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Canada vs. U.S.: Team Canada loses to Americans in Olympic hockey


The result was a 4-2 win by the Americans, just their second Olympic win over Canada since 1960

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BEIJING – It didn’t have the breathtaking speed and tantalizing matchup of Connor McDavid vs. Auston Matthews that would have hyped this game off the charts.

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It wasn’t two-time reigning Stanley Cup champion coach Jon Cooper using all the options available for what would have been another star-studded Canadian lineup.

In terms of the competition, however, it resulted in a Canadian loss.

When the North American rivals took to the National Indoor Stadium ice on Saturday afternoon in Beijing, it was the speedy youth of the U.S. trumping the veteran grit of Team Canada.

The result was a 4-2 win by the Americans, just their second Olympic win over Canada since 1960.

The U.S. used their speed to take advantage of soft play by the Canadians in their own end and some alarmingly sketchy play by goaltender Eddie Pasquale.

One loss in group play is never a death sentence in Olympic competition. With China up next on Sunday, Canada will have a near free pass to advance to the quarter-final stretch.

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But after just two games together as a group – and only one under coach Claude Julien – the takeaway is that the Canadians have some work to do – and need to do it in a hurry.

First up – and most glaringly – would be the difficulties in their own end, a weakness the Americans exploited with a pair of gimme goals.

The first of those came in the opening period when Pasquale attempted to play a loose puck in front of his own net, was stripped of it and before he could blink had seen Brendan Brisson bury it in an empty net.

Canada’s Jason Demers and the USA’s Marc McLaughlin collide during men’s hockey action at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics on Saturday, February 12.
Canada’s Jason Demers and the USA’s Marc McLaughlin collide during men’s hockey action at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics on Saturday, February 12. Photo by Gavin Young /Postmedia

The second was just as unsightly and thwarted any real comeback hopes of the Canadians.

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When Canadian defenceman Max Noreau, was stripped of the puck in the slot – one of far too many turnovers – American Kenny Agostino let loose with what should have been a routine slap shot. Instead of a routine save, however, the puck went through the beleaguered Canadian goaltender.

Coming just minutes into the third period to restore the American lead to two, it was a gut punch to the Canadians.

To his credit, Pasquale willingly took ownership for the loss, essentially admitting he handed the Americans the win.

“I fought the puck all night,” Pasquale said. “I let in two weak ones. If I make those two saves, we’re going into overtime. Tough one … you just have to shake it off.”

Julien, meanwhile, managed to defend is goaltender without really defending him: “It’s easy to talk about that fourth goal and say it went through him. That’s hockey. We have to look at the spots collectively and not point the finger at one person.”

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So what now?

The Canadians acknowledge they have to be better and more consistent in all areas

“We got a little surprised at a couple points in the game and that can’t happen,” said Canadian forward Josh Ho-Sang. “We have to be ready for (the opposition’s) response. I don’t think there is one individual who doesn’t think they could have been better today.

“When we dictated the physical play, we dominated them. When we stopped that and played more into their game, they looked faster.”

In other words, if the Canadians are going to do any damage in this tournament, they’ll need to pick it up – and fast.

Julien is well aware that the time frame to adapt is restricted in an Olympic tournament. And high on the list is improving as you go along.

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“Overall, its an opportunity for us to learn what we need to get better at,” Julien said. “We can’t afford to have these ebbs and flows in our game.

“Through adversity you become better and (Sunday) we hope we’ll be able to show that we are a better team than we were today.”

They’ll have a chance to fine tune things under minimal pressure against China, which will advance them to the elimination stage of the 12-team tournament.

But after that, they’ll need to be much better than they were in the loss to the U.S., whose last Olympic win over their rivals was in the preliminary round of Vancouver 2010.

Captain Eric Staal of Team Canada and his teammates look dejected after their 4-2 loss in the Men’s Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group A match between Team Canada and Team United States on Day 8 of the Olympics.
Captain Eric Staal of Team Canada and his teammates look dejected after their 4-2 loss in the Men’s Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group A match between Team Canada and Team United States on Day 8 of the Olympics. Photo by Elsa /Getty Images

In a tournament like this with false favourites and unknowns among the participants, it was always going to be about how much you can improve from game to game.

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In some ways the pressing to-do list for Julien is simple: Find a way to show some creativity on offence and lose the soft moments in their own ends.

Captain Eric Staal had a couple of decent opportunities, as did lineman Josh Ho-Sang. And to their credit, the Canadians controlled the play for much of the third period.

Which brings us back to Julien’s assertion that his team would need to play “the Canadian way.” And by that he means grinding and taking advantage of opportunities.

In a tournament where skill is no unlikely to be what rules day, the Canadians will have to find another way. Find it, retain it and build upon it – all in short order.

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