Canada vs USA Olympic Hockey Game Preview

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Image Courtesy:  AP/Julio Cortez

The much anticipated rematch of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Gold Medal Final will single-handedly lead to the highest incident rate of workers calling in sick in Canadian history. I say this with what appears to be a bit of a tickle in my throat.

Team Canada takes on Team USA with a 9:00 am PST Friday morning battle at the Sochi Bolshoy Ice Dome. Put on the coffee (tap the beer keg) and prepare yourself a healthy breakfast (pulled pork nachos). This is going to be a game to remember!

Last Game 

What everyone assumed would be a laugher turned into a nail-biter! Team Latvia gave Team Canada all they could handle and more in a 2-1 Team Canada win. Kristers Gudlevski had the game of his life in net for Team Latvia with a 55 save effort. Carey Price called the Gudlevski performance “one of the best goaltending performances I’ve ever seen in a long time.” It took a Shea Weber blast from the point in the last 10 minutes of the 3rd period to extend Team Canada’s quest for Olympic Hockey Gold. Was Gudlevski that good or are Team Canada’s forwards just not finishing as they should?

Team USA

Team USA has been absolutely dynamite so far in this Olympic Tournament and come into the semi-final vs Team Canada with a boatload of momentum. Team USA head coach Dan Bylsma has done a masterful job in creating forward line chemistry early in the tournament. Phil Kessel is at the top of the Sochi 2014 Tournament scoring race with 5 goals and 3 assists in 4 games.

Team Canada Lines

With John Tavares suffering an Olympic Tournament and NHL season ending knee injury, Matt Duchene (a player that I believe should have been in the lineup in the first place) draws in. Here’s how Canada lined-up at practice on Thursday:

Kunitz – Crosby – Bergeron

Benn – Getzlaf – Perry

Marleau – Toews – Carter

Nash – Duchene – Sharp

Keith – Weber

Vlasic – Doughty

Bouwmeester – Pietrangelo

Price

Extras: Luongo, Hamhuis, St Louis

Scratches: Smith, Subban, Tavares

Players To Watch

1. Ryan Kesler

Image Courtesy:  ESPN The Magazine

Image Courtesy: ESPN The Magazine

Whenever I hear trade rumours involving Ryan Kesler, I think back to how dominant a player he has been in the Olympics (Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014) and remind myself how much of a pain he can be to play against. I’m glad he is a Vancouver Canuck, but not so happy that Team Canada has to deal with him as an integral member of Team USA. Kesler will make an impact on both ends of the ice and will be a thorn in the side of Team Canada all game.

2.  Carey Price

Image Courtesy:  Hockey Canada

Image Courtesy: Hockey Canada

This is the game where Carey Price will get his first big test. While there has been much debate on whether Price or Roberto Luongo should be in the net, this game will tell the world if Carey Price is ready to be at his best in the most pressure-packed game of his career. Team USA has made scoring look easy in this Olympic Tournament so far and only a stellar performance from Price will ensure Team Canada gets another chance at gold.

3. Corey Perry

This game has Corey Perry written all over it. Perry is a big game player and a general pain in the butt. Expect Perry to make a large impact in this game and do not be surprised if he scores a goal or two parked right on top of Jonathan Quick.

Prediction

This is a tough one. Team USA looks almost unbeatable and Team Canada looks completely beatable. This seems somewhat reminiscent of when Team Canada took on Team Russia at Vancouver 2010. Preceding that game all the talk was that Team Canada hadn’t played that well and Team Russia had the fire power to lead to a blowout. If you will remember, Team Canada completely exploded offensively and Team Russia headed back to Russia House to party. Team USA has some dynamic forwards, but Team Canada’s defence is absolutely stellar. Team Canada is due for a scoring breakout and their timing couldn’t be any better. Team Canada defeats Team USA 5-2.

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Ian Lusher Canucks Contributor
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