SOCHI, Russia — You know the routine by now. The defending gold medalists from Canada rack up a pile of shots against an inferior defensive-minded opponent, struggle to actually put any of those shots in the net, win by a narrower-than-expected margin, come off the ice and say they never sweated the outcome.
Meanwhile, their fans back home pour another drink or eleven.
“We knew that coming into this tournament we were going to face adversity, and it’s not the only adversity we’re going to face throughout this tournament,” said defenseman Duncan Keith, as if it was totally predictable that Canada would need a late Shea Weber goal to edge Latvia — yes, LATVIA — by the score of 2-1 in its quarterfinal match at the Bolshoy Ice Dome.
“At the end of the day, we had a lot of chances.”
Just not many goals. Like against Norway. And Finland.
At least Sidney Crosby — still without a goal after four games — admitted tonight’s game was “tough.”
Of course, by that, he meant not scoring on more of those chances. As in, it was exasperating. He wasn’t referring to the competition.
“I mean, we were all over them,” he said. “To get that many shots and that many good quality chances, it was tough to not see it go in.”
And just like after the Finland game, he stressed that sticking to the plan was the only path to success.
“We have a ton of guys who can score,” he said. “We were getting to the tough areas. We were getting to the front of the net.”
The pucks just weren’t going in.
“Anything they could block, they did.” said Crosby of the Latvians, who were in position to pull off one of the great upsets in Olympic history. “They got here for a reason, because of the way they play as a team. They did a heck of a job.”
Next up for the Canadians? Their old friends from 2010, the Americans, who took care of the Czech Republic, 5-2, to advance to the semifinals.
“Everyone knows the history of the two teams in Vancouver,” said Crosby. “They’ll be motivated, and we need to make sure that we’re improving as we go on here. And I think we have done that throughout the tournament, and we’ve got to continue to do that next game.”
Canadian goalie Carey Price — who only faced 16 Latvian shots — knows he should be busier Friday. The United States isn’t some “inferior defensive-minded opponent,” that’s for sure.
“They got a lot of talent on that team, no question,” said Price. “We’re just going to have to stick to what we do best – play solid defensively.”
Capitalizing on a few more of those chances wouldn’t hurt either.