2014 Olympics: Canada Will Have to Play a Lot Better If It Is to Repeat

Adrian DaterNHL National ColumnistFebruary 13, 2014

Lars Haugen

Lars Haugen was all set to be Jim Craig. Roy Johansen was all set to play Herb Brooks. Norwegians would, and wouldn't that be good.

Well, for a little while anyway.

This didn't turn out to be one of the biggest upsets in men's ice hockey since the Miracle on Ice in Lake Placid 34 years ago. But it came a lot closer than anyone even dared to dream about.

The final was Canada 3, Norway 1, Everyone Who Bet The Over 0.

For one minute and 25 seconds, this was a one-goal game in the third period. It was, until Drew Doughty went around Norwegian forward Per-Age Skroder, flashed to his backhand and slipped a shot past the valiant Norway goaltender Haugen for the goal that made it a two-goal game again at the 1:47 mark.

Just before that, Carey Price misplayed a puck behind his net and then got beat on a deflected shot that made it a 2-1 game for Canada. Twitter started going crazy again at that point, just as it did during and after a first period in which mighty Canada, with his fantasy-league roster, finished in a scoreless tie and outshot the puny Norwegians only 9-8.

So, what to make of all this: Does this portend major trouble ahead for Canada? Is this the dreaded Gold Medal Hangover? Or did Canada just have one of those early-round games, the kind lots of favorites have in, say, an NCAA March Madness game, given a little early scare by the Cinderella team but winning rather handily in the end?

Whatever proves to be the truth, there's no questioning the fact that Canada will need to play a lot better than that to win another gold.

Julio Cortez/Associated Press

Let's start with one prediction: Canada's line combinations won't stay the same entering its next game against Austria. Only one line seemed to have any real chemistry, and that was the fourth, the trio of Jamie Benn, John Tavares and Patrice Bergeron.

Canada got 38 shots, but 12 came from the defense, not to mention two of its three goals. The top line of Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Jeff Carter was blanked on the score sheet, combining for a pedestrian seven shots. Ditto for the second line of Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews and Rick Nash. Sharp and Toews combined for zero shots on net.

Kunitz may be OK with Crosby in the regular season with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but he looked a little out of place on the Olympic ice—and you have to wonder if a speedier, more offensively gifted player like Matt Duchene would be a better fit on a line with his good friend Sid?

And what about Carey Price's status going forward? He only allowed the one goal, but it was a bad one, starting with his muffed handling of the puck. Expect to see plenty of Roberto Luongo stories in the next couple days.

The two big bright spots for Canada: the strong, two-way play of the defense and a dominant second period, the one in which coach Mike Babcock probably pushed their motivational buttons the hardest. Babcock's face looked like he'd swallowed some bad fish when the camera zeroed in on him most of the first.

Shea Weber has the best slap shot in the game of hockey, period, and his second-period blast past Haugens—on a delayed penalty—settled the Canadians down. Doughty's insurance goal soon after the Norwegians scored was a big-time move and atoned for a sloppy first period in which he and the rest of the Canadians looked like they were still back in North America.

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 13:  Shea Weber #6 of Canada celebrates with his teammate Sidney Crosby #87 after scoring a goal in the second period against Lars Haugen #30 of Norway during the Men's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group B game on day six of the S
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The one thing Canada can truly feel good about is its second period. Norway didn't even get a shot until the final three minutes of the frame, as Canada won just about every puck battle in totally dictating the play, just as it was supposed to do throughout. 

When they really needed to bring it, in other words, the Canadians brought it. You can't blame them, maybe, for taking the Norwegians waaay too lightly. In opening-round games, it happens.

"They are a hard team to play against because they don't take a lot of chances," Canada forward Martin St. Louis said, according to The Associated Press, via ESPN.com.

But the bottom line remains: No way in the world was Canada supposed to only beat Norway by a 3-1 score. After the first five minutes, that would have been an acceptable score, but after 60?

It wasn't a Miracle On Ice, Part II. But the final score of this one already qualifies as one of the the Games' most unexpected stories.