On Thursday Team Canada's men's ice hockey team made their debut at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Considering that Canada's men's team are an almost incomprehensible juggernaut with a roster valued above $150 million, and were facing an over-matched side in Norge (Norway has only one current NHLer on the roster), a 3-1 score line might be interpreted by anxious Canadian hockey fans as a disappointment.
But the fact is: the final result didn't at all reflect the flow of play. In terms of actual team quality Team Canada's shone through on Thursday, and the Canadian team completely dominated Norge especially in the latter 40 minutes of the contest.
In total Team Canada outshot Norge nearly two-to-one (38 to 20). At even-strength Canada limited the Norwegian side to just two total scoring chances, while recording 23 quality looks of their own.
It's also pretty clear from looking at the way Canada's coaching staff parcelled out ice-time that they treated Tuesday's game as something of a tune-up. Only three Canadian forwards played more than 15 minutes against Norway on Thursday (Jonathan Toews, Patrick Marleau and Sidney Crosby), and only two defenders played more than 20 minutes (Alex Pietrangelo and Drew Doughty). Presumably when the chips are on the table and the stakes are high, players of Duncan Keith's ilk will play more than three-and-a-half minutes in the third period...
Before we leap into the scoring chance data, we'd present you with this Mike Babcock quote. As it turns out, scoring chances aren't just for massive nerds: they're for world class hockey coaches too!
24 scoring chances, as it so happens, is the same number we credited Canada with.
Note: a scoring chance is counted any time a team directs a shot cleanly on-net from within home-plate. Shots on goal and misses are counted, but blocked shots are not (unless the player who blocks the shot is “acting like a goaltender”). Generally speaking, we are more generous with the boundaries of home-plate if there is dangerous puck movement immediately preceding the scoring chance, or if the scoring chance is screened. Tip shots are only counted if they're obvious sets. You can get a handle on what home plate looks like here.
Here's what Norway's individual skaters contributed in terms of scoring chances:
|Mats Rosseli Olsen||1||0||1|
There just wasn't much going on for the Norwegians offensively in this contest, and most of their 20 shots on goal were from well outside home-plate.
Norway really only directed four "difficult shots" on Canadian netminder Carey Price and he stopped all of them. Of course, Price was also beat by a non-scoring chance slot that took a weird bounce off of Norge forward Patrick Thoreson and ended up in the back of Canada's net.
Canada generated significantly more offensively, as you might imagine:
|Martin St. Louis||1||0||1|
Though he didn't record a point in the game, Sidney Crosby was easily Canada's most dangerous offensive player. Jeff Carter did well to put himself into scoring positions, but missed the net on his best chance early in the second period. Jamie Benn, meanwhile, was ridiculously efficient managing to take three dangerous shots (and converting on one of them) despite playing fewer than nine minutes in the game.
Another thing worth noting: Canada's blue-liners were very involved offensively. Team Canada's defense factored into seven scoring chances against Norway, and combined for four points on Canada's three goals.
Considering Chris Kunitz's plum opportunities - he has a spot on a line with Sidney Crosby at even-strength and plays on the first power-play unit (albeit at the net front) - fans might reasonably have expected more offensive contributions from the Penguins forward...
Here are the team scoring chance totals from Thursday's game:
|Scoring Chances (EV)||1st period||2nd period||3rd period||Total|
|Canada||4 (3)||15 (15)||5 (5)||24 (23)|
|Norway||3 (1)||1 (1)||1 (0)||5 (2)|
If there's one thing to be critical of in Canada's performance against Norway, it would be their ineffectiveness with the man-advantage against Norway. In four minutes of power-play time - and facing a penalty-kill with exactly zero regular NHL players - Canada only managed a single scoring chance on Thursday.
As for why the game remained close despite all of the evidence that Canada was dominant? Look no further than the excellent play of Norge goaltender Lars Haugen.
Haugen wasn't unbeatable, of course, but it took a brilliant Drew Doughty deke, a Shea Weber slap shot, and a Jamie Benn point blank wrist shot to stick goals into him on Thursday. In other words Haugen made all of the stops he could've reasonably been expected to, and saved 19 of the 21 difficult shots he faced overall.