Sunday, February 23, 2014

Chemistry and Discipline Lead Canadian Men’s Hockey to Gold

There’s no argument that Canada had by far the most talented group of hockey players in these Olympic games.  But, as evidenced by team USA’s unfortunate finish, talent doesn’t guarantee success.

Being such a short tournament, with little to no practice time during or even leading up to it, developing team chemistry early is vital in making a serious run for gold.  Not only did Team Canada have the talent, but they gelled as a team very quickly.

However, what made Team Canada such a success these Olympics was their discipline.  The Canadians were very disciplined on both sides of the puck, making it difficult for opponents to generate sustained offensive pressure and quality scoring chances.

While Finland and Latvia gave Canada more difficulty than was expected, the Canadians peaked at the perfect time, posting shutouts in the semifinals and the gold medal match.  They surrendered a meager three goals in six games; tallying 16 goals for.

Allowing only three goals all tournament is a testament to the defensive dominance of Team Canada.  While the scoring ability of the forwards (and many defensemen) had been well documented, their defensive structure was second to none.  You can’t be considered a true powerhouse unless you’re able to control the play both with and without the puck.

It was a rare sight to see the Canadians concede an odd-man rush.  Even when their opponent was able to gain entry into the offensive zone, they were kept to the perimeter, limited to firing bad angle shots towards Carey Price hoping for a lucky bounce.

This defensive discipline no doubt rattled Team USA, who entered their semifinal game against Canada as the top scoring team in the tournament.  Sweden was no match for the stifling defense of the Canadians either, generating just four shots in the final period of the gold medal game.

Team Canada was the class of this Olympic hockey tournament, getting the job done in all three zones.  It started with Carey Price who ended up the tournament leader in both GAA (0.59) and SV% (0.972).  The defensive core was unyielding, bolstered by the two-way efforts of forwards like Jonathan Toews and Patrice Bergeron among others, and the most prominent goal scorers in the NHL were able to take care of the rest.

Team chemistry and discipline were the two biggest factors in turning the raw talent of Team Canada into another Olympic Gold medal.

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