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Mirtle: Score not indicative of Canada’s dominance in semi-final win over U.S.

Canada's Corey Perry is stopped by United States' goaltender Jonathan Quick as Team USA's Cam Fowler (3) moves in during first period hockey semi-final action at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia on Friday, February 21, 2014. THE

Nathan Denette/THE CANADIAN PRESS

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It was one of those games where the score hardly told the story.

"Canada 1, USA 0" paints a portrait of an international game on Olympic ice that was an intense defensive battle, a chess match with few chances and little in the way of entertainment value.

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That wasn't the case. And it made the game seem far closer than it was.

Canada's dominance on the puck, both forechecking and backchecking and in battles along the boards, wasn't evident in the goal total, but you could find it elsewhere.

TSN analyst (and former NHL goaltender) Jamie McLennan, who has been tracking chances all tournament, had Team Canada with roughly 60 per cent of the game's scoring chances, even though the Americans spent two more minutes on the power play.

Others, like The Score news editor Thomas Drance had the U.S. with only 13 chances to 21 for Canada, a lopsided count that was still favourable to the U.S. given the balance of play.

With neutral zone play factored out, Canada had the puck in the offensive zone nearly 60 per cent of the game, generating more than 85 shot attempts at even strength to just 60 for the U.S.

By NHL standards, it was the equivalent puck control mismatch as to a top team like the San Jose Sharks taking on the Calgary Flames, with the score only kept as close as it was due to an outstanding game from U.S. goaltender Jonathan Quick.

Both goalies were very good, with the only shot that found the back of the net being an unstoppable redirection early in the second period.

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But the biggest problem for the Americans was they ultimately couldn't mount anything resembling a comeback, even with chances on the man advantage. Only three of the United States' chances in the game came in the third period, which was a defensive clinic wherein Canadian coach Mike Babcock equally rotated his three defensive pairings.

It didn't matter who was on the ice: Canada had the puck, and it was awfully tough for the U.S. to mount a comeback without it.

There were standout performances, too, beyond netminder Carey Price. In yet another sign that goals aren't everything, Canadian captain Sidney Crosby and his linemates were the most dangerous trio for either team in the game, with nine of Canada's 37 shots and several other near misses that could have easily been goals.

The feeling all tournament long has been that Canada was on the verge of an offensive explosion, but with just Sunday's gold medal game remaining, the reality is that that breakthrough may never come. Instead, the 2014 team will now go down as a defensive juggernaut, one that owned the puck to the point it didn't particularly matter if they scored in bunches or not and that has allowed just three goals after five games.

That's dominance even if the score hasn't always shown it, as was the case Friday against the U.S.

Canada's extreme chance advantage

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Team Canada may not have produced many goals at these Games, but according to TSN's scoring chance counts, they have definitely been in control of their five games. A 60 per cent scoring chance advantage is considered a dominant performance by NHL standards, and Canada has met or exceeded that in each game so far.

 

Chances for

Chances against

percentage

3-1 win vs Norway

24

4

86 per cent

6-0 win vs Austria

23

8

74 per cent

2-1 win vs Finland

12

6

67 per cent

2-1 win vs Latvia

30

7

81 per cent

1-0 win vs USA

20

14

59 per cent

Totals

109

39

74 per cent

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About the Author
Hockey Reporter

James joined The Globe as an editor and reporter in the sports department in 2005 and now covers the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs. More

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