Team Canada survived a huge scare during the men's hockey quarterfinals game against Latvia with a power-play goal in the third period of a 2-1 win, but it came at a cost.
Now the gold medalists from the 2010 Winter Olympics will have to go into a rematch of the gold-medal final with Team USA without one of their star forwards in John Tavares of the New York Islanders.
Canada's coach Mike Babcock confirmed that Tavares went down with an injury that will keep him out for the rest of the tournament, according to Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Sun:
Babcock: Tavares has a leg injury and is out of the tournament.— Dave Feschuk (@dfeschuk) February 19, 2014
It was already going to be a tough road for the Canadians to get through the Americans and either Sweden or Finland to claim back-to-back golds. Now the same team that has combined for four goals (one in overtime against the Finns) over the last two games will have to find offense without Tavares in the lineup.
Let's put it this way: The Canadians were already under fire for their lack of scoring out of the forward position, and this doesn't make matters any easier.
Jason Brough of NBC Sports' Pro Hockey Talk touched on the offensive topic after the preliminary round:
Team Canada has now played three games at these Olympics. Two of them have been against tournament minnows Norway and Austria, the other versus injury-ravaged Finland. In total, Canada has scored 10 times in regulation, plus one more in overtime. And of those 11 goals, only five have been scored by forwards.
Stephen Whyno of The Canadian Press also tweeted a quote from Babcock after the preliminary round:
Babcock says at these tournaments, "No one ever seems to be happy with us."— Stephen Whyno (@SWhyno) February 16, 2014
Needless to say, fans in Canada and New York might be a little upset with Babcock at this point.
But not all is lost for the Canadians. Now that we've gotten the negatives out of the way, let's take a look at the bright side.
Who will win in the men's semifinal?
For one, Tavares is a talented player, but he was far from the most dynamic on this Canada squad.
With several potent scorers in Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Patrick Sharp who have combined for a total of 263 points in the NHL this season, Canada appears to still be in good hands. All of that firepower actually put Tavares on the fourth line coming into the game against Latvia.
But without their production thus far, this team has been winning on defense and goaltending. Carey Price, who has been in goal during wins over Norway, Finland and Latvia, spoke about his defensemen, per Chris Stevenson of the Toronto Sun:
For me personally, it’s kind of fun playing behind a real good defensive team like that, where everybody’s sticks are so well-placed, everybody’s always on the right side of the puck.
You’re just trying to do your job and stay alert. You want to stop that next shot, that’s all you think about out there.
While the Tavares situation appears to put the Canadians in dire straits going up against the Americans, the team will simply need to rely on a stout defense and hope the forwards can finally pull through when the pressure is on.
Going up against a U.S. team that has 20 goals through four games, Canada was already faced with an arduous task in the semifinals. In a do or die situation for Canada, it's time for the rest of the team to step up.
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