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The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Olympic report card: Defencemen compensate for forwards as Canada beats Finland

Posted: 02/16/2014 4:13 PM | Comments: 0

Last Modified: 02/16/2014 4:24 PM

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SOCHI, Russia - Team Canada needed overtime to beat Finland 2-1 in its third and final preliminary-round game of the men's hockey tournament at the Sochi Olympics. Here's a graded look at players' performances:

FORWARDS - C-

Where's all the offence? Canada has the deepest group of forwards in the tournament, specifically down the middle, and yet those players haven't been producing. Only five of Canada's 11 goals have come from forwards, and three of those were garbage cleanup by Jeff Carter. Against Finland, the Canadian forwards were frustrated and stifled by a Finnish defence that forced them to play on the perimeter. The result was some cycle time and plenty of puck possession but few opportunities to test goaltender Tuukka Rask. Matt Duchene and John Tavares were upset at a lack of penalty calls for obstruction, but if that's the way games are called, the forwards have to do a better job of creating offence and not letting the officiating or the big ice get under their skin. Coach Mike Babcock picked two new linemates for Sidney Crosby in Jamie Benn and Patrice Bergeron, and that didn't seem to click against Finland. Getting Crosby going and figuring out what to do with Kunitz — including potentially scratching him moving forward — are two of the coach's most pressing challenges.

DEFENCEMEN - A+

All the offence is here, on Sunday night specifically from Drew Doughty. Canada's overtime hero against Finland also scored on the power play in the first period to give him four goals for the tournament. Given the lack of scoring up front, this kind of production from the blue-line has been utterly necessary. But the defencemen are doing much more than just scoring goals, they're pinching and jumping up into the play and forcing opponents to worry about them. Essentially the forwards are just taking up space in those situations, but it's giving the defencemen room to operate. On the other end, it's hard to disagree with the notion Canada played as well in its own end as Finland did. Alex Pietrangelo forced more than a few turnovers, and the steady Shea Weber and Duncan Keith did their jobs well. One issue might be Dan Hamhuis is in a situation similar to Kunitz's in that he's a nice player who looks like he's having a tough time keeping his head above water at this level. A return of P.K. Subban would make a lot of sense given Canada has plenty of other penalty-killing defencemen but not someone with the reigning Norris Trophy-winner's game-breaking ability.

GOALIE - B+

Carey Price did all he could on a night Canada did an excellent job of limiting Finland to 15 shots and not a whole lot from point-blank range. He didn't have to play shorthanded at all, and made plenty of routine saves. Finland's only goal came on a perfect tip in front by Tuomo Ruutu that Dominik Hasek circa 1998 Nagano Olympics wouldn't have had a great chance of stopping. Perhaps Price could've gotten lucky and just had the puck hit him, but there's no way to fault him. Most importantly, Price hasn't given Babcock and his staff any reason to believe he shouldn't be the starter in Wednesday's quarter-final. If Canada gets Switzerland as expected, the pressure will be cranked up on Price to be dominant because Swiss goaltenders Jonas Hiller and Reto Berra combined to give up a total of one goal in three games. The silver lining for Price and Canada is that Switzerland has scored only two goals.

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