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O, ye of lit­tle faith, scan through the left col­umn Five rea­sons why Canada’s hockey team won’t win gold For those who still be­lieve, read the right col­umn Five rea­sons why Canada’s hockey team will win gold

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY ROBIN SHORT

in three games. Per­haps more note­wor­thy is that big Thorn­ton hasn’t es­tab­lished him­self as a pres­ence on the ice. His easy go­ing per­son­al­ity has him liked by all, but his lack of pro­duc­tion in big games con­tin­ues to dog him. Dur­ing the NHL’s reg­u­lar sea­son, Thorn­ton aver­ages well over a point per game (917 in 898 starts). In the play­offs, he’s lim­ited to 53 points in 76 games.

• 4. Can any­body play with Crosby? Coach Mike Bab­cock opened the tour­na­ment with Nash and Pa­trice Berg­eron skat­ing with the young su­per­star. That didn’t last long. Iginla re­placed Berg­eron. Sun­day, it was Mike Richards. Nash noted early on how spe­cial it was play­ing with Crosby, sur­prised at times The Kid could saucer passes through skates and over sticks to an open winger. Prob­lem is, those on Crosby’s left and right haven’t been fin­ish­ing plays. We won­der if Crosby is feel­ing the in­ward pres­sure to takes things into his own, soft hands?

• 5. De­fence. In Torino, Canada’s lum­ber­ing blue­line corps of Robyn Regehr, Brian McCabe, Adam Foote, Wade Red­den and 36-year-old Rob Blake strug­gled on the big ice. Not the case on the North Amer­i­can rink. But the team’s de­fence in Van­cou­ver, while still very good, doesn’t have the horse to log a ton of min­utes and set­tle things down the way Orr, Potvin and Bourque and a younger Blake, Scott Nie­der­mayer and Chris Pronger did in pre­vi­ous in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ments.

• 1. Sid­ney Crosby. This tour­na­ment is filled with very, very good play­ers. But there are only a hand­ful of spe­cial play­ers. Crosby is one of those. If Crosby’s able to step up his al­ready-im­pres­sive game (though he was mi­nus-3 against the Yanks), he can take Canada on his back. If not, the Cana­di­ans are doomed.

• 2. Good old fash­ioned Cana­dian hockey. Winning hockey games means more than sim­ply outscor­ing the other team. It’s the lit­tle things, like winning face­offs and get­ting dirty in the cor­ners and in front of the net. How im­por­tant is phys­i­cal play? Well, in the Rus­sia-Czech Repub­lic game on Su­per Sun­day (that went sour for Cana­di­ans), Alexan­der Ovechkin turned the com­plex­ion of the game with a thun­der­ing hit on Jaromir Jagr. The turnover re­sulted in a goal for the Rus­sians, and ul­ti­mately a win. Against the Amer­i­cans, the Cana­di­ans hit ev­ery­thing in stars and stripes.

• 3. Home­town sup­port. If it’s true flag­wav­ing, jer­sey-wear­ing, shout-un­til-yourhoarse, face-painted be­liev­ers can be a ‘sixth man’, the Cana­di­ans have a power play through the en­tire Van­cou­ver Games. The en­ergy within Canada Hockey Place (aka GM Place through the other 50 weeks of the year) is over­whelm­ing. With Canada fac­ing the daunt­ing prospect of hav­ing to win four straight games, sup­port for the home boys will be even greater in a city, that out­side a Memo­rial Cup ju­nior ti­tle a few years ago, is aching to cel­e­brate a hockey cham­pi­onship.

• 4. Lead­er­ship. While the cyn­ics are pre­dict­ing dis­as­ter, a to­tal of 11 Stan­ley Cups and four Olympic gold medals sit in the Cana­dian dress­ing room, not to men­tion world cham­pi­onships and world ju­nior ti­tles. Vet­er­ans Brodeur, Scott Nie­der­mayer and Chris Pronger have been through it all be­fore. Even the young ones, like Crosby and Ryan Get­zlaf and Cory Perry, have their NHL cham­pi­onships. Granted, it’s a dif­fer­ent pres­sure the Cana­di­ans are feel­ing in Van­cou­ver, but the point is if any­one can han­dle it, it’s th­ese pros.

• 5. Isn’t Canada sup­posed to win? Never mind we squeaked out wins in ’72, ’76 and ’87. Canada usu­ally finds a way to come out on top, right? Of course, that was then and this is now. Back in the day, the Rus­sians and the Czechs and the Swedes nor­mally got go­ing the other way when the go­ing got tough. Now those coun­tries’ line­ups are all dot­ted with NHLers. Still, Canada is hockey and hockey is Canada. Or so we hope.

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