Canada, Jeff Carter paste Austrians 6-0 at Sochi Games

Canada's Jeff Carter (77) celebrates his third goal in the second period to complete a natural hat...

Canada's Jeff Carter (77) celebrates his third goal in the second period to complete a natural hat trick against Austria with teammates Jonathan Toews and Patrick Marleau during their men's preliminary round ice hockey game at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 14, 2014. (REUTERS)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 6:40 PM ET

SOCHI, RUSSIA - The men’s hockey tournament is taking place in the Olympic Park pretty much on the beach of the Black Sea, but the up-and-down fortunes of some Canadian players so far make it more suited to the mountains that dominate the backdrop here.

Take Canadian forward Jeff Carter, for example.

He started out Canada’s first game as a winger with captain Sidney Crosby on the first unit, but looked like the 13th forward in the warmup for Game 2 against Austria, which turned out to be a 6-0 win at the Bolshoy Ice Dome on Friday.

All Carter did was record a natural hat trick as the puck followed him around. It gives head coach Mike Babcock and his staff something else to think about.

“I didn’t really have to shoot many of them, or any of them,” said Carter, who played with centre Jonathan Toews and alternated with wingers Patrick Marleau and Rick Nash.

The total length of the shots he took for the three goals couldn’t have been more than 10 feet as the puck appeared around the net where he was taking up space.

So now it will be interesting to see what Babcock sticks with or changes against Finland as the level of competition ramps up Sunday.

Martin St. Louis, who started out as the 13th guy against Norway on Thursday, took Carter’s place with Crosby and Chris Kunitz and did okay, which, for wingers with Crosby in the Olympics, is saying something.

“I try to add some speed to the line, not that they need more speed,” St. Louis said. “You need speed to keep up with those guys. I thought we generated a lot of offensive zone time and some good chances. Unfortunately they didn’t go in for the chances I had.”

Kunitz, meanwhile, hasn’t done much, so don’t be surprised if he finds himself on the luge run heading down the roster. This now seems to be the Olympic narrative in the Crosby era, finding somebody who has the decoder ring.

Crosby shrugged it off.

“You just try to make sure you’re in the right spot,” said Crosby, “and worry about your own job.”

Babcock isn’t panicking.

“I’m not worried about (Crosby) too much, to tell you the truth,” said Babcock. “We’ve got to get the lines to go the best way they can ... The hardest thing for a player is to find their game inside our game. You play a certain way within your team, you play 22 minutes, I haven’t looked at the minutes, but guys aren’t playing very many minutes for big-time players. And that’s hard for them, and they have to get used to it. And they have to maximize the minutes they get.”

The bottom 25% of the forward group has been strong with Patrice Bergeron — who has been a boss on the ice — playing with John Tavares and Jamie Benn. But with Kunitz being unimpressive, don’t be surprised if Tavares gets the tap to have a spin with Crosby.

Canadian defencemen Shea Weber and Drew Doughty have two goals apiece, Benn has another, so ... if your name isn’t Carter, the rest of Canada’s top nine forwards have one goal in two games against the weakest competition they’ll face in the tournament.

Yes, it’s a work in progress.

“That’s the challenge right now in this tournament ... finding the right combinations,” said Matt Duchene, who took turns with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, a couple of guys who showed improvement from opening night, but still aren’t playing their best hockey

“I think when you win 6-0 and don’t give up too much and hem teams in their end like we did tonight, I think it’s a positive thing. We’ll see how it goes from here on out, but each guy is leaving it all out there trying to stay in the lineup.

“We were all business from start to finish. It didn’t matter what the score was. We played a hard game and we were very hard to play against. We play like that the rest of the tournament, we’re going to be in good shape.”

Babcock is giving his team the day off Saturday, but the coaching staff will continue to put every player’s performance through the sausage maker.

“All we are trying to do is details, and do things right ... so when you’re watching as a fan or as a media person, I’m watching as a coach, I’m just looking for details,” Babcock said. “Who can I trust, and who can you not, and how are we going to win the games as they get harder?

The Canadians looked better than they did against Norway, but there’s still a ways to go.

There’s time, but, you know, tick, tock.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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