SOCHI, Russia — “Do you plan to leave [Chris Kunitz] with [Sidney Crosby]?”
That was the question for Team Canada coach Mike Babcock, and here was his response:
“Well, I’ve got lots of plans, but the day’s young and I haven’t been to curling yet, I haven’t been to the Russian game. We’ll see what happens. We’ve been over and over and over. To me, we want to have the best team. So the stats on any one player don’t matter. And I don’t think they matter that much to the player.”
OK, but how has he liked his top line, featuring the two Pittsburgh teammates, one of whom was already a controversial inclusion on the roster?
“The first line in the last two games has generated a ton of scoring chances. Point-blankers. They haven’t gone in. So, do we worry that much about that, or do we just know good players score in the end? Lots of time in the Stanley Cup playoffs…your best players have no points in the first round. Someone else picks them up. By the time it’s all over, they’re leading the thing in scoring.”
OK, but has he seen the benefit of Crosby and Kunitz being teammates prior to coming to the Olympics?
“Well, I guess from a purely statistical point of view, you’d say no. From the way they’ve played, I think so. I think they do a lot of good things together. But we’re talking about one line; I’m not worried about one line; I’m worried about all the lines. So, to steal from one to make another…one’s going really good and you’re going to wreck that to make…we’ll see what happens.”
After two wins versus Norway and Austria, by a combined score of 9-1, Crosby has one assist (on Jeff Carter’s goal versus Austria, from passing it to Patrick Marleau, who hit the post before Carter banged it in) and four shots, while Kunitz has no points and three shots.
It’s a small sample size, just two games versus tournament minnows, but as Babcock conceded, statistically the pair hasn’t been successful. And eventually, it becomes about the results.
“I think the chemistry in every single period, every single day we are together, is growing, and guys are starting to feel comfortable together,” Kunitz said after the Austria game, per the Olympic News Service.
“You have to make sure you go out and do the right things every shift and great things will come. It’s one of those things that it is all about the team.”
What will Babcock do tomorrow versus Finland? Tough question; he wasn’t showing his hand much today, despite the probing from reporters. But if they’re given another change together, if Crosby and Kunitz don’t show improvement as a duo, Babcock will have yet another tough decision to make.