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McKenzie: USA's defence has been solid at Olympics

Bob McKenzie
2/28/2010 3:25:52 AM
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The Americans have done very well with their defence in the Olympic tournament.

Brian Rafalski in particular has been a special player for Team USA. He's been terrific offensively and defensively, but it has not just been the Rafalski show. The three kids - Ryan Suter and the two Johnsons (Jack and Erik) - have been supporting Rafalski extremely well. Also with the three veterans - Tim Gleason, Brooks Orpik and Ryan Whitney - this defence has been much better than the sum of its parts.

On paper you would think Canada has the defensive edge, but the Americans have been very good.

Looking at the Canadian side of things, the young defencemen have played extremely well. Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty and Shea Weber have been terrific, but for me the x-factor is Scott Niedermayer. From the beginning of this tournament until now, Canada's captain has been playing better and better. Chris Pronger and Dan Boyle have been a little uneven, but I really think Niedermayer is coming on.

With not having the last line change against Team USA, Canada is not going to get the forward match-ups they want all the time and I would not be surprised to see Niedermayer and Weber become the shutdown pair against Zach Parise's line. 

- - Pressure Drop - -

Pressure does funny things and the pressure of the moment during the semifinal with Slovakia started to bog Team Canada down in their own end.

Pressure also impacts the ability to focus and do things clearly, crisply and efficiently and we saw examples of this in Canada's first game against the USA. The Americans have been disciplined throughout the Olympics and were the least penalized team at this tournament.

Canada was second least penalized team, but if you remember the first game with the United States they had some lapses. Late in the second period, Eric Staal took a holding penalty on Rafalski and there was no need for it. Later, Sidney Crosby was careless with a high-stick on Orpik. Those penalties really sapped the momentum from Team Canada. They did have some bad goaltending to overcome, but they kept chasing the USA. Part of the reason Canada could not get out of the hole they were in was due to an inability to build momentum offensively.

If Canada is going to make things different in this match-up against the United States, they cannot afford to go to the penalty box on mental breakdown calls. It was not so much recklessness, as it was just the pressure of the moment and not being as focused and efficient as they needed to be.

Bob McKenzie

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