Olympic hockey: 3 things we learned in Canada's semifinal win over the U.S.
Canada forward Jamie Benn, left, reacts after scoring a goal in front of USA goaltender Jonathan Quick of a men's semifinal hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics on Feb. 21, 2014, in Sochi. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Published Saturday, February 22, 2014 6:51AM EST
SOCHI, Russia -- Here are three things we learned from Team Canada's 1-0 semifinal-round victory over the United States to advance to the gold-medal game at the Sochi Olympic hockey tournament:
1. Price is a big-game goalie
Questions about Canadian goaltending have persisted for months if not years. The man who was in net four years ago for gold wasn't even his NHL team's best goalie at one point, and Carey Price's late-season meltdown in 2013 kept him from being the unquestioned starter. Because he hadn't been in this much of a pressure situation since the 2007 world junior championship, it was up to Price to show his chops against the United States at the Olympics. Price was up to the task. He didn't have to be terrific, but with absolutely zero margin for error, he didn't make a mistake that could've shifted momentum and cost Canada the game and a shot at gold.
2. Goal-scorers need not heat up
Canada won a 1-0 game to prove the value of timely offence over a barrage of goals. When Jay Bouwmeester had the puck at the top of the faceoff circle, Jamie Benn looked for a power-play style high tip and managed to use that redirection to beat Jonathan Quick. That's how goals are going to come in this tournament more so than pretty tic-tac-toe plays. Canada's forwards, as much as they've gotten opportunities that haven't gone in, seem to have accepted that, especially after beating the United States. Coach Mike Babcock figures his star players are due to start cashing in on more chances and hopes they don't "run out of time." Even if that happens and the goals don't start pouring in, Canada showed it can win.
3. Canada is still ahead of the U.S.
The Americans went into Sochi just as they did Vancouver, hoping that they could finally beat Canada and challenge its hockey supremacy. Instead, the semifinal showdown was a testament to the depth the Canadians are able to put on the ice and excel in all situations. That's not to say one bounce couldn't have changed that, though the same could be said in 2010. That bounce hasn't come for the United States against Canada when it has mattered most at any point since NHL players started participating in the Olympics. At one point perhaps the overall talent gap will close so much that the U.S. doesn't need a fortunate bounce to win one of these games, but until that happens, Canada reigns supreme -- at least in North America.