Friday, March 05, 2010

Analyzing the Olympics: Looking (truthfully) at “The Goal”, amending the tourney for Sochi and my final thoughts

Hi there. I know you’re clicking on this blog looking for some analysis of the 2010 Trade Deadline that just passed in the National Hockey League; and I thought about doing just that. However, that would involve having to analyze the big blockbuster Steve Staois trade that went down between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers and I thought “nobody wants to read that”. Plus I think we’re due for an Olympic analysis, especially now that we’ve had some distance from the gold medal game so we can look at it minus the emotions it brought up.

So that’s what you’ll get.

Crosby vs. Henderson

Almost immediately after Sidney Crosby scored to give Canada the gold medal, there was talk about comparing the dramatic goal to one Paul Henderson scored to defeat the Soviet Union in the 1972 Summit Series. In fact, the Olympic hockey panel did just that after the game, with some of the panellists- obviously caught up in the emotion of the event- suggesting that Crosby’s goal was bigger than Henderson’s. Perhaps at that moment it was bigger than Henderson’s goal because it addressed an immediate need- the gold medal winning goal- but the winds of time will show that it’s not bigger than the 1972 tally, and none might ever be.

The only area where Crosby’s goal would be better than Henderson’s is in technique, because Henderson was simply “Johnny on the spot” in potting a rebound past a down-and-out Vladislav Tretiak while Crosby fired a well-placed shot to Ryan Miller’s left side from a terrible angle (though, granted, it’s a save Miller should have made). Everywhere else, Henderson’s goal wins. In terms of dramatics, Henderson’s goal capped a three-goal third period rally that erased a 5-3 Soviet lead after two periods, whereas Crosby only got his shot in overtime because his team played scared and let themselves get outworked in the final minute of play, erasing the Canadians’ own 2-1 advantage (and an earlier 2-0 advantage). Yes, an overtime goal in itself is dramatic, but Crosby merely rescued Canada from an embarrassing collapse, while Henderson rescued Canada from the gallows of defeat. Furthermore, the Soviet team played far better than the Canadians did, so much so that it could be argued that as the Series progressed Canada could be seen as underdogs (the Soviet Union did hold a 3-1-1 series advantage after five games, an advantage that was thoroughly deserved). In 2010, the Canadians were much better than the U.S. was on paper and even though the Americans played much better as a team, no one would have thought the Canadians “triumphed against the odds” like the 1972 Canadians did. Crosby also didn’t end a super long gold medal drought- this was Canada’s first gold medal since 2002, which is hardly a worrisome drought (had Crosby’s goal occurred in 2002 then maybe you’d move the goal up a few notches, but that’s it). It is true that Crosby’s goal set an Olympic record (most gold medals at a Winter Olympics) but at the end of the day it’s still just “another gold medal”, even if it is the most prestigious one at the Games.

The main reason why Henderson’s goal overshadows Crosby- and, perhaps, every other iconic goal scored and likely ever to be scored- was the gravity of the goal. Let’s not forget the history of the situation. 1972 was in the heart of the Cold War, with the series being played four years after the Prague Spring and a year after the Americans started pulling troops out of Vietnam. The Soviets at this time were more than just hated rivals on the ice- the Soviets were hated rivals in everything, embodying everything that people in the West loathed. You heard about how the Toronto Maple Leafs hate the Ottawa Senators? Well, the Canadians really hated the Soviets, and it wasn’t the kind of petty hate that we see in the Leafs-Sens rivalry. This was absolute pure hatred, the kind where both sides didn’t see the other side as human beings and that the will to win meant more than just defeating a loathed rival- it was all about good triumphing over evil, morality besting depravity with our “upright humans” defeating those “gutless robots”. This was the rivalry that would end all rivalries.

Thankfully, that kind of hatred should be foreign to most of us, because nationalism isn’t the force that it was in the 1970s, but it was that environment that Henderson and the 1972 team had to live in. Crosby’s goal may have touched off the largest street party the world has ever known, but Henderson’s goal “set things right” for not just the hockey world but “the whole world”. Henderson was Superman to the USSR’s Lex Luthor, David vs. Goliath, Mario vs. Bowser...any superhero you could name was Henderson and any supervillian you could name were the Soviets.

(Okay, I’ll stop beating a dead get the point).

