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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
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.