Canada and the USA take over the world stage on Friday as the two nations, who have developed quite the rivalry on the ice of late, play once again for the right to play for gold on Sunday.
Ever since Sidney Crosby scored the overtime winner in Vancouver the Americans have been itching for a rematch and for the opportunity at redemption and while it may not come in the form many expected they get that chance on Friday. The United States came into the tournament as medal favourites and after the way they coasted through the preliminary and their quarterfinals encounter with the Czechs they are perhaps the favourite to win gold heading into the final four. The US is very well balanced up front as they have four great lines that can match up with anyone and a goaltender in Jonathan Quick who has a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe trophy under his belt and will be looking to make a statement on the international stage. The round robin played out as such that the Americans and Canadians would clash in this semi final which is a bit of a disappointment to fans of both teams as a potential rematch in the gold medal game was more than plausible had Canada buried the Finns in regulation instead of in overtime. Nonetheless, the Americans have been the more convincing team of the two thus far yet are underdogs coming into Friday’s showdown.
The Canadians are undefeated thus far in these Games but aside from a 6-0 drubbing of the Austrians in the round robin, things haven’t come easy for the defending champions as they escaped Norway with a 3-1 mark, upended Finland 2-1 in overtime and squeaked by the Latvians in Wednesday’s quarterfinals by the same margin. There was a collective sigh of relief after Shea Weber clapped home the eventual game winner late in the third period but to be honest the Canadians deserved a much better fate as they threw 57 shots on goal and the Latvians net minder had the game of his life. While many people are concerned with the way Canada has played thus far I think there scorelines are a little offsetting as to me they have been one of the more complete teams in the tournament and aside from maybe their counterparts in the semi-finals have been the best defensive team in Sochi. This is where things change. Up until this point the Canadians have had to deal with their opponents playing a very tight checking, defensive oriented game with all five skaters playing in the defensive zone but against a US team that plays a very similar style I think we finally see a “North American” type contest and if that’s the case I think it favours the red and white. Either way, we are going to be in for a great contest and while I may catch some heat for this based on the perception of Canada’s performance and for the way the Americans have looked so far but I legitimately think Canada gets it done and plays for their second straight gold medal.