SOCHI, Russia — Team Canada has now played three games at these Olympics. Two of them have been against tournament minnows Norway and Austria, the other versus injury-ravaged Finland. In total, Canada has scored 10 times in regulation, plus one more in overtime. And of those 11 goals, only five have been scored by forwards.
Now, to be fair, Canada has only surrendered two goals, finishing the preliminary round with a plus-9 goal differential. And that’s good. But for a team that’s overflowing with world-class scorers — Sidney Crosby, John Tavares, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Patrick Sharp all entered the Games among the top 10 in NHL scoring — suffice to say, five goals in three contests is not what was expected from this talented group of forwards.
Tonight against Finland, the forwards were held scoreless entirely, with defenseman Drew Doughty notching his third and fourth of the tournament to give his team the 2-1 overtime win — a victory that came with a spot in the quarterfinals.
“We had a good test of our patience today, and our game,” said Crosby. “We did a good job of holding onto the puck. We didn’t necessarily generate the goals that we wanted, but our patience was tested and we did a good job of sticking with it.”
Can it be hard to stay patient in a game like tonight’s?
“You understand that’s the only way you’re going to have success,” he said. “I think we all believe in the way we play, and every guy there. It’s really not that difficult. You’ve just got to remind yourself to do it. That’s just more of focusing on what you need to do to win than trying to fight it. I think we did a real good job of that tonight.”
Getzlaf did suggest one area for improvement when Canada meets the winner of Switzerland and Latvia.
“Tonight we played a little bit too much on the outside,” he said, “and we’ll adjust that for the next one.”
But like Crosby, he lauded the team for sticking to the system: “You’ve got to stay patient, and we did in the end.”
Tavares, meanwhile, thought the refereeing played a role.
“I thought we controlled most of the play,” he said. “Obviously it seemed like the whistles were put away for the most part. There was not much room, even when you consider how big the rink is. Just trying to get to the middle of the ice, and trying to get some pucks in front of the net wasn’t easy tonight. We did a good job of sticking with it and controlling the play, and it paid off for us.”
Looking ahead, if Switzerland does as expected and dispatches Latvia, Canada will face a team that’s allowed just one goal in the entire tournament. In fact, all three of the Swiss games have ended in a 1-0 score, with victories over Latvia and the Czech Republic and a loss to Sweden.
The way things have gone, Canada may need to stay patient again.
“We had some real good chances, especially in the third [versus Finland],” said Crosby, “still playing the right way, not giving up a whole lot and being able to generate chances.
“I think you’ve got to trust that and trust that they’ll go in, but there wasn’t a lot to be had. I think it was pretty tight. It was a battle to fight for every inch to get to the front of the net. If that’s the game you’re going to have to play, you’re going to have to be pretty opportunistic.”