Canadians earn a rest, but face tough path in Olympic hockey knockout stage
Victory against hosts helps Team Canada clinch a bye directly to quarter-finals
By Tim Wharnsby, CBC Sports
The Canadian men's Olympic hockey team huffed and puffed but could only blow four goals past Korea's Canadian born-and-bred netminder Matt Dalton.
The 4-0 victory, however, in the preliminary finale was good enough to push Canada straight into the quarter-final round and avoid the playoff qualification round.
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Canada will get a couple of days off before it meets the winner of Finland-Korea game on Tuesday (7:10 a.m. ET). Canada's quarter-final game is slated for (7:10 a.m. ET) on Wednesday.
The three group winners – Czech Republic, Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) and Sweden – earned byes to the quarter-final round, along with the Canadians, who had the next-best record with two regulation wins and a shootout loss for seven points.
In the Olympic tournament, a team is awarded three points for a win in regulation time, two for an overtime or shootout win and a single point for an overtime or shootout loss.
But now we're on to the knockout stage. The other quarter-final matchups will see the Czechs meet the United States-Slovakia winner, OAR against the Slovenia-Norway winner and Sweden clash with the Switzerland-Germany winner.
Although not winning their group because of a 3-2 shootout loss to the Czech Republic last Friday gives the Canadians a more difficult path to move on, they need the extra day off to prepare for what should be a game against Finland.
The Canadians need to regroup and rediscover the up-tempo, short-shift, four-line, physical game they had exhibited earlier.
Canada also needs to mind its on-ice discipline. The Canadians entered the game against Korea as the least penalized team in the men's tournament but then handed Korea four power-play opportunities.
Valuable time off
Forwards Rene Bourque and Andrew Ebbett also need time to heal.
Bourque played against Korea, but he hurt his left hand blocking a shot in the Czech game. Ebbett has a left leg injury after being crunched in the second game in a neutral zone collision.
Ebbett, one of Canada's leaders and dependable offensive players, finished the game against the Czechs. But he was rested against Korea.
The confidence gained from the 4-1 victory against Sweden in the final exhibition game a week ago and the impressive 5-1 opening win over Switzerland last Wednesday has gone by the wayside.
The Czechs were the more physical team in Game 2 and Canada was ordinary in the win against Korea. Led by their six Canadian players, the Koreans played hard, just like they did in their opener against the Czech Republic, a 2-1 loss, in their opener last week.
The Swiss hammered Korea 8-0 in its second outing, but the Canadians failed to feast on the 18th-ranked hockey nation in the world. But isn't that the Canadian way sometimes at these events?
Head coach Willie Desjardins decided to give No. 1 goalie Ben Scrivens some rest in order to get backup Kevin Poulin some playing time and a shutout.
Canada did outshoot its opponents 49-19 and held leads of 1-0 after the first period and 2-0 following 40 minutes.
Korean 'keeper no stranger to underdog role
The 31-year-old Dalton, who hails from Clinton, Ont., stopped 13 shots before Christian Thomas scored the game's opening goal midway through the first period.
Dalton is used to stopping pucks for underdog teams. In his sophomore year at Bemidji State University, his play pushed the small school all the way to the Frozen Four semifinals.
The Boston Bruins signed him as a result. He was called up twice by the Bruins but never saw any NHL action. The first time was to fill in at practice for Tim Thomas, who was with the U.S. Olympic team at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. The second time was for an injured Tuukka Rask to backup Thomas a week later.
The Canadians knew goals would not come easy for them in this tournament. Bourque, with three goals, and Wolski with two and Canada's lone shootout marker, scored five of Canada's seven goals in the first two outings.
It was a good sign that Canada received goals from four different players against Korea in Thomas, Eric O'Dell, Max Lapierre and Gilbert Brule.
The energy line of O'Dell, Lapierre and Rob Klinkhammer has been Canada's most consistent and effective line. It was nice to see them rewarded with a pair of goals.
Canada will take Monday off and return to practice on Tuesday.