As the nation rejoices after back-to-back gold medal victories in the Olympics, Canada might have to wonder whether this is one of the best defensive teams ever assembled. They didn’t score as many goals as they did in Vancouver but they were able to suffocate any offense the opposing teams had. Yes, Crosby only had three points in the tournament but that was the standard for this team.
Stats will never tell the full story but you have to look at some of them and just shake your head in disbelief at how dominant a team can be against the world’s best players. The team only allowed three goals in the entire tournament. They were never out shot in a game.
But they saved the best game for their last; the most impressive stat had to be only allowing three shots in the final period against the Swedish team that had to score at least two goals just to force the game into overtime. Incredibly, they allowed the same number of shots in a full period as they allowed goals in the entire tournament. This tournament was pure dominance from Canada. They shut down the tournament’s hottest offense in the United States in the semi finals, out shot a below average Latvia team 57-16. Every game they played they seemed to control the play.
Stats don’t tell the whole story and you cannot over look how much the forwards had a hand in this dominant defense. Sidney Crosby, Patrice Bergeron, Jonathan Toews and Jeff Carter all seemed to take pride in turning great defensive plays into offensive opportunities. You won’t see any of those plays on a stat sheet, but they bought into Mike Babcock’s heavy puck possession strong defensive system that allows the defense to pinch because the forwards are always supporting the defense.
But the unsung hero that doesn’t get talked about has to be former Edmonton Oiler’s head coach, Ralph Krueger, who Coach Babcock reached out to before the Olympics to show him how teams can defend on big ice. Something that Krueger had success with as the head coach of Switzerland was beating the Canadians in 2006 and pushing them to a shootout in 2010. When you combine the strong defensive system of Kruger, the heavy puck possession of Babcock’s system and NHL talent at your disposal you get what you saw in Sochi.
A complete team effort from top to bottom, the defensive pairings were phenomenal, too. Drew Doughty was a star in this tournament, Weber did what he did best and play strong on the power play. Alex Pieterangelo and Jay Bouwmeester played as if they were still in St. Louis playing against a lowly team like the Florida Panthers.
There was a lot of talk about how strong the goaltending was going to be; well it didn’t matter when your defense plays like a brick wall in front of you – although there has to be credit given to Carey Price for holding down the net during the United States surge in the first ten minutes of the semis.
The most valuable player for this team would be Drew Doughty who seemed to take over games when it mattered the most. But a case can be made for a lot of the players and that’s what makes this team perfect.
Each game it seemed a new player stepped up and played their best game and that’s what you expect out of championship caliber teams. Not one person but the entire team dominated.