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When Grown Men ( ) the Bed…

If you missed it, Canada played the U.S. in a little game of hockey on Sunday… and they lost.  In the ensuing twenty-four hours we discovered that this is either a harbinger of inevitable doom, or that it was a necessary loss that will focus the Canadian team as they rally to gold.

Neither stance particularly matters to me, as they are both mere building blocks in the inevitable game of “I told you so…” that will follow the results.  What the loss definitely did do, was make the Canadian’s path to gold a game longer, and considerably harder.  That extra game against Germany might offer the opportunity for the team to gel, but the loss also means that they could very well face Russia in the quarters.  However you might want to color the Canadian situation, facing Ovechkin, Malkin, and Datsyuk (oh my…) in the quarters is treacherous to the home team.

If Canada were to lose in the quarters (or heaven forbid tonight), then barstool pundits everywhere will question whether Patrice Bergeron should have been selected over Jeff Carter (or Martin St. Louis, or whomever), or whether Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer were too old for the back line, or whether Drew Doughty was too young for the back line.  Of course, the second guessing of Marty Brodeur has already begun and baring injury we wont see him again in this tournament.

So, let me make one thing clear, Carter, or St. Louis, or Mike Green, or whomever you think should have made the team is not the difference between 7th and gold.  This team has all the talent it needs to win this tournament, but at some point it is up to the players to make the plays necessary to win.  Brodeur, for all his past glory, clearly did not make the necessary plays on Sunday.  Of course, neither did anyone else.

Canada out shot the U.S. 45-23, they dominated control of the puck, they made hits, but was there any point where you thought they were in control of that game?  When the U.S. struck early did you think, no biggie?  Before Ryan Kessler’s empty net goal, in the waning moments were you confident that they were going to tie it up?  No, no, no.  Some might argue that their sloppy play was related to a lack of familiarity with one another, but a lack of familiarity didn’t stop Canada from dominating Canada Cups in the eighties.  Those players were great and when the chips hit the table, they raised their games to make sure that Canada stood atop the hockey world.  It is time for this team, for Crosby, Iginla, Thornton, Luongo, and the others to raise their games.

Tonight is the first night in the rest of the tournament.  Win gold and the loss to the U.S. will merely be a galvanizing moment that turned the team around.  Lose, and it will be the moment when the tournament turned south.  The players have been given the opportunity by Hockey Canada to do what every Canadian kid dreams of, they have the support of an entire country, and more specifically a rabid arena, it’s time for them to put the excuses to bed, grab this tournament by the scruff, and make plays.  It’s time for them to show that they are indeed great players, and it’s time for them to win.

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