In the case of Canada at the Sochi Olympics, the best offense is a good defense.
Sunday’s 2-1 OT win over Finland was the latest example of this trend, as Drew Doughty scored both Canadian markers to move into the team goalscoring lead and draw even with Phil Kessel for second-most (four) in the tournament. Doughty’s first goal was assisted by Shea Weber, who now has four points in three games; all told, the defense has combined to score six of Canada’s 11 goals and 11 of the team’s 29 points.
“It’s been what we’ve relied on the whole tournament so far,” John Tavares said after the Finland game. “The first three games, they’ve carried the offense for us.”
While impressive, this shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Depth of talent set Canada apart from other nations when Olympic rosters were announced in early January; the Canadian blueline was loaded to the point where the reigning Norris winner, P.K. Subban, was a bubble selection (and he’s only dressed once in the three games).
The Canadian defense also expects plenty from itself. Case in point: Doughty felt he actually played poorly in the tournament-opening win over Norway, which he finished with a goal and an assist.
“My first game, I thought I struggled a little bit especially in the first period, but ever since then, I’ve been comfortable,” he said, per the Olympic News Service. “I’m ready to go. I’m used to the ice sheet. I’m used to playing with these guys. I’m just excited now. I forget about everything that’s going on around me and I’m just focused on my game and having fun.”
These contributions are vitally important, especially given how Canada’s opponents tend to play. Finland did all it could to keep the Canadian forwards to the perimeter on Sunday, packing the middle of the ice — a strategy which opens up avenues/lanes for defensemen to make something happen. It’s soemthing Canada figures it’ll see more of it as the tournament progresses.
Canadians say that is the style they expect to face the rest of the way. Will get it for sure if Swiss beat Latvia.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) February 16, 2014
For Doughty and company, that’s just fine. He says the defense needs to keep penetrating the opposition.
“That’s what we’ve got to do, especially when they’re just sitting back like that,” Doughty said, per ONS. “We have to make sure we have speed because a lot of times, our forwards are going to be stopped up at the far blue line.
“As much as we can jump in and help out the guys on offense, that’s what we need to do.”