Opening-round blowouts at the Olympics can be embarrassing for the team on the losing end but, as Canada’s Drew Doughty points out, they could be vitally important in the long run.
“I don’t think you ever want to take your foot off the gas regardless of the rules,” Doughty said, per the Olympic News Service. “We don’t ever want to embarrass teams if we have the opportunity to do that, but at the same time goal differential is huge.”
Doughty’s right that goal differential is a big deal. At the end of the preliminary round, all 12 teams are ranked to determine which eight go to the qualification playoffs, and which four get automatic quarterfinal berths.
Rankings are determined by 1) highest position in respective group; 2) highest number of points, 3) better goal difference, 4) high number of goals scored for, 5) 2013 IIHF World Ranking.
At the 2010 games in Vancouver, Finland and the Czech Republic finished the preliminary stage second in their respective groups, each with six points. That meant the deciding factor came to goal difference, and Finland — thanks in large part to 5-1 and 5-0 blowouts over Belarus and Germany — had the better differential, meaning it got the fourth-place ranking and a quarterfinal berth.
The Czechs, meanwhile, had to go through the qualification round and barely squeaked by Latvia in OT.
As such, Doughty re-iterated the importance of scoring goals in the preliminary round, and conceding as few as possible.
“We need to put pucks in the net and we have to keep them out of ours,” he said. “We’re not going to take our foot off the pedal. We’re just going to keep going. We don’t want to develop bad habits.”