SOCHI – For a country that has so many superstars, Canada has a strange habit of tiptoeing into international competition sometimes and its first game of the 2014 Sochi Olympics was no exception.
It took some time, but the bigger, better and more skilled Canadian team – not sure if they were faster – improved as the game went on and coasted to a 3-1 win over Norway in its first game of the Olympics.
If not for Canada being so tentative in the first period – they were playing the trap for Pete’s sake – and the work of Norwegian goalie Lars Haugen, it would have been, well, the kind of score one would expect from a game between Canada and Norway. But give credit to the 26-year-old Haugen, who plays for Dynamo Minsk in the Kontinental League, for keeping the game close. It was basically the equivalent of an NHL all-star team playing against an average American League club team with NHL-caliber goaltending. And until Canada tilted the ice in the second period by outshooting the Norwegians 14-2, it was a fairly even game.
A couple of trends to note early. If the first game is any indication, Canadian coach Mike Babcock is putting a lot of importance on familiarity. Tandems of Sidney Crosby-Chris Kunitz, Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry and Jonathan Toews-Patrick Sharp played regularly together up front and Jay Bouwmeester was paired with St. Louis Blues teammate Alex Pietrangelo for most of the game.
And even though the Canadian team has so much offensive firepower up front, it appears as though they are intent on activating the defense on the attack. Weber and Doughty accounted for two of Canada’s goals and Pietrangelo was a constant threat from the right point.
Things will get slightly more difficult for Canada Friday against Thomas Vanek and the Austrian team.
1. Drew Doughty
2. Jamie Benn
3. Lars Haugen