Now, it’s true that the United States isn’t always perceived well north of the 49th Parallel for a whole gamut of reasons (differing political leanings, a Canadian inferiority complex, our free healthcare, etc.), but no one would say that we, in Canada, hate the United States. Our nations are as close as we could possibly be, mixing not just politically but economically, socially and culturally. I’m sure most of us have American friends (I know I do) and we’ve all interacted positively with our friends from the south without batting an eye like the Israelis and Palestinians might toward each other. Our rivalry with the United States is more of the friendly rivalry that two local high schools would partake in, where we’d loath them on the ice during the game and stop at nothing to defeat them, but once the game finishes we’d just as easily have a beer with them. Picture that happening in 1972.

The only event in today’s world that could be comparable to Henderson’s goal was if Osama bin Laden assembled a hockey team, challenged the Canadians and dominated them, only for Canada to mount a spirited comeback and win the game in overtime. Yeah, that’s just not going to happen. It’s still possible for a Henderson-like circumstance to occur in the distant future, but right now there’s no team even close to being as loathed (and feared) as the Soviets were in 1972 and that just might be a good thing- I mean, truthfully, did anyone like the Cold War era?

Don’t get me wrong- Crosby’s goal is going to be iconic for Canadians. This is “The Goal” for my generation, one that was too young to experience the Wayne Gretzky-Mario Lemieux goal of 1987 and one that wasn’t alive for Henderson, but let’s not blow this out of proportion. This isn’t the greatest hockey goal of all time, let alone the greatest hockey goal in Canadian history because there’s no fierce nationalism involved here, and, truthfully, we should be happy we don’t have to live in that climate. I don’t mean any of this to diminish the accomplishments of the Canadian national team, because they deserved their gold medal; and Canada should be proud and celebrate their victory- but please, let’s not make the goal more than it should be.

Amending the Tournament for Sochi

The question that will be on everyone’s mind now that the Vancouver Games are finished are if the National Hockey League players will be permitted to go to Sochi for the 2014 Olympic Games. The players themselves want to do it (some, like Alexander Ovechkin, say they will whether or not they’ll be permitted to go), but the owners are iffy because of all the strains it puts on their teams, with increased injury risks and a compressed schedule; and, let’s admit, the benefits of the Olympics to the game of hockey aren’t really seen when the tournament isn’t in North America. At Salt Lake City and Vancouver the buzz was deafening, but at Turin and Nagano the tournament didn’t cause the same kind of stir. I still believe it’s in the best interests of the NHL to go to the Olympics because no matter where they are hockey gets coverage the NHL could only dream of (because then the public at large will actually care about the results, the same way they do with sports like bobsleigh and rowing, as it is part of the greater “Olympic result”), but this is Gary Bettman we’re dealing with here- logic isn’t exactly in his vocabulary.

Having said that, there is some truth to the “compressed schedule” argument, as Olympic years do ask Olympians to expend an inordinate amount of energy with the increased workload. This year’s tournament wasn’t as taxing as earlier tournaments since the Americans and Finns only played six additional games and the Canadians and Slovaks played seven additional games, but given the intensity of those games, the players must feel like they’ve played 14 games. To ask those players to play those games on top of the regular season and then the Stanley Cup Playoffs is asking a lot, compounded more by the fact that players are returning from the tiring tournament to playing the last quarter of the season, where the pressures and intensity will be greater than before the Olympic tournament. The players can talk all they want about how that schedule won’t affect them, but I’m sure a good many of them are secretly wishing they didn’t have to endure the extra toll on their bodies. The effects might be mitigated by the fact the Olympics were in Vancouver and not halfway across the world, but I’m sure a lot of the Olympians are still very tired.

So the solution here is that the NHL makes a commitment for Olympic years to cut its season by ten games, reducing the slate to 72 games. The reasoning is quite simple- the average amount of games for a team in a month is in the vicinity of 15 games. 75% (which is the percentage of a month that three weeks are) of 15 is 11.5, which isn’t a round number, and since the Olympic tournament is not greater than ten games, ten games seems to be a fair amount to take off the season slate. Any more cut games and we’d have integrity issues with regards to the other seasons, as then it would dip noticeably into both player and team statistics. Under this system, the NHL can still maintain the integrity of the season without needless compression, while allowing for Olympic participation.

