I’ll never forget the piece I wrote 3 years ago. It was the 2014 Olympics, and for the entire tournament all you heard from the media was how great the Americans were. And all their arguments for this had pretty much no basis. They were digging deep for any flaws Canada possibly had, and looking for any excuse possible to anoint an American team which actually was quite flawed as the top hockey power on the planet. It wasn’t my most intellectual piece, but I tore the media to shreds in that blog, and going into tonight’s gold medal game it has a very similar feeling.
First things first, it is a major advantage now for Canada to have lost that first game on New Year’s eve. They’ll have an underdog feel coming into this game. There is no chance they’ll take the US lightly coming into this game. These are a couple of the reasons it is insanely tough to beat a team twice in this tournament, or really any other tournament. The States did just do it against Russia, but they BARELY did it against Russia. In 2010, Canada won the New Year’s eve game, then the States won the gold medal game. In 2013, Canada again won the round robin game against the States (I believe that was also NYE, but I honestly can’t recall), and then the States won in the semi finals. Canada won easily over the Russians in the opener in 2011, and we all know what happened in the gold medal game in 2011. Think about the 2010 Olympics. Canada lost to the US in the round robin there. What happened in the gold medal game though?
Another reason it’s a major advantage, because you’re then the team that’ll make the adjustments needed. When you play a team you just beat, the message from the coach is always “play the same game you just did against these guys, we’re not changing a thing”. And if he does start making adjustments, what is he basing it on? So you’re hands are basically tied as a coach. You tell them to come out hard and get the jump, but you know that initial push will come from the opposition. It always does, as they’re the team looking for “revenge”. Eventually the game will settle down and become more of a chess match, but you have to weather the storm.
On New Years eve, the initial push came from an American team who had a lot more to win than Canada did. They wanted to spoil the party for Canada by winning on Canadian soil. What did Canada get out of it had they won? Playing the Russians in the semi’s I guess, but it was clear at that point this tournament was a 4 team race assuming the Russians were doing what they always do. So the US had a big initial push that made the difference in the game.
And let’s be honest about something. In that first game, Canada was tight as could possibly be. Connor Ingram wasn’t good early. Canada controlled a large portion of that game. They blew two 5 on 3’s (if you don’t score on a 5 on 3, it’s more on you than it is about the PK). So are the people picking the Americans tonight doing it with logic, or are they doing it out of fear? Or are they doing it because subconsciously it’s a win-win for them? Canada wins, it’s forgotten or they can say “I’m so glad I was wrong!!!” Canada loses, “I told you so.” In their mind it gives them something out of the deal.
This comes down to Carter Hart tonight. If Hart carries over what he did last night, I don’t think this will be that tight of a game. If he’s on again, the rest of the teams confidence will grow and we seen last night that when this teams confidence is high that they can roll anyone. That was a freaking BEAT DOWN last night, against what was supposed to be the top team in the tournament. 5-2 was flattering. It really should have been a 4, 5 or even 6-0 Canada win.
I’m not meaning to piss on what the Americans have done in this tournament, but they haven’t been close to that level Canada played at last night, and I don’t see how that momentum doesn’t carry over. They seemed to stop being sad and started getting mad so to speak. You can’t sit there and say “here we go again” when things start going shitty. You have to get pissed about it and find another level. At 2-1 last night, they did that. In recent years, other Canadian teams would have crumbled in that moment. That was a turning point moment, that’ll make Canada tougher mentally, and the US hasn’t had the benefit of going through.
Just be honest, and have some damn balls would you? Can the Americans win this game tonight? Absolutely. With everyone going like they should, who has the better team? Canada. Should be a great game, but I’m calling Canada to win this game 4-1.
Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups