USA-Canada is offense vs defense
February, 20, 2014
By Andrew Davis | ESPN.com
Getty ImagesSidney Crosby (left) and Patrick Kane (right) will face off Friday in the Olympic semifinals
The two teams will meet in the Olympic semifinals for the first time ever Friday. The United States is hoping its high-scoring offense will lead it back into the gold medal game, while Canada will be relying on its defense.
USA crashing the net
The United States has scored a tournament-high 20 goals this Olympics, scoring at least five times in three of its four games played. The U.S. is on pace to top its previous goal scoring high in the NHL-era of the Olympics (26), set by the 2002 silver-medal winning team.
The U.S. has been focusing on getting to the net to score goals in the tournament. Fourteen of its 20 goals scored have been from shots taken directly in front of the net, most this Olympics.
That works out to 70 percent of its total goals scored. No other team in the semifinals has scored more than half of its goals from in front. Canada goaltender Carey Price has allowed only three goals this Olympics, one of which was from in front.
Canada winning with defense
The United States’ goal-scoring will be put to the test against Canada’s defense and goaltending. Canada has allowed the fewest goals (three) and shots (74) this Olympics.
Canada is allowing a mere 19 shots per game in the tournament. The U.S. has averaged 30 shots in its four games, with a low of 25 against the Czech Republic.
Not only has Canada’s defense been bringing offenses to a halt, it has been providing much of the offense as well.
Defensemen Drew Doughty (four goals) and Shea Weber (three goals) are among the top three scorers for Canada this Olympics. Six of their seven combined goals have come from the faceoff circles or further out.
Canada has relied on defensemen scoring due to a goal-shortage from its offensive stars. Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Corey Perry, Jonathan Toews, Patrice Bergeron, Rick Nash, Patrick Marleau and Martin St. Louis are among the names without a goal in Sochi. Canada also lost John Tavares, who is third in the NHL in points this season, to injury.
When Canada has scored, it has been to the stick side of the goaltender. Seven of Canada's 13 goals have been scored that way this Olympics, but U.S. goalie Jonathan Quick has allowed only one such goal.
What’s at stake?
If Canada wins, it will have an opportunity to win back-to-back gold medals for the first time since the 1948 and 1952 Olympic Games.
If the United States wins, it will have the opportunity to take home the gold medal for the first time since the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” team. The U.S. has not medaled outside of North America since 1972 (silver).