick too tight?

10:48 a.m. = Heard somebody say “Crosby just isn’t a big ice player.” I don’t buy that. He’s in the right places, but just not finishing for some reason!

10:49 a.m. = Price hasn’t faced a quality shot against in quite some time, here’s hoping he’s still in the zone and mentally ready for when that comes!

10:50 a.m. = Of course as I hit send on that tweet, Price has to make a decent stop on Parise. Good positioning there and no rebound. Well played by him!

10:52 a.m. = Speaking of no finish…remind me again, why is Kunitz on this team? Or still on Crosby’s line? He’s reason Sid doesn’t have more assists.

10:53 a.m. = Canada still really pushing the pace and pressing forward in first half of third period, not trying to sit back and defend 1-0 lead.

10:55 a.m. = Kunitz draws a penalty on Phil Kessel, good call much to Kessel’s chagrin. Chance to make it 2-0 now after lots of hard work to set this up!

10:58 a.m. = Kunitz’s presence just bothers me, he clearly doesn’t think the game on the same level as these guys, chemistry with Crosby notwithstanding!

10:59 a.m. = With 7 minutes left, I think Canada will start playing “safer”, more dump and chase, get pucks deep and try to cycle to kill the clock.

11:01 a.m. = Oh man, poor Kunitz on that one, he actually got a great shot off but Quick made an amazing save to keep it 1-0.

11:02 a.m. = Less than 5 mins left…as fast as these games go with few commercial breaks, this is going to seem like eternity for those playing/watching!

11:05 a.m. = Price purposely kicks a rebound all the way out of the defensive zone, now 3 minutes left.

11:06 a.m. = John Carlson has been one of the best Americans on the ice and he just broke up a 2-on-1 for Canada’s Carter and Marleau.

11:06 a.m. = Carlson has caused Canadian hockey heartbreak before…scoring OT winner in world juniors!

11:07 a.m. = Final minute, this clock really is counting down fast…Quick is pulled…drum roll!

11:08 a.m. = 1-0 final for Canada…Canada’s defence just too strong in dying minutes. My 3 stars are Benn, Price and Quick in that order!

11:09 a.m. = You probably won’t ever watch a more entertaining 1-0 hockey game. It was totally an NHL game on bigger ice, but a damn good one!

11:10 a.m. = Canada versus Sweden for gold on Sunday (4 a.m. PT), USA versus Finland for bronze on Saturday (7 a.m. PT). Set your alarms accordingly!

11:13 a.m. = PS: Somebody post another Rob Ford celebration video ASAP…please and thank you #thatwasepic

Larry Fisher is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier in Kelowna, B.C. Follow him on Twitter: @LarryFisher_KDC.

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