Americans Underestimating Canada

Posted: February 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

As the United States and Canada get set for their Olympic semifinal round game at noon EST on Friday (and anyone with a 9-5 job sulks in their cubicle), fans of the former are becoming increasingly confident in their nation’s ability not only to triumph over their neighbors to the north; but, also to win the entire tournament.

This is in large part due to the standard American superiority complex. But, also because of the displays that each team has put candaforth so far in the Sochi games. America, undefeated throughout the round robin stage, triumphed over the Czech Republic on Wednesday, 5-3. The win, which was highlighted by James van Riemsdyk’s early goal (as Flyers fans cry themselves to sleep), continued the Americans’ march towards their first Olympic gold since 1980. Meanwhile, Canada appeared to struggle against an inferior Latvian team before eventually winning 2-1 on a Shea Weber third period power play goal.

To the naked eye, America appears more prepared for what’s ahead. But, how impressive has the United States’ Olympic performance truly been? Yes, they defeated Russia on Saturday. But, it took a skills competition as gimmicky as the Wildcat offense to do it. After all, I think TJ Oshie was still out there taking shootout attempts on Sergei Bobrovsky last night. Oh, by the way; this is the same Russian team that just got bounced from their own tournament by a Finnish squad whose best offensive player is 43-year old Teemu Selanne.

Their other victories over Slovakia and Slovenia, two mediocre teams, look less impressive after each of those two were bounced earlier in the tournament. No, the United States has not beaten any of the four remaining teams. While they may have the best collection of talent in the tournament, they’ll have to exercise the demons of 2010 if they hope to take down the defending gold medalists on Friday.

As for Canada, their “struggles” this tournament are largely attributed to their inability to score goals. Yes, on the surface, Canada hasn’t performed up to expectations. They trounced Norway and Austria. But, struggled against Finland before winning in overtime on a Drew Doughty goal. That victory actually looks more impressive after Tuukka Rask and the Fins beat Russia this morning. Today, Canada couldn’t score. But, it wasn’t because they struggled to put the puck on net. The Canadians outshot the Latvians an astounding 57-16 in the affair. If it weren’t for Latvian goalie Kristers Gudlevskis, the final score would have been a lot more jarring.

This is not to say that I will not be pulling hard for my home country when they take on Sidney Crosby and the Canadians on Friday. But, I will also not be blinded by my own patriotic servitude into believing that the U.S. is somehow a dramatically better product than Canada. No, the Canadians play a brand of hockey that is built to win gold medals. They did it four years ago, and they’re dramatically close to doing it again. In Canada, they’re born to play hockey. Players like Crosby, Toews, Doughty, Keith, and St. Louis all know what it’s like to win not only Olympic gold but the Stanley Cup, as well.

On Friday, the meaning of life will be found on a sheet of ice in Western Russia. To win, the United States will have to bring everything it has. But, like four years ago, that just might not be enough.

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