Before today's Olympic semifinal between the U.S. and Canada, I would have argued that on paper the Canadians had the all-star team while the Americans might have the better all-around team. After the U.S. lost 1-0, it's hard to argue that any more.
The neighbors to the north dominated that game. Sure it was 1-0, but they controlled the flow and tempo. They limited second-chance scoring opportunities, they put tons of pressure on Jonathan Quick, they clogged the neutral zone and they really never let this game be in doubt.
You win a hockey game by scoring more goals. You dominate a hockey game by taking time and space away from the opposition on every square inch of the ice. That's what Canada did today. Team USA was pressured with the puck every single possession. They didn't have the real estate or the window to make a play with the puck.
Here's a few thoughts by period.
Jonathan Quick played like he was between the pipes at Scottrade Center and this was a playoff game against the Blues. In the first period he stopped all 16 shots he saw. He was quick, agile and probably a little lucky. And while the period ended scoreless, it started to feel like just a matter of time before Canada got on the board no matter what Quick was doing.
David Backes was on the ice with Sidney Crosby virtually every even-handed shift. T.J. Oshie was on the No. 1 penalty killing unit while Kevin Shattenkirk was on the No. 1 power play. Three key Blues playing three key roles for Team USA. Nice to see.
The lone goal of the game happened just under 2 minutes into the second period. Jay Bouwmeester got the puck on his left point, put a hard shot toward the far post. Jamie Benn deflected it past a ready Quick. As Bernie Federko would say, there was nothing the goaltender could do on that one.
They mentioned on the broadcast that the Americans, especially on the power play, only could keep the puck on the perimeter. Nothing on the inside or directly in front of the net. Kudos to the Canadian penalty killers.
A trend started in the second period that would carry over through the rest of the game. The U.S. had a very difficult time getting to the front of the net. They weren't playing in the dirty areas. Huge problem. That's how Canada scored. That's how the U.S. was going to have to score. They didn't, so they didn't.
The end result of no traffic was American players rushing shots, taking shots from far distance with no traffic, no screen. Carey Price will take those shots any time. Any time.
The Americans tried everything. Short passes, long passes, drop passes. The tried wraparounds, from the point, one-timers, from the wall, in the slot. What they didn't have was a big body like Backes in front of the net enough. You have to wonder how much he was devoting himself to stopping Crosby if that affected his offensive game.
Two things that really stood out so far in the Olympics compared to the NHL. The defensemen have a tough time holding the puck in the zone. With the wider ice, they can't play as close to the boards. It's too far from the net and away from the action. It's a poor defensive position. So they play away from the boards and they're not there to stop clearing attempts around the boards or those hard passes. Second, the officials have been really slow blowing the whistle on plays where the puck is loose in front of the net. I like that a lot, actually. Let them play, I say.
The line of Taves, Marleau and Carter is straight from a Blues fan's nightmares.
There were 68 shots in the game. One goal. Part of that was the brilliance of Quick. The other part was the stifling play of Canada.
So it's off to the bronze medal game Saturday for the Americans and Canada will face Sweden in the gold medal game early Sunday.
Did I miss something? Let me know down below.