Iginla sparks Canada's opening win over Norway
At first glance, Canada looks to be 20 percent better than Team USA
Jarome Iginla seamlessly replaced Patrice Bergeron
Drew Doughty could emerge as one of the best defensemen on the team
VANCOUVER -- Operating in front of the most impressive sea of red since Moses, Team Canada took the hard way and then the easy way to dispatch Norway at a giddy Canada Hockey Place in the opener of the hockey Armageddon known as the Olympics.
So what did 8-0 blowout before all those jersey-wearing fans mean -- beyond Canada, which was held scoreless in the first period, getting a second straight day of practice?
Some quick thoughts:
At first glance, Canada is maybe 20 percent better than Team USA, which earlier defeated Switzerland, 3-1. The Americans faded in the third period when they gave up a goal and let the redoubtable Swiss climb back at least into the fringes of the match. The U.S. also allowed up a passel of odd-man rushes. There might not have a raft of style points for Canada, at least until Norwegian goalie Pal Grotnes successfully started dodging pucks, but there never was outright sloth.
Jarome Iginla, who started this celebratory clambake as the nominal fourth-line right winger, seamlessly replaced Patrice Bergeron, who started with Sidney Crosby and Rick Nash but dropped on the depth chart. Iginla finished with an unofficial hat trick -- Canada's eighth goal glanced off the shaft of his stick although Nash received the credit for it -- and looked more comfortable than he had when he played with Crosby at the orientation camp scrimmage.
Maybe it just took a while for Iginla, starved of a proper center in Calgary, to get used to someone with Crosby's copious gifts. "You have to be ready," Iginla said of his battlefield promotion. "It's pretty exciting to play with Sid. Every pass is in my wheelhouse, the saucer (passes) land." "I think it's important to have a whole bunch of hungry players here," coach Mike Babcock said. "All the guys who were hungry played so well. Iggy was ... one. I talked to Iggy at the start and told him that we need him to be a physical presence. We need him to be hard to play against, and that he doesn't have to score to help us. "Bergeron does have a role on this team, which needs another right-handed center to take faceoffs beyond Ryan Getzlaf. He also is a first-rate penalty killer. Bergeron finished rotating with the fourth "group" that also includes Jonathan Toews, Mike Richards and Brenden Morrow.
Drew Doughty, Canada's youngest player, could emerge as one of the best defensemen on the team and ultimately in the tournament if he continues to gain Babcock's trust. He has superb instincts, on both sides of the puck and offers surprising oomph as a body checker. He started the game as the seventh defenseman -- indeed his 15:21 of ice time was low among the Canadian blueliners - but he looked supremely confident whenever he was on the ice.
"He's a high, high-end player," Babcock said. "He has ice running through his veins."
The Sharks line was a solid idea. When the rest of the Team Canada forwards were feeling their way through the first period, Joe Thornton-Patrick Marleau-Dany Heatley looked like they were back home. Heatley, who scores in bunches whenever a Maple Leaf is on his chest, had two goals.
Switzerland will be a more entertaining examination of Canada's bona fides, assuming the Swiss play the same aggressive style as they did against the U.S. If they go into a sclerotic shell like the overmatched Norwegians, switch the channel to short-track speedskating.