Snapshots: Canada's quarterfinal goalie remains mystery

Canada's goalies Carey Price (L) and Roberto Luongo look on during their men's team ice hockey...

Canada's goalies Carey Price (L) and Roberto Luongo look on during their men's team ice hockey practice during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 12, 2014. (REUTERS)

ROB LONGLEY, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 4:29 PM ET

Mike Babcock won’t announce his starting goaltender for Canada’s quarterfinal contest on Wednesday until the team returns to the ice on Tuesday for practice.

But, if it isn’t Carey Price, it will be among the biggest surprises of this Olympic tournament thus far.

The news won’t be so good for Price’s Montreal Canadiens teammate, P.K. Subban. A candid Babcock admitted on Monday that the team’s defensive play has been so strong that he can’t see the energetic blue-liner drawing in for the next game.

“We’ve got three really good pairs,” Babcock said on Monday after his players went through an off-ice workout. “I’ll be honest with you: (Dan) Hamhuis and P.K haven’t got much of a chance. There hasn’t been any changing of players there because (the top six defencemen) have been real solid.”

Those pairings of Duncan Keith-Shea Weber, Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo and Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Drew Doughty have been stellar at both ends of the ice. For all the struggles the Canadian forwards have had, the opposition has had at least as difficult a time getting traction in front of Price or Roberto Luongo.

GAME ON

How good has the Canadian defensive corps been? Babcock and his coaching staff graded Sunday’s game with Finland by giving their team 18 scoring chances to five for the Finns. “For us that’s outstanding,” Babcock said. “But if you’re the Finns — home run. They checked, checked, checked.” ... It’s pretty clear that the Canadians are expecting more from whoever they meet in the quarters (the winner of the Latvia-Switzerland game on Tuesday.) “If we think we’re getting seven (goals), we’re watching the wrong sport,” Babcock said. “That’s not what’s happening. It’s going to be 2-1.” ... There’s been so much talk about the difficulty the Canadians have had moving the puck into the offensive zone down the middle. Every team they have played, so far, seems to have the same strategy of clogging up that zone, forcing the Canadians to go harmlessly wide where shots from the boards are generally a long-range waste. “You have to read the situation,” forward Patrice Bergeron said. “Right now, that’s what they’re closing. They’re closing off the middle of the ice, so you also have to take what’s there.” ... More on what the Swiss would bring: “We’re assuming they’re just going to sit back in the neutral zone and try and just wear us down offensively,” Doughty said. “They’re going to look for turnovers and, when they get that, they’re going to use their speed to get up there and create odd-man rushes.” ... Good for viewers at home (bad for late-night scribes in Russia): Every remaining Canadian game will be a 9 p.m., start here (noon EST.) It’s the power of the CBC.

MORE SCORE

Babcock on the approach he has been seeing from Canadian opponents here. “Every game when you’re playing the best teams in the world, they’re playing for their country, it is a grind-fest.” ... As if the offensive production from the Russians isn’t a concern already, it took another blow on Monday when Ilya Kovalchuk missed practice. The coaching staff said he was resting, the video from Sunday showed he appeared to injure his right ankle ... There was fun to be had with Doughty (four goals) and Jeff Carter (three) given that, in the NHL, they play for close-to-the-vest coach Darryl Sutter with the Kings. “It’s not that Darryl holds me back in L.A. at all,” Doughty said. “It’s just you see different opportunities with this team than you do back home.” Good thing for Team Canada that’s the case ... Another interesting observation from Babcock was that, given the long stretches of time Canada possessed the puck against Finland, normally that would translate into forcing the opposition into taking penalties. In the NHL, perhaps, but not here where Canada has had few opportunities to unleash what, on paper, should be a potent power play.

FINISH LINES

Canada has just one forward in the top 10 of tournament scoring — Carter with three goals and an assist ... The Canadians once again opted for a day away from the ice rather than practise, despite the obvious concerns in some areas. That said, Babcock has been adamant in making sure that his team is rested and, given those late starts every night, feels over-practising is counter-productive, especially with two days off. The team will return to the ice early Tuesday afternoon ... You heard it first from Team Sun colleague Steve Simmons, who is predicting a possible Latvian upset over the Swiss. Simmons is citing the Ted Nolan factor ... Remembering that betting odds are a reflection of the money wagered on teams, not their actual prospects of winning, but heading into the elimination phase, Canada remains the favourite at odds of 7-4, followed by the U.S., at 11-4, Russia at 16-5 and Sweden at 5-1. Before the tourney, Canada and Russia were virtual co-faves ... The final word to calm a nation expecting Team Canada to win in a blowout every time it plays, goes to captain Crosby. “I think nobody’s going to remember what the scores were in the round-robin games, to be honest with you,” he said. “I couldn’t tell you what the scores were in Vancouver or Turin or Salt Lake. Ultimately, it’s what we do from here on in. That’s the most important part.”

 


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