Road To The Olympic Games

Ice Hockey

Men's hockey win caps a big Day 6 for Canada

The men's hockey team completed a marvellous day for Team Canada at the Winter Olympic Games, scoring a 5-1 win over Switzerland in its opener on Thursday to reverse the early trend of upsets in the tournament.

Canadian team shows chemistry, avoids falling victim to upset trend

Canadian players celebrate a goal by Rene Bourque against Switzerland during the first period in Gangneung, South Korea, on Thursday. (Julio Cortez/The Associated Press)

By Tim Wharnsby, CBC Sports

The Canadian men's hockey team wanted no part of the early upset trend that saw the favoured United States and Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) stunned by Slovenia and Slovakia, respectively.

So they responded in style with an impressive 5-1 victory against Switzerland, ranked seventh in the world, on Thursday to keep the good vibrations going for a terrific Day 6 for the entire Canadian Olympic team.

The banner day for Canada began early with Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford skating to a pairs' bronze medal. The Canadian women's hockey team followed up with a 2-1 win against its archrivals from the U.S.

At about the same time the Canadian men built a 4-0 lead in the second period of their game, speed skater Ted-Jan Bloemen put the finishing touches on his Olympic record in the 10,000 metres to win gold, and Sam Edney, Alex Gough, Justin Snith and Tristan Walker slid to a silver medal in the luge team event.

VIDEO | Rene Bourque scores Canada's 1st goal

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The Canadian hockey men completed the marvellous day with the kind of start they hoped for. In a short-term event like the Olympic hockey tournament, you never know if the on-ice chemistry will come early or at all.

But there were signs for this group that, after two weeks together, they were on the same page with a confidence-boosting 4-1 exhibition win against Sweden on Monday afternoon in a Seoul suburb.

Canadian head coach Willie Desjardins wants his players to skate, skate and skate some more, at an up-tempo pace. He wants them to take short shifts so he can roll four lines. He wants them to play hard and play physical, but with discipline.

The coach can check all the boxes above. His committed group of journeymen, who want to make the most of this opportunity with the NHLers staying home, carried out the game plan to near perfection.

VIDEO | Derek Roy discusses Team Canada's chemistry

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The only slip up was midway through the third period when Canada stumbled into some penalty trouble and the Swiss were able to score a power-play goal to break-up Ben Scrivens's bid for a shutout.

Each team entered this wide-open tournament with a boatload of questions. For the Canadians, the uncertainties surrounded the offence, on-ice discipline and goaltending.

Who was going to score goals for Canada? Could they stay out of the penalty box? Would either Scrivens or Kevin Poulin step up and provide the kind of stellar goaltending a team needs to win this tournament?

Scrivens received the nod in Canada's opener and the native of Spruce Grove, Alta., produced a solid, 28-save performance. Poulin will likely get a chance to strut his stuff either in the next game against the Czech Republic (Friday, 10:10 p.m. ET) or against South Korea (Sunday,7:10 a.m. ET).

Meanwhile, veterans Rene Bourque and Wojtek Wolski each scored twice for Canada, while defenceman Maxim Noreau ripped home a point shot on the power play.

VIDEO | Wojtek Wolski scores a beauty vs. Switzerland

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The Canadians do have some players with impressive career-best goal-scoring seasons in the NHL in Derek Roy (32 goals), Bourque (27), Mason Raymond (25), Wolski (23) and Chris Kelly (20). But there is no Ilya Kovalchuk or Pavel Datsyuk equivalent, as featured on the OAR team.

The Canadian team is going to have to score by committee while the mobile defence, led by Noreau, Chris Lee and Mat Robinson, will be counted on to chip in some offence. Lee set up the Noreau blast and Bourque's first, a redirect two minutes and 57 seconds in.

Canada had taken only one penalty in the opener until Raymond's tripping infraction and Roy's high-sticking minor 1:27 apart in the third period gave the Swiss a 33-second, 5-on-3 situation. Roy was still in the box when Simon Moser scored for the Swiss.

For Canada, now it's on to the Czech Republic. The Czechs edged South Korea 2-1 after trailing early, only to rebound with two goals in the final 10 minutes of the opening period.

It will be interesting to see if the good times will continue for Canada's hockey men in their next outing.