Sunday’s loss to the United States was a shocker for most hockey fans and most are still trying to understand how it happens. Sure Miller played a great game and the Canadian players aren’t playing all that well together but when you compare the talent on both teams, it’s not even close. Here are the statistics in the NHL so far this year for both teams:
At forward that’s a difference of 0.2 points per game and about 0.25 on defense. The difference of 109 goals between both teams is bigger than the difference between the top offense in the NHL (Capitals) and the worst (Bruins) which is only 98 goals. Add to that the difference in defensive talent and these two teams aren’t even close.
Canada isn’t playing nearly as well as they should and it’s not a huge surprise because they didn’t in 1998, 2002 (even though they won gold) and 2006 either. Canada has won 10 of the last 18 IIHF U20 Championships and probably would have won a couple more if they didn’t have so many U20 players in the NHL. So why doesn’t this success transfer over to the Olympics? The easy answer is the lack of chemistry but it can’t be the only reason. Sure players in the U20 Championships have more time to practice and NHL players obviously practice a lot more together but then how come Heatley, Thornton and Marleau or Getzlaf and Perry aren’t producing more? The best explanation I could find for Canada’s struggles is that hockey is a sport where upsets happen much more than in other sports. A team might have 10-15 scoring chances in a game and only score 3 or 4 goals but it only takes one to score a goal. If Brodeur hadn’t tried some sort of two-pad stack for no reason and if Miller hadn’t made a miraculous glove save with a few minutes left I probably wouldn’t be writing about this.
Good or bad upsets happen in hockey much more than in football or basketball and we have to live with it. Over an 82-game season or a 7-game series the best team will usually come out on top but in one game, anything can happen. The good news for Canada is that it happened in a game that didn’t matter; they just have to hope it doesn’t happen again.