The opening ceremonies of the Vancouver Olympics may have occurred last Friday night but the Games didn't really begin until yesterday when the Men's Hockey team played their first game.
Jenn Heil, Kristina Groves, Alexandre Bilodeau, Mike Robertson and then Maelle Ricker all provided some great moments over the first few days and it definitely is nice to be in the overall medal hunt, but the real competition, the tournament within the tournament, began last night.
The 8-0 win over Norway was just what the doctor ordered for this team: a tiny bit of adversity (after a scoreless first period) that was followed by an overwhelming performance. Here is the breakdown...
1) The eight goals scored were the most for a Canadian Olympic team since NHL players began competing in '98. Yes, they came against Norway but at this level eight goals is an impressive total for any team that doesn't include Alex Ovechkin.
2) Balance. Twelve different Canadian players had a hand in the first 4 goals and 17 of the 20 skaters recorded a point. All three of the scoring lines produced goals and the glue guys, Jonathan Toews, Mike Richards, Patrice Bergeron and Brendan Morrow, showed they are willing to bring energy and do the dirty-work that every winning team needs.
3) Face-offs. I tried to find the stats to back this point up but apparently an Olympic boxscore is a time warp back to 1994 so you'll have to trust me that with Crosby and Toews taking face-offs, this team will win the important ones.
4) Drew Doughty. The 20 year-old borderline surprise selection was Canada's best defenceman at both ends of the ice. Anyone still wishing for Mike Green?
5) The crowd at Canada Hockey Place was very, very good. It was a real hockey crowd filled with jerseys, face paint and most importantly, noise. In fact, it may have been the crowd starting the 'Go Canada Go' chant late in the first period that finally kicked the players into gear.
1) Team Canada opened the game playing extremely tentatively and forced far too many passes, trying to make pretty plays rather than shooting the puck and going hard to the net. Let's hope that was the feeling out process and not a developing trend that will see this team work it's way into games.
2) Discipline. And we can't even blame the way the international game is called because all five Canadian penalties would've been called in the NHL. This team has to stay away from retaliatory penalties and maintain it's composure.
3) The powerplay went 2 for 7 and too often was content with moving the puck around the perimeter.
4) The puck-handling of Roberto Luongo. Let's just say Vancouver Canucks fans should be happy the NHL has the trapezoid because each time Luongo ventured out to play the puck it was an adventure.
5) The name 'Canada Hockey Place'. Really? I would've been willing to lay down $100 to call it "The Canadian Sports Junkie Arena". If I had an agent, I would fire him.
1) The Norwegian curling pants. I know they had nothing to do with the hockey game, but how could they not lead this section?
2) It's been...ummm, interesting to watch the Olympic telecasts and see the on-air talent from both TSN and Sportsnet work together. Get ready for more awkward transitions as unfamiliar analysts throw to each other and continued over-laughing by Nick Kypreos at anything that resembles a joke.