This plan would still have its roadblocks, since it would cut into the revenue that NHL teams would be able to collect, but it wouldn’t be one that couldn’t be overcome. The NHL would probably ask the players to take a paycut to make this plan work and, with ten less games, NHL teams would lose somewhere around $4-6 million each (assuming sellouts in each stadium for the five home games that would be tossed), which wouldn’t be too much to ask for the players to give up. Additionally, it could ask the Olympics to make up these lost revenues (the International Olympic Committee certainly makes enough) since they are the beneficiaries of the players’ participation (bringing the total compensation to anywhere between $120-170 million), but that would be a topic for the distant future- in the immediate future, it can only deal with the collective bargaining agreement and its own players, so a paycut would be likely.

Could there be other solutions? Perhaps there could be- we could start the season even earlier, maybe two or three weeks sooner, but I don’t know how many people would want to see NHL hockey in September or training camps in August for that matter (though when the World Cups are staged at the same time no one bats an eye...). Then there’s the “solution” of just using the World Cup and forgetting about the Olympics, but people suggesting that seem to forget that the “World Cup of Hockey” isn’t even in the same stratosphere as soccer’s World Cup and hasn’t even come close to generating the buzz that the Olympic tournament generates. Besides, the World Cup isn’t inclusive- nations such as France, Mexico, or Latvia don’t have a chance to play in the tournament (since it’s just the brainchild of the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association) as the World Cup has no qualifiers, whereas the Olympics do. It might also be time to think about a proper NHL break for the IIHF World Championships and creating a proper international club tournament but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The priority is to make the Olympics that more palatable, and we can accomplish that by lightening the NHL load in Olympic years because that’s the easiest solution.

Final Thoughts

Once all was said and done after Sunday’s euphoria, we’ll come to realize that the 2010 Vancouver tournament was a wonderful tournament, ended in a way- an overtime winner- most of us would like to see a final match decided. The hockey was beautiful and the talent plentiful, which makes it tough knowing we have to go back to the turgid 2-1 contests the NHL makes us sit through.

The greatest highlight for me didn’t come from the play of the “big nations” such as Canada or Russia, but how well the “small nations” such as Switzerland and Latvia played. It’s true that there were no upsets quite like Belarus’ shocker in 2002, but it was revealing to see how close they played their superiors despite their pedigree, suggesting the talent gap isn’t as wide as we may have thought it was. The Swiss, in particular, played so well that it just may be time to consider them at the top of the “next tier” of hockey powers (e.g. Germany and Kazakhstan), nations that aren’t stocked with NHLers but are capable of producing them; with the nation moving closer to the “powers”. None of you probably heard of Ivo Rutheman, Martin Pluss, Roman Wick or Mathias Seger before the tournament but you couldn’t help but notice them afterward. Those names may or may not be in the NHL in the near future, but I guarantee you one Swiss player *will* be there and *will* make an impact: Luca Sbisa. Remember that name- you’ll be hearing a lot from the Anaheim Duck in the coming years.

Other highlights were the two surprise semi-finalists in the United States and Slovakia. The Slovaks were unfortunate not to receive a medal after shocking tournament favourites Russia and Sweden in their run to the bronze medal game, receiving steady goaltending from Jaroslav Halak (a first for Slovakia), a stout defensive game and contributions from the players they needed most- Marian Hossa, Zdeno Chara and Pavol Demitra- which allowed them to overcome their higher-skilled opponents. The Americans followed a different blueprint to their surprising run. Not expected to contend with a largely young lineup, the U.S. wound up acing the chemistry test and playing an uptempo, puck-possession style that was surgical in its precision. They also showed their resiliency in coming back from 2-0 down in the gold medal game to force overtime with just 25 seconds to go, with just inches deciding their fate. Everyone knows that Sidney Crosby’s shot snuck just underneath Ryan Miller’s pad because Miller’s pad was a fraction late, but how many remember that Joe Pavelski had a point-blank chance in the slot mere moments before after a brutal defensive zone giveaway? Had Roberto Luongo not timed his prance across the crease correctly, we just may be talking about Scott Niedermayer’s blunder instead of Crosby’s heroics. Certainly this was a silver medal “won” by the United States, because the Americans greatly overachieved in this tournament, pointing to a promising future for U.S.A. Hockey (which can hopefully be realized in 2014 in Sochi).

