Team USA faces toughest opponent in Canada

Team USA Hockey

Courtesy of @PumperNicholl/@TheRoyalHalf

Winning four consecutive games in the Winter Olympic hockey tournament will mean nothing if the Team USA hockey team loses Friday. A semifinal matchup against defending gold medal winning Canada awaits the red, white, and blue with a chance to play for gold on the line.

Team USA has skated four balanced lines to this point. The mix of size, speed, and physicality has helped the Americans win close games, as well as blow out inferior opponents. Canada will be the deepest team they face, even with the loss of John Tavares for the rest of the Olympics. Both teams have size and scoring depth for days, with Team USA outscoring Hockey Canada 20-13.

Canada has not had superstars such as Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews join the scoring party. The two have combined for no goals and four assists. The scoring outage is something that cannot last if Canada expects to win, and a rematch of the gold medal game from 2010 could cure what ails them.

Patrick Kane of Team USA is also in a scoring funk. His fantastic passing has been on display through four games, but his scoring chances are being stopped before they start. It has been said that the larger ice surface is giving defenses an edge. Sitting back and forcing a skilled player such as Kane to skate around a defense is not as easy. On the smaller NHL ice, Kane’s talent as a puck-handling sniper make it easier to do more with less. Look at any Kane footage from the previous four games and you can see defenders giving Kane all the space in the world with the intent of blocking his shots.

The third defensive pairing of Brooks and Orpik and Paul Martin for Team USA will be tested heavily Friday. The pairing has been anything but good, and have been caught standing still plenty of times. Orpik is too slow for the larger international ice surface, and Martin’s puck-handling skills are not being utilized properly with his NHL teammate in Pittsburgh. That pairing is the glaring weakness for the Stars and Stripes.

Since the gold medal will only include one of Team USA and Hockey Canada, enjoy this rematch. For the North American rivals, this game will be for title as the best hockey team across the pond.

Follow Jeff on Twitter @sckih_ffej for more sports and entertainment ramblings. Jeff also contributes fantasy advice for The Fantasy Fix.

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