Ice Hockey - Winter Olympics Day 14 - United States v Canada

Five challenges for Canada, which still has a job to do


1. Get refocused, and don’t be too confident

Not to take anything away from Friday’s big win over the United States, but that’s in the past. Sunday is the focus now.

The Swedes have flown largely under the radar this tournament, but after an uneven start and the loss of Henrik Zetterberg, they seem to be hitting their stride just in time. Like Canada, they still haven’t lost a game.

“We weren’t one of the favorites to make the finals, but we believed in ourselves, and it’s a great feeling to be here now,” said Daniel Alfredsson after beating Finland in the semifinals.

Alfredsson must not have read many pre-Olympic predictions, because a lot of people did, in fact, pick his team to make the finals. Even without Zetterberg and Henrik Sedin, the Swedes are still plenty dangerous up front, and their blue line is matched in depth and talent only by the Canadians. And, of course, they’ve got…

2. Henrik Lundqvist

Remember when he was struggling with the Rangers? Yeah, he’s not struggling anymore. Lundqvist came into the Olympics playing well, and he’s stayed hot in Sochi. Only six shots have beaten him in five games, for a 1.20 goals-against average and .951 save percentage.

If not for Lundqvist, the Swedes may very well have lost to Switzerland in the preliminaries. The one goal he did allow versus the Finns wasn’t a good one, but otherwise he was perfect.

“I gave up a tough one there,” he said. “I definitely thought it was an icing so I kind of relaxed and I just made a bad move.”

But, “If you take away that one goal I feel like I played a really solid game, I did the things I need to do.”

3. Start burying some chances

source:  This goes hand-in-hand with point No. 2. Despite all the goal-scoring forwards the Canadians brought with them to Sochi, only four have actually scored. Jeff Carter has three, Jame Benn two, and Patrick Sharp and Ryan Getzlaf each have one.

Against the Americans — just like against the Norwegians, Latvians, and Finns — Canada had lots of shots and not many goals. Granted, Jonathan Quick was a big part of that, but that doesn’t change the fact that Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Corey Perry, Patrick Marleau, Jonathan Toews, Rick Nash, and Patrice Bergeron have yet to bury one this tournament.

Now, clearly, the most important thing for Canada is defense. Mike Babcock has said time and again that his team’s only job is to score one more than the opposition. So far it’s done that. But shutting out the Swedes won’t be easy. In part because…

4. Stay out of the box

Sweden’s power play has been deadly, scoring seven times on 19 chances. Defenseman Erik Karlsson has three of those seven PP goals, including the game-winner versus Finland, a blast from the point that beat Kari Lehtonen.

Canada has been fairly disciplined to this point, going shorthanded 16 times in five games. But Sweden has the kind of skilled players that tend to draw penalties, and the Swedes as a whole should possess the puck more than some of the sides Canada has faced so far.

“Our coach (Par Marts) keeps telling us ‘go for it, go for it, go for it’ even when we feel we shouldn’t be going for it sometimes,” said Lundqvist. “He encourages our players to use their skill. As long as we use the puck well it’s good for us.”

5. The big ice

What, you thought you’d heard the last of the big-ice factor? Sorry, but when a country hasn’t won Olympic gold outside of North America since 1952, it’s a factor until it bumps the slump. Especially against Sweden, the defending world champs and the last winner of Olympic gold on the big ice, eight years ago in Turin.

“They’re incredibly stingy defensively; they’re hard to play against,” Matt Duchene said of the Swedes, per “They like to slow the game down, they like to re-group. They almost play the game like soccer on this big ice. It’s a chess match, it’s going to be a chess match. I have a great appreciation for Swedish hockey after playing in that league and playing against them last year in the [world championship] and other times.”

Video: Pekka Rinne’s zero-margin-of-error stick save

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Sometimes, the Nashville Predators were unlucky in November. Sometimes they were just bad.

Either way, they’re likely glad to step into December, and they’ve already gotten a big bounce. Watch how close this near-goal was into crossing the red line before Pekka Rinne barely stopped it with a well-placed goalie stick.

You can also see it up close via this GIF:

Here’s the NHL Situation Room Blog explanation for it remaining a no-goal:

At 13:06 of the first period in the Coyotes/Predators game, the Situation Room initiated a video review to further examine a play from 11:57. Video review confirmed the call on the ice that the puck did not cross the Nashville goal line. No goal Coyotes.

Alexei Emelin was ejected for this hit on Matt Calvert

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Alexei Emelin has been in and out of the Montreal Canadiens lineup, but this wasn’t the way they wanted him to keep his legs fresh.

The hard-hitting defenseman received a game misconduct and five-minute major penalty for a late hit on Columbus Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert on Tuesday.

So far, it sounds like Calvert may be OK.

You can see video of that hit above, as well as a GIF of the infraction via My Regular Face.

Many believe that Emelin should not have been ejected.

Injuries continue to dog Lupul as Leafs place him on IR

Joffrey Lupul
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Injuries have been a regular problem for Joffrey Lupul for much of his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and it doesn’t look like that’s changing in 2015-16.

The team placed him on injured reserve retroactive to Nov. 28, calling up Rich Clune in the process.

This IR stint means that Lupul will miss at least three games for Toronto.

From the sound of things, it’s a nagging issue, as notes.

“He’s been having the same problem here for a bit,” Mike Babcock told media members on Sunday. “He doesn’t seem to be getting the power back that they thought, so we’re just trying to monitor it the best we can.”

Leafs Nation points out that Lupul has missed about one-third of Toronto’s contests since suffering a separated shoulder in April 2012.

At 32, there’s still time for Lupul to fight through this, although injuries generally accumulate with age.

WATCH LIVE: Wild at Blackhawks; Penguins at Sharks

Scott Darling, Charlie Coyle
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Will Ryan Suter say something foolish during tonight’s game? Is Brent Burns‘ beard so long that it’s finally starting to scrape the ice?

We’ll find out the answer to those questions and more during Tuesday’s NBCSN doubleheader.

Need to follow the two games online? Never fear.

Game 1: Minnesota Wild at Chicago Blackhawks


Game 2: Pittsburgh Penguins at San Jose Sharks