The lowlights on this list focus squarely on the tournament’s two largest disappointments, that being Sweden and Russia. Canada too flirted with being on this list, for they were having immense chemistry issues and never seemed to get comfortable as the tournament wore on (as dramatic as the gold medal game was, it was far closer than it should have been). However, the Canadians found a way to sort out their issues, while Sweden and Russia- especially Russia- found themselves buried in them. Russia also found themselves with a chemistry issue, only with a larger scope- whereas Canada clearly lacked true role players, Russia lacked pieces in every unit. Their attackers were almost all pure snipers (Alexander Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Maxim Afinogenov, etc.) with the team’s only real playmakers being Pavel Datsyuk and Evgeni Malkin. There wasn’t really a checking unit either, and the defence lacked coordinaton and composure. Even the goaltending let them down as the tournament wore on, especially in the quarterfinal game against Canada. The Russians were a mess, pure and simple, brought upon by the fact their roster was politically motivated- almost half the roster was from the Kontinental Hockey League (including half of the defence) and it showed, because the NHLers were head and shoulders above their KHL counterparts. However, not all the omissions were NHLers. While Alexei Kovalev and Alexander Frolov would have helped immensely at this tournament, I humbly ask you why Sergei Zubov was not on this team. He just may be Russia’s best defenceman ever and he’s still producing well- playing in the KHL- at age 40. Apparently veteran poise means nothing to the Russian team. Perhaps Zubov alone wouldn’t have made the team gold medalists, but his composure and leadership would have given the defence the stability it lacked all tournament, a stability it’s going to have to discover in 2014 if the team is to have any chance at a title.

As for Sweden...well, it’s easy to get hard on them because a quarterfinal finish isn’t where we thought they’d be, but let’s face it- they played a bad game against Slovakia. This wasn’t the Russian team that looked like a train wreck waiting to happen- Sweden played like the best-oiled team in the tournament, playing the game with a precision that was scary to watch if you were the opponent and beautiful to watch if you were a neutral (or a Swedish hockey fan). Even against Slovakia the Swedes looked like they were going to restore parity after a poor start, meticulously clawing their way back into the game without ever showing- or playing with- fear. The CTV Olympic panellists took Sweden to task for not being remonstrative against Slovakia, but that analysis is just flat wrong. Players don’t need to be outwardly emotional to show that they care about the game- in fact, as professionals, they should be able to channel their emotions correctly and not get carried away. Besides, Sweden produced results, battling back from 2-0 down and almost finding a way back from 4-2 down. Perhaps the Swedes were struck by overconfidence which is why they lapsed at different points in the game, but their performance certainly wasn’t passionless. One player who *did* need to step up in the game against Slovakia was goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist was lights out for most of the tournament, but against the Slovaks he never did seem to come up with the crucial save and while he didn’t degenerate into “beach ball territory”, Lundqvist fought the puck all night. If he’s back in Sochi he’ll have to be better, plain and simple.

Lastly, I want to say how much of an honour it was to catch the likes of Jaromir Jagr, Zigmund Palffy and Peter Forsberg again at this tournament. Sorely missed at NHL level, the trio failed to disappoint, raising speculation that we’ll see the three of them back in the league next season. Forsberg is the youngest at 36 (turning 37 in July), but his history of foot injuries mean that “Foppa” may be hesitant about giving the NHL another go. Jagr, too, might not be back in the NHL next season since, at 38 years old you have to wonder if he’d be able to perform at his old level for an entire season, and a player with his prestige means he might not come back at an “affordable” rate. This leaves us Palffy, who is turning 38 this year but has been so far off the NHL radar that it’s likely he’d be the most willing of the trio to try his luck in the NHL again; and at a cheaper price. He might also not be the player of old, but he will come in with no expectations and since he wasn’t a “megastar”, even if Palffy has to play a secondary role he’d still be effective. Keep your eye out for Palffy- I expect him to be in the NHL next season

There you have it- the 2010 Winter Games in a nutshell. It was a fun tournament with a fitting ending, whetting the appetite for an even better tournament in 2014. The NHL better recommit for Sochi because, after a tournament like this, there’s no going back.


Sunday, February 28, 2010

Into The Crystal Ball- The Gold Medal Game

Canada vs. the United States, in the gold medal game for Olympic men’s hockey. Is there a better way to end the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games?

