Canada and the U.S. will both be playing for medals on the weekend. The question is whether it will be for bronze on Saturday night or gold on Sunday.
Canada won Olympic gold in 2002 and 2010, beating the Americans in the gold-medal game on both occasions. Tonight’s matchup comes a game early, but its significance is still huge.
Here’s what to look for:
Bylsma versus Crosby
One of the reasons Bylsma was named coach of Team USA is that he is behind the bench year-‘round for Crosby and Yevgeni Malkin in the NHL. The latter has been eliminated, but if any non-Canadian knows how Crosby plays, it’s the Pittsburgh Penguins coach. Crosby has been quiet so far, but the question is whether he can have a breakout game at his NHL coach’s expense. Of course, Canada has succeeded so far without much contribution form number 87, so Bylsma also can’t afford to pay more than the needed attention to him either.
Both goalies who played in the 2010 gold-medal game are with their respective national teams, but as backups this time. Roberto Luongo won gold with Canada but his play in victory wasn’t particularly inspiring of confidence four years later. Carey Price is the go-to goalie now. Ryan Miller hasn’t had a great four years in Buffalo, but he has played well this year. Nevertheless, he is second to Jonathan Quick, who emerged from the shadows by leading Los Angeles to a Stanley Cup a couple of years ago.
North America versus Europe
Although the teams might want to play a North American style against each other, they’d be wise not to try tonight on the bigger ice. Specifically, a hitting game on the big ice can be dangerous and ineffective. Big hits take a man far out of play, and with the often stricter standards of officiating might also lead to penalties. The team that adapts better to the ice and rules will have a much better chance of winning.
Canada has eleven players from the Vancouver Games in tonight’s lineup while the Americans have 13. Memories run deep, so the question is whether Canada can replicate its magic or whether the U.S. can learn from four years ago and figure out how to win.
The Pittsburgh Dressing Room
Both teams have two players from the Penguins. The Americans have Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin while the Canadians have Crosby and Chris Kunitz. Bragging rights are a huge motivator, and neither contingent wants to see their teammates kiss gold medals before midnight tonight.
Canada has had much the better part of success, with an 11-3-3 record in 17 previous games dating to 1920, and a goals differential of 63-39. These numbers probably don’t mean much, but they were accumulated one win at a time over decades, so there must be some relevance here.