Canwest News Service - So if you are the Americans, self proclaimed underdogs that they are, how do you set about beating those big, homestanding favorites wearing the Maple Leaf today.
There are probably two approaches which can be taken. One would be to send in one tentative forechecker, pull your second and third forwards back into what is often called the trap and try to turn the puck over in the neutral zone and counter attack.
That's what the Norweigans tried and they gave up eight goals. Another approach is to send in two forecheckers as aggressively as possible and try to play a good portion of the game in the Canadian zone which is largely what Switzerland had it mind, at least they managed to pull it off more than most expected.
Norway tried to sit back and trap and they got riddled because it took all the pressure off the Canadian defence. It allowed them to walk it out and they're all good enough passers and experienced enough against the best traps to pass the puck appropriately and get it into the attacking zone.
If you're the U.S., you have a team that just might be ideal for attacking the more ponderous members of the Canadian defence, namely Chris Pronger and Brent Seabrook if he plays a lot and the older Scott Niedermayer is certainly a lot less able to dance away from pressure than he once was.
If you look at the U.S. lines the way they were constituted at Britannia Saturday afternoon, it is a team with great speed and grit up front all capable of a putting heat on the Canadian defence which appears as vulnerable as it ever has in a tournament like this. If you were U.S. coach Ron Wilson you might wish for a bit more size there, but you take what you're given and work with it. And this team has a very great deal, enough to beat anyone on any given day and maybe a few days in a row.
Ryan Kesler is as good a forechecker as you'll see in this league with his speed and snarl and it's clear he and Bobby Ryan will be trying to turn pucks over and get it to Patrik Kane with the hope he can make plays.
“The Swiss played them well we thought,” said Kesler after saying and then backing off his comment about hating Canadians. “We've got to forecheck them aggressively, try to get on guys like Pronger and try to frustrate him. If we don't hit and skate it's going to be a long day.”
“This is the most important game of my life and we think we can get on Prongs, maybe frustrate him a little and some of the others,” says Ryan, a teammate of Niedermayers and a former teammate of Pronger. “Maybe you can't frustrate Scottie (Niedermayer) so much but we'll try other approaches with speed and grit. And I may have to talk to him (Pronger) as well. But what I say...I'll leave that between Prongs and I.”
Another line ideally suited to this approach is Dustin Brown with Chris Drury and David Backes, this grouping having almost as much speed and even more size. The other two lines can both play this way as well although on paper the other two definitely seem to have the potential to be Pronger's worst nightmare. Will they be able to frustrate him enough to trigger the temper we saw in the Switzerland game. Will the quick smaller forwards like Zach Parise and Phil Kessel in particular be able to turn pucks over against Niedermayer and Dan Boyle, both of whom seemed somewhat vulnerable to pressure in the game against the Swiss?
The one thing Canada as in it's favor at the back is the size of some of the guys and the quickness of others like Duncan Keith and Drew Doughty, both of whom appear virtually impossible to forecheck effectively with any consistency when they're on their game. We speak here of size because if Pronger keeps his temper in check—always highly unlikely we might add—he, Seabrook and Shea Weber are ideally suited to virtually ignoring the smaller American forecheckers knowing that they can just use their body to shield the puck and bounce off the hit and make their play. If they get bumped off, they're certainly in good shape to win it back in the ensuing battle, outweighing most everyone but Backes and Ryan Malone.
Of course this is all theory and games are played on the ice. And the Americans were all talking about more caution and not giving up chances and odd-man rushes after their first two games, so there's a chance they'll take a more cautious approach. But in all probability this team is good enough to win this game. They don't have to steal it anymore.
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Martin Brodeur and Marc-André Fleury (R) from Canada men's hockey team put their gear on after their team photo was taken prior to practice at the Britannia Centre, in Vancouver, BC during the 2010 Winter Olympics. ( / Canwest News Service
Photograph by: Jean Levac, Canwest News Service