(Well, if Canada won the hockey gold...but we’ll get to that)

Team Canada enters the gold medal contest with a chance to make Winter Olympic history. The three gold medals on Saturday gives Canada the record for the most gold medals by a host nation with 13 (three more than the U.S. managed in Salt Lake City), which also ties Canada for the most gold medals at a single Winter Olympiad with the Norwegian team from 2002 and the Soviet Union from 1972. So not only can Canada claim what many regarded as the most prestigious medal at the Olympic games with a win on Sunday, Canada can claim the Winter Olympiad record outright. The whole country was going to watch the game anyway, but now they have an added reason to watch.

On the American side, there’s no medal record at stake with a victory, but there’s still plenty of reason for them to win this game. Before the tournament began, only the most strident of supporters would have believed this young, inexperienced American team would even have a sniff at the semi-finals, let alone the gold medal game. Yet this is not a team that will be simply “happy to be here”, as this scrappy bunch turned doubters into believers, winning the chemistry test and now has every expectation to win. They’re arguably playing the best hockey in the tournament and while on paper they don’t match up to the Canadian all-stars, the U.S. has every ability to make this game a contest.



Preliminary Round, Group A

Defeated Switzerland 3-1

Defeated Norway 6-1

Defeated Canada 5-3

Ranked #1 after Preliminary Round, receives bye to Quarterfinals

Quarterfinals: Defeated Switzerland 2-0

Semifinals: Defeated Finland 6-1


Preliminary Round Group A

Defeated Norway 8-0

Defeated Switzerland 3-2 (SO)

Lost to U.S. 5-3

Ranked #6 after Preliminary Round, must play in Qualification Playoffs

Qualifier: Defeated Germany 8-2

Quarterfinals: Defeated Russia 7-3

Semfinals: Defeated Slovakia 3-2

FIRST SHOTS: The path to this game was different for both teams. Canada’s road was rocky, with a group stage performance that included a shock result against Switzerland (despite the shootout win, Canada actually dropped a point) and a poor performance against the U.S., before rebounding against Germany and Russia. The Americans, however, have literally flown through this tournament, as they have yet to face a game with a one-goal margin of victory. Arguably the closest game of the tournament was not the game against Canada but their game against Switzerland, where the Swiss flirted with victory for most of the game. However, any fears that the U.S. had fallen off the rails were put to bed with their first period blitz against the Finns, where the Americans were up 6-0 after just fifteen minutes of play. So just from a casual glance, the Americans are playing the better brand of hockey while the Canadians haven’t been consistent, but everyone knows momentum is fleeting in sports and you have to ask yourself- did the Americans peak against Finland?

LOWDOWN ON THE U.S.: This was a team that had to win the chemistry test to have a chance to compete and it’s safe to say they not only passed the test, they aced it. Everyone on the team knows their roles and plays it well- the Americans’ best players (Patrick Kane, Zack Parise and Phil Kessel) have been their best players, their secondary players lived to their roles (Paul Stastny, Ryan Malone) their checkers (David Backes, Ryan Kesler, Joe Pavelski) have given the team the spark when they needed it, the team has a clear defensive anchor (Brian Rafalski) with a clear supporting cast (the Johnsons, Erik and Jack), the team has clear leadership (Chris Drury and Jamie Langenbrunner), the power play is clicking and their goaltending (provided by Ryan Miller) has been phenomenal. Really, there’s not much you can criticize the U.S. for at these Olympics because their play has been close to perfect. The only cause for concern would be how the U.S. would respond if they went down early in the gold medal game, because it’s easy to play when everything’s going right, but how will they respond when things start to go wrong?

