Game after game, after game, after game we finally have our final for the Vancouver 2010 Hockey Championship and could it be any better than this? It’s the rivalry that never dies, The United States of America vs. Canada. Sure it would have been interesting to see Russia vs Canada or Sweden vs Canada, but to me this is a way better final than either of those could have ever been this year-round.
First off, let’s look at the venue. It’s in Canada and look who is in the finals, Canada. Despite a tough road to the finals with some bumps along the way the Canadians managed to live up to expectations and reach the gold medal game. Surely enough this makes up for the “accident” that was Turin 2006. What would make us feel even better is if we get that beautiful gold medal to top it off.
However you should never discount the USA. For those who have been living under a rock for these Olympic Games, the Americans have already defeated the Canadians. They were placed in the same group for the early rounds and when the two faced off the USA defeated the Canadians in a close game. So it works to advantage for both teams that way. Canada has that motivation to play better, harder, stronger this time. At the same time the Americans have the mentality that we beat them once, we can do it again.
Oh and let’s not forget Salt Lake City 2002. In 2002 the Americans were the ones playing on home ice. They made it all the way to the finals and their opponent, Team Canada. Guess what, Canada won that game, took the gold medal, and beat the Americans on their own soil in the most important game of the tournament. Well the Americans have the oppurtunity to do the same thing to the Canadians. Beat them, take their medal and get their revenge. You got to know it will be on their minds.
Now let’s move a few years into the future in the IIHF. To maybe the time when Sweden faced the Canadians in the IIHF tournament for first place. Now leading up to the game Sweden had defeated Canada earlier in the tournament ending an undefeated streak the Canadians had going for them for a quite a while. Both made it back to the finals and could you guess the result, I think you can. Canada beat Sweden, taking 1st and getting their revenge on Team Sweden.
This year in the Olympic Hockey Tournament it is the Americans who knocked off the Canadians earlier in the tournament. If they are anything like the Sweds were that year they will likely suffer the same fate as Sweden did when it comes to the finals. However there are many factors going for the Americans when it comes to the gold medal game. Factors that have the Americans as the ones favoured to win the gold.
One of the more important factors is that the Americans are still undefeated in the tournament. They have not dropped a single game yet. Will that raise their confidence going into this meeting with the hockey powerhouse of the world? Well it is definitely something to that a team should be proud of and something that I think could definitely be a boost in the game for the Americans.
There’s also a certain game that the Americans can use as a boost too, no not the win vs Canada even though that was definitely important too, but the game vs Finland. 6-1 is a pretty damn good result for any team. You look at the team you got the result against, Finland. They aren’t exactly the weakest team out there. They claimed the bronze last night to redeem themselves from the humiliating defeat, but still. USA scored 6 goals on Finland including 4 out of 7 on Miikka Kiprusoff. Yes Miikka Kiprusoff, one of the best goalies in the world today! If they could dismantle Kiprusoff like that you have to be worried about what they can do to Roberto Luongo.
While staying on the topic of goaltenders let’s look at who is starting in net for the American team, Ryan Miller. Ryan Miller is arguably the best goalie this year. He has certainly stepped up and done great things this year. He has been a key reason why the Americans have been so good. When the Canadians and Americans clashed Miller was without a doubt the factor that gave the Americans the decision in the game. He could very well be the reason the Americans might win and capture gold this time too.
However for every reaction there is an equal and opposite reaction, yes I used a science term a little odd, but it will help me get to my point. I just stated multiple reasons as to why the Americans might leave Vancouver with gold, but to every one of theirs Canada has their own to counter it.
Let’s start with the finish against Team Finland. Yes 6-1 is an absolutely amazing result especially against a team like the Fins, but here is Canada’s counter. Quarter-Finals: Russia vs. Team Canada. The two best teams in hockey today face off, everyone is expecting a close game with them possibly going to overtime or even the shootout to settle things. What happens? 7-3 is what happens. A fired up Canadians squad comes in and just simply beats the hell out of Team Russia. They keep Ovechkin down and out, they abuse Evgeni Nabokov and Ilya Bryzgalov and stun the world. Last time I checked the Russians are a far better team that Finland(no disrespect to Finland of course). So Team USA can have that game in their minds, but the result Canada had against the Russians is far better no doubt.
Next you talk goaltending. As a previously mentioned Ryan Miller has played a big role in America’s success this tournament. He has put on a great display of goaltending ability. However a changing factor in this game is a more prepared, a more cunning, Roberto Luongo is playing in net for the Canadians. Brodeur got his chance, he failed. He stepped down as the top goalie for Canada, Luongo stepped up. He took the ball and ran with it. Roberto Luongo is without a doubt going to be a key player to look out for.
Well, the Canadians are not undefeated so they can’t match America there, but this is what they can say. They have already played the Americans in this tournament. They now know what they have to do to shut down the American offense, to immobilize the American defense and where to place their shots so the American netminder Ryan Miller cannot get them. After you play a team once you know their style of play and that’s a huge advantage. You could try to say the same things for USA, but let’s face it going into this matchup Canada had to switch up their mind-set so that is why the Canadians have the edge here.
Lastly when you compare the actual team’s players without a doubt you got to give Canada the huge edge there. The Americans are a very fast team I’ll give them that, but when you look at some of the lines the Canadians have made you got to think Canada’s players will do good things. Jarome Iginla who has stepped up at good times could be a good bet to score in this game. With the line of Staal/Crosby/Iginla the Canadians should definitely be feared on the offensive end. If that’s not enough how about the outstanding line that is Heatley/Thornton/Marleau? The San Jose line has produced this tournament, they should be a feared offense in this game. Then of course there is Ryan Getzlaf who can be a silent x-factor for the Canadians in this matchup. The defense has to play well this time round though, against the Americans they vanished. They have to make their presence felt in this game early on.
And here comes the grand unveiling. Which team will win the final battle this time?
Team Canada def. Team USA 3-2 OT
I’m going to call it as a close game between the Americans and Canadians. I don’t think Canada will manage a win like the one against Russia, vise versa for the US. I think this will come down right to the wire. Look for Canada to jump out the early lead only to have America bounce back and tie it up in the final moments of the game. Then when thing go to overtime look for either the Staal/Crosby/Iginla line or the SJ Sharks line to produce the goal for the victory.
With the clash of the titans so close, we won’t have to wait long to get our result. So with that I bid all of you farewell and leave you with my thoughts on what will happen in the next chapter of the legendary rivalry that is Canada/USA.
This article was originally published on FTS Sports Writing under the name "Vancouver 2010 Gold Medal Game: Canada vs The United States of America(Men’s Hockey) Preview." Check out more pieces from our talented staff of writers.