Team defence means all five skaters on the ice buying into the same game plan. Yes, scoring is important, and Canada has done plenty of that, but any team that gives up a mere 14 goals in nine games is also giving itself a great chance to win because of its play inside its own blue line.
There are several important tenets to structured defence, so herewith is a guide to how Canada has succeeded (in no particular order).
The Canadians have done a great job of ensuring their body is always between the opponent and their own goal. This strength of positioning makes it difficult indeed to penetrate deep in the Canadian end.
Stick in the Way
Canada has been masterful at getting sticks in lanes, tipping and deflecting passes and ensuring good plays by their opponents turn in to broken plays.
No Stretching Allowed
The team has been very successful in preventing the stretch pass, that long pass that can create a breakaway or a counter attack in a fleeting moment. No stretch pass means the opposition has to work hard to move the puck up ice, and that in turn means a lesser rate of success.
Opponents have their best chances to score during power plays, so if a team can limit the time it spends short-handed, the better off it will be. Canada has done a decent job of avoiding silly penalties and limiting those best chances.
Take Away Time at the Blue Line
Canada has been sensational at slowing the opposition down at the blue line, getting those sticks in the way, getting a body in the way, forcing the puck carrier to go sideways not forward, to prevent an attacking player from coming over the line with speed.
Lift and Chase
When it doubt, get it out. Any time the Canadians get a loose puck in their own end and don’t see a clear and crisp play, they lift it outside the line and make the other team chase it down.
Collapse Around the Goalie
If the opposition winds up with possession in the Canadian end, all five players have been great at supporting their goalie and ensuring either no great shot gets through or no player gets to a rebound (of which there have been few).
Keep Them to the Outside
No team can do damage from the periphery, and Canada has been great with many of the aforementioned tactics, of keeping the opposition out of the middle where scoring chances are more dangerous.
Use the Boards
The boards are your friend, especially in the d-zone. You can use them to get the puck out or make passes or keep the puck away from the middle. The Canadians are masters along the wall.
Don’t Do Too Much
Bobby Orr retired a long time ago (sadly), so no one has to try to be like him. Simple plays are effective plays, and fancy plays have a high risk/reward factor that winning teams don’t rely on.
In its own end, Canada makes the short pass its bread and butter. They’re easier to make, and if something goes wrong, you’re closer to the puck than if you mess up with a long pass. Quick and short will get you out.
No country in hockey history knows the value of the clock better than Canada. A game is 60 minutes, not 55, not 59, not 59:59. Canada has been consistent, kept tempo and pressure every shift right to the end. The Canadians give their opponents no opening, no lull, no chance to turn the tide.
When all else fails, the goalie has been there time and again. He’s 25 and has won the Stanley Cup twice. He’s a money goalie, a big-time goalie, a winner. And right now, he’s dialed in. Focused. No rebounds, no bad goals. Murray is the real deal and Canada’s best defence.