Canada Cruises Past Switzerland 5-1 in Men's Olympics Hockey 2018 Opener

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 15, 2018

Canada players celebrate a goal by Rene Bourque (17) during the first period of a preliminary round men's hockey game at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Julio Cortez/Associated Press

No Sidney Crosby. No Connor McDavid. No problem for Canada. 

The Canadian men's hockey team cruised to a 5-1 victory over Switzerland in its 2018 Winter Olympics opener Thursday at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in South Korea.

After the United States and the Olympic Athletes from Russia were upset during Wednesday's action, the Team Canada triumph brings a sense of normalcy to the tournament, which is being contested without most of the world's best players due to the NHL's decision not to attend the Pyeongchang Games.

Rene Bourque led the offensive charge for the Canadians with two goals. Wojtek Wolski also found the net twice, including an empty-netter, while Maxim Noreau added a goal and Derek Roy tallied three assists.

Losses by the Americans and Russians yesterday provided a wake-up call to the event's other usual suspects, including Canada, Sweden and Finland. It showcased that the margin for error during the preliminary games was thinner without their typically star-studded rosters.

Team Canada head coach Willie Desjardins told Joshua Clipperton of the Canadian Press (via The Star) before the tournament he didn't expect the team's style of play to change without Crosby, McDavid and Co.

"It's an aggressive style, but with good discipline," he said. "I've always liked to play fast, and I think this group's been put together so we can play that way."

The Canadians lived up to those expectations Thursday as they came out flying. Bourque opened the scoring just under three minutes into the contest, and they never looked back.

Roy was particularly impressive throughout the opening game. The former NHL center, who currently plays for Linkopings in Sweden, showcased much of the same burst and playmaking ability he did with the Buffalo Sabres when he scored at least 60 points in four straight seasons during his prime.

Brady Jones of CIHT-FM joked about Canada's successful makeshift roster:

Brady Jones @BradyJones899

Tip: If you squint really hard, Derek Roy and Rene Bourque kinda look like Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid. #Olympics

Simon Moser scored for Switzerland midway through the third period to avoid the shutout, but it was too little, too late as Canada earned all three points for the regulation win.

CBC Olympics‏ highlighted the team's postgame celebration handshake line:

CBC Olympics @CBCOlympics

Canada wins their first game of #PyeongChang2018 against Switzerland 🇨🇦5-1🇨🇭 https://t.co/GayQEQOAvW

Looking ahead, the Canadians will return to action Saturday afternoon (Friday night at 10 p.m. ET in the U.S.) for their most difficult test of the group stage when they take on the Czech Republic.

The Swiss must prepare for what should be a raucous home crowd as they battle host nation South Korea in Saturday's second Group A tilt.