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Lessons from Canada's dominant win

2/14/2014 - Olympic Sports
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2014 Winter Olympics: Canada Defeats Austria

Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun recap the Canadian 6-0 victory over Austria

SOCHI, Russia -- For the second night in a row, a talent-laden Canadian team faced off with the equivalent of Olympic cannon fodder. After struggling to get going against Norway on Thursday, Canada took at least a small step forward in a 6-0 shellacking of Austria, as they outshot the overmatched Austrians 46-23. Here are some thoughts:

1. Roster decisions

The big story heading into Sunday's final preliminary round game against Finland is what Canadian coach Mike Babcock does with his roster. All 22 skaters got into at least one of the first two games with Patrick Sharp and Dan Hamhuis sitting against Austria in favor of Matt Duchene and defending Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban. Sharp did nothing to deserve being left off Friday's roster and will be back in against Finland on Sunday, as will Hamhuis. But who goes out? Based on the level of play in the first two games, it is hard to justify keeping Chris Kunitz in the Canadian lineup. The Kunitz-Sidney Crosby chemistry so obvious with the Pittsburgh Penguins has yet to reveal itself in Sochi. Martin St. Louis moved into Jeff Carter's spot on the Crosby line and appears to have played his way into an everyday spot with the Canadians. Duchene, playing mostly with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, likewise did nothing to suggest he can't deliver the goods now that things are about to get serious for the Canadians. What about Sharp playing with Crosby? Or Duchene? Crosby had a strong game and picked up an assist, so perhaps it's just a matter of time before Kunitz gets into the act. But timing is everything in this tournament and Kunitz's time may come Sunday. As for the blue line, Subban was fine and, if it were me, I'd have him back in against Finland. That said, not sure the Canadian coaching staff has the same viewpoint.

2. Price vs. Luongo

If the first two games for Canada have been a little bit like glorified games of shinny, Sunday's game against Finland looms large in terms of finding out just what kind of team Canada is going to be on a host of levels. Against all expectations, Finland has managed to score 14 goals in winning its first two games. So, where does that leave Babcock in terms of his goaltending? Carey Price was rarely tested against Norway, but Roberto Luongo (who stopped all 23 Austrian shots Friday) was forced to make more difficult saves than Price. The Austrians had eight minutes of power-play time, including a four-minute man advantage in the second period after Jamie Benn was given a double-minor for high sticking. Now, the Austrian power play isn't particularly potent (the Canadians actually scored their sixth goal while shorthanded) but Luongo did make a handful of difficult saves during the power play. Then, in the third, Luongo stood his ground on a breakaway by Oliver Setzinger. What does it mean? Maybe nothing. If you follow the theory that Price got the start in Game 1 because ultimately the coaching staff believes he'll be "the guy" when things get serious next week when the tournament moves into elimination mode, then it stands to reason that Price will start Sunday so he can get into a rhythm. Still, Luongo did nothing but reinforce he's still got the goods to be in the discussion.

3. Carter proves doubters wrong

After being dumped from Sidney Crosby's line in favor of Martin St. Louis, Carter responded by scoring three times in a row in the second period. Now, let's be honest, they weren't things of beauty, two coming off scrambles around the Austrian net and another with Austrian netminder Bernhard Starkbaum caught out of position. But goals are goals, no? And with Babcock using the first two games of the preliminary round to mix and match his lines, Carter has done what he was put on this team to do. For us, though, Carter's value was shown more in a play early in the game when he raced the length of the ice to break up an Austrian rush after Drew Doughty was caught up ice at the offensive blue line. If there was some surprise that Carter was named to the Canadian team, his play against Austria should reinforce that he is full value for his inclusion.

4. Offensive defensemen

Canada continued to get a big boost from its blue line with Doughty and Shea Weber both scoring goals against Austria, giving the pair four goals in two games. Both of Weber's goals have been absolute lasers. In fact, his goal Friday required video review to confirm that it had in fact bounced back out off the back bar. Weber also added an assist, as did Alex Pietrangelo. If you're keeping score at home, Canadian defenders now have four goals and four assists through the first two games. If you're an L.A. Kings fan, you have to wonder where all this scoring is coming from. In the Kings' final eight games before the Olympic break, the team scored eight goals. Through two Olympic games, Kings players on the Canadian roster have tallied five times.

5. In the box

It may mean nothing or it could mean everything, but through the first two games, Canada has taken 18 minutes in penalties. History suggests that teams that lose the special teams battles in these international tournaments rarely have lasting success. Now the penalties haven't hurt the Canadians -- they have given up just one goal and it wasn't on the power play -- but against Finland and beyond, taking penalties will at some point cost them.