THE LOWDOWN ON CANADA: Before the tournament this was called hockey’s version of the “Dream Team” because they featured so many All-Stars on their roster and, on paper, they looked like the strongest team at the tournament. However, once the game started on a different kind of sheet- the ice sheet- the Canadian team played anything but the best team in the tournament. Outside of the game against Russia, the Canadians have yet to play a truly flawless game. Against Norway their play was along the perimeter far too much, the score only getting so high because Norway was clearly overmatched. Against Switzerland and the U.S. Canada’s lack of team speed caught up to them; and against Slovakia the Canadians suffered too many defensive breakdowns. The talent is enormous on the Canadian roster, but so too are the questions. Outside of the “San Jose Sharks” line of Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton and Jarome Iginla, the Canadian team has had no offensive production, especially from Sidney Crosby who was supposed to be the team’s best player but is far from it. There’s no clear checking unit, as Patrice Bergeron, Mike Richards and Brendan Morrow have failed to do their jobs, and despite a blueline with Scott Niedermayer, Dan Boyle and Chris Pronger, there’s no defensive anchor. Drew Doughty- yes Drew Doughty- has outplayed them all and looks like the anchor we’d thought he’d become, but he’s got a case of the yips too much. The only place where Canada appears set is in goal with Roberto Luongo who has provided stability after Martin Brodeur failed to perform in the group stage. Yet, despite all the problems- underlined by atrocious team chemistry- Canada is here, and all they’ve got to do is get a unit that works just for one game. If they can do that, they can win this game.

HOW THE U.S. WINS: Score first. That’s objective No. 1. The crowd at General Motors Place (I don’t care what the money-drunk Olympics want me to call it) will louder than any crowd anyone has ever seen, and you can bet they’ll be even louder should the Canadians get up 1-0 or 2-0 early; at which point the Americans will be under siege. Miller, thus, has to be sharp, because the Canadians are likely going to come out strong and he’ll have to answer the challenge so that the U.S. can at least remain in striking distance as the game progresses. The Americans also cannot afford to take frustrated penalties if they start sloppy, because then any deficit they incur could get away from them quickly. The U.S. played “the perfect road game” against Canada in the group stage with a supreme defensive effort and opportunistic counter-punching, and they’ll need to reproduce that blueprint if they’ll have a chance here. They will need to adjust for Luongo, however, since they defeated a Canadian team with Brodeur in net, and Luongo is not going to give Rafalski the freebie that Brodeur gave him in the group stage game. Simply put, the American machine has to work to perfection- which it has so far in the tournament- for the U.S. to exact revenge for 2002. Any lapse and the Canadians will run away with the game like they did in Salt Lake City.

HOW CANADA WINS: Chemistry. That’s the No. 1 priority. The Canadians proved they can make one-game adjustments by dismantling Russia, and they’ll need to make that adjustment to have any chance on Sunday. The Canadian team is more talented than the American team, so their challenge is finding a unit that makes it work. They’ll also need to evoke the effort they displayed against Russia, coming out with intensity and bang out the Americans’ will to play. The crowd will definitely be on their side, so they have to use it. Canada may be slower than the U.S., but they were slower than the Russians and they beat the Russians to every loose puck; and if they can win that battle they’ll wear down the “American machine”. Luongo will also have to be on top of his game, especially if Miller frustrates Canadian shooters, so that Canada remains in striking distance for the whole game. The Canadians also cannot get frustrated if they are down early or even late- the Americans showed against Finland that they can smell blood, and the Americans have nothing to lose in this game, so Canada risks getting buried if they play scared. The power play is also going to have to work, especially if the Americans take frustrated penalties early in the game. Above all else, though, is that Canada needs to have a unit that works- they’ve failed the chemistry test at these Games, but the fortunate part is that all they need to do is pass it for one game, which is easier than if they had to do it over a whole season. The talent is there- they just need to use it.

...AND THE WINNER IS: This is too close to call. On paper, this should be a Canadian landslide, but games aren’t played on paper. The Americans have played far better than their Canadian opposition, and all the particulars- except Brodeur in net- return from the decisive American group stage victory. The Americans aced the chemistry test while the Canadians have flunked theirs, so if one side is more likely to play well, it’s the U.S. However, Canada showed they can make one-game adjustments and they’re more than capable of doing it again for this game; and if they can match the effort and energy that they showed against Russia, this is going to be rout because the U.S. doesn’t have the same talent level Canada does. You also have to figure that this will be the loudest crowd in the history of the game, and that crowd will be behind Canada which is going to figure in the final result. Logic would favour the Americans, because they’re playing much better hockey than the Canadians are, but I can’t pick against Canada where the confluence of events- the gold medal game against its biggest international rival on Canadian soil- is just too strong for an American victory. The U.S. is going to make it close- very close- but there will be no revenge for Salt Lake City.

Canada 4, U.S. 3 (SO)

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