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Your Call: Is Canada ready for Sochi's best teams?

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Mike Hetherington, TSN.ca Staff
2/16/2014 5:58:43 PM
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At the completion of the preliminary round of the 2014 Olympic men's hockey tournament, Canada is where most people expected them to be; unbeaten and the top team of Group B with a bye to the quarter-finals.

Canada's goaltending has been solid - having allowed just two goals in three games – and offensively, the team has dominated puck possession and scored 11 goals. Only the United States and Finland have scored more.

However, Canada's 3-1 win over Norway and 6-0 rout of Austria left many fans unconvinced of whether or not the team could compete with fellow tournament juggernauts the United States, Sweden and Russia.

The team failed to answer those questions on Sunday with a 2-1 overtime win over Finland, with their only goals coming from defenceman Drew Doughty.

Team Canada has failed to find offensive lines that can consistently produce and have split up NHL teammates Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz, as well as Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp in attempts to find scoring.

Following Canada's victory over Finland, head coach Mike Babcock promised further line changes to try to spark his slumping forwards.

With Canada exiting the group round with many questions still to be answered – including whom to pair with Crosby – can the team compete with the steady units of the United States and Sweden, or with the host team of Russia?

Canada will not play again until Wednesday's quarter-finals, when they take on the winner of Switzerland vs. Latvia. Switzerland has proven to be a tough team in this tournament and, while they have struggled to produce offence, the team has allowed just one goal in three games – to Sweden in a 1-0 loss. Goaltender Jonas Hiller has yet to allow a goal and has proven to be one of the top goalies in Sochi.

Though Canada's goaltender controversy appears to be put to bed, many questions still loom over the defending Olympic champions.

Atop the list questions is who will be scratched for Canada's quarter-final game? Through three games Matt Duchene, Patrick Sharp, Martin St. Louis and Dan Hamhuis have all sat once, while reigning Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban has been scratched twice.

Another major question for Canada is how to spark its forwards, since defenceman Drew Doughty and Shea Weber have accounted for six of the team's 11 goals. Winger Jeff Carter is the only forward on the team with multiple goals – he scored a hat trick against Austria.

An unconvincing group round is not new for Canada, as the team was forced to play in the qualification playoffs at Vancouver 2010 after a shootout win over Switzerland and a regulation loss to Team USA. The team went on to win four straight games and the gold medal.

In fact, Canada has not posted a perfect preliminary round at the Olympics since the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan.

With so many questions still to be answered for Team Canada and without the home ice advantage they enjoyed in Vancouver, the question has to be asked; is Canada ready to beat the top teams at Sochi 2014?

As always it's Your! Call.

Sidney Crosby (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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