Canada in a cakewalk
Belarus' remarkable run will come to an endPosted: Thursday February 21, 2002 3:01 AM
Updated: Thursday February 21, 2002 3:23 AM
Canada has advanced its game with each successive outing. Belarus rocked the hockey world with their ugly and unfathomable upset of Sweden. Does anyone foresee a Canadian stumble, or a Belarus repeat? Both would have to happen simultaneously for Canada not to advance to the gold medal game. Sure, itís possible, but...
The Canadians have enough firepower to bury Belarus, but their forecheck will be vital. They have to be resolute in their chip-and-charge mentality, getting pucks deep on the Belarussians blueliners and outworking them for possession. A strong outing by the Ryan Smyth-Michael Peca-Owen Nolan combination is in order to set the appropriate tone for Team Canada, generating plenty of traffic in front of Belarus netminder Andrei Mezin. Further, if their aggressive play forces Belarus into taking penalties, the power play must respond, something that hasnít happened yet.
Meanwhile, Belarus has survived on the power play. If Canada is overzealous in its physical pursuit and puts them on the power play, Belarus must continue to capitalize. It canít expect to win this game on the merit of superior 5-on-5 production.
Canada has to continue to define the roles on the blueline. Rob Blake and Ed Jovanovski have to be tough, yet disciplined. Scott Niedermayer needs to be more of a factor lugging the puck between the bluelines. Everyone who sees duty on the power play must hit the net with their point shots. And the forwards cannot be any less diligent in their backchecking than they were against Finland.
Belarus has to turn the neutral zone into sludge, as they did so disruptively against Sweden. Their forwards will have to be quicker to help out down low against the hard-charging Canadians, whose attack isnít as subtle as the Swedes.
Martin Brodeur has to play with confidence and not give Belarus any life. For Belarus, Mezin must again be the lifeline for his team if there is to be another upset conquest.
Canada has something to prove, while it is already a wildly successful Olympic outing for Belarus. Prediction -- Canada wins 5-1, as Al MacInnis scores on the power play and Owen Nolan has a two-point game.
Darren Eliot, a former NHL goaltender, is a hockey analyst for CNN/Sports Illustrated and will provide Olympic hockey commentary throughout the Games for CNNSI.com.