Canada will need 'moon & stars' to beat Swedes
The Local · 22 Feb 2014, 13:01
Published: 22 Feb 2014 13:01 GMT+01:00
Forget the hockey gods -- Team Canada should check their horoscope before Sunday's Olympic gold medal game against unbeaten Sweden.
"You have to line up the moon and the stars to win," said Canada's coach Mike Babcock.
Defending champions Canada booked their spot in the gold medal game by throwing a blanket over the USA's potent offence. But they will face a powerful Swedish team in the final of the Sochi tournament that prides itself on winning with great goaltending and solid defence.
Both teams have 5-0 records in Sochi, and both are seeking to become the first team to go through an Olympic tournament undefeated since NHL players started participating in the Olympics at the Nagano Games.
The Sidney Crosby-led Canadians have a star-filled roster while Sweden have a defence that can do it all -- score goals as well as defend -- and the best goaltender in the tournament, Henrik Lundqvist.
The Canadians are no slouches either on defence as they shut down the high-powered USA in Friday's semi-final, winning 1-0. But now they face a completely different challenge from a Swedish team that prides itself on making few mistakes and winning tight games.
"It could be another 1-0 game," said Canada forward Matt Duchene. "It wouldn't surprise me with the way Sweden plays."
Sweden advanced by defeating an injury-hit Finnish team 2-1.
Canada are bidding to become the first team to retain the Olympic gold medal since the Soviet Union in 1988. Their latest victory came over an explosive American team that had scored more goals than any other team.
But Canada forechecked the USA fiercely in their own end forcing turnovers, not allowing them to gain any speed skating through the neutral zone and moved the puck quickly and effectively out of their own end.
Ken Holland, the general manager of the NHL's Detroit Red Wings, said during Saturday's practice that Canada's ability to get the puck quickly and effectively out of their own end was key.
"They (USA) had their moments in our zone. They had their opportunities. But I thought when our defence got their hands on the puck they made good passes to transition from defence to offence," said Holland, who is part of Team Canada's management group in Sochi.
Canada's gold medal hero from four years ago in Vancouver, Crosby, is playing well but is not being rewarded on the scoresheet.
Crosby, who scored the winning goal in overtime to lift Canada to a 3-2 victory over the USA in the gold medal match at the 2010 Games, has just two assists in five games. But he is chipping in defensively as part of the team effort.
Crosby said he is not thinking about individual stats and seems content to simply ride this one out with his team-mates rather than steer the team bus.
Asked if he was thinking about the possibility of scoring another golden goal, Crosby said: "I don't think that goes through your mind. It is another opportunity for us. We all worked a long and hard time to get to play in the gold medal game. Ultimately we need to be our best when it means the most here in the final."
Sweden's best player so far has been defenceman Erik Karlsson, who is the tournament co-leader in points with four goals and eight points in five games.
Both Sweden and Canada have been getting big offensive performances from their defence. Canada's leading goal scorer in the tournament is defenceman Drew Doughty, with four goals.
Swedish forward Daniel Sedin said his team are improving with each game.
"Our first game was our worst game and this one was our best game, so that's a good sign," he said after Sweden's win over Finland.