Team Canada Pulls Out of Neutral, Defeats Switzerland
For the first time in the last three tournaments, Team Canada lost on New Year's Eve. The loss had plenty of people asking if this year's Canadians were simply not good enough. Team Sweden's coach even came out after the match and stated that his team had played tougher matches against Russia and the Czech Republic.
If you're a Canadian player hearing that, you can thank him for the bulletin board material. Canada dominated Switzerland in their quarter-final match up. Benjamin Conz was the only reason that the Swiss were still in this game at the start of the third period. There were some tight checking moments in the second period until Casey Cizikas froze Conz on a two-on-one with Louis Leblanc to put Canada up 2-1.
From there, the Canadians never looked back.
Third period goals by Leblanc and the newly returned Zack Kassian were simply icing on the cake.
The quarter-final may have proved useful for the lessons it taught the Canadian players and coaching staff.
Mark Visentin was very cold early in the game but did settle into a bit of a rhythm by the third period. Say what you want, in his two starts Visentin has allowed as many goals as Roy did in his best start of the tournament.
Zack Kassian makes a huge difference at five-on-five and on the powerplay. He's a big body presence in front of the net and there isn't a defenseman in the tournament who can knock him off the puck along the wall. He was back on a line with Ryan Johansen and Marcus Foligno at the end of the game and look for that line to be leaned on against the United States to pound the American defence.
Canada has gotten rough tournaments out of Dylan Olsen and Jared Cowen. Olsen has struggled all tournament but many have recently been speculating that the Calgary native might be playing hurt. Cowen's poor play is a more recent trend that started in the game against Sweden but continued well into today's game. Cowen's lateral mobility is a step behind the best competition in this tournament and when he's not able to catch players taking him outside, he misses defensive assignment. A lesser version of this problem was apparent against the Russians in the tournaments first game when Cowen lost his coverage against Daniil Sobchenko and cost Canada a goal.
Luckily for Canada, these defensive lapses have coincided with the emergence of Erik Gudbranson and Simon Despres as a reliable shutdown pairing. Gudbranson is in the tradition of Travis Hamonic, Keith Aulie, Luke Schenn and Ryan Parent who were the physical, nasty side of the shutdown pairing for Canada in years past. Despres is the other side of the pairing, the one with mobility and puck poise in the tradition of Marco Scandella, Tyler Myers, Thomas Hickey and Marc Staal.
Tomorrow, Holmes meets Moriarty; Federer meets Nadal; Ahab meets the Whale; the Celtics meet the Lakers.
Canada plays the United States.