Whenever the argument arises on who is the best defenceman in hockey today is, the name Drew Doughty is usually uttered very quickly. After all, the Los Angeles Kings blue liner, started making headlines before he arrived in the NHL. The London, Ontario native was named top defenceman at the 2008 World Junior Championships, and was a main reason why Canada captured the gold medal in that tournament.
After being named to the all-rookie team in 2008-09, Doughty was starting to become the topic of conversation, amongst the brass of Hockey Canada as an Olympian. Canada needed to bring in some youth to Vancouver, and a young stud like Doughty who can move the puck, fit the bill. To the surprise of some observers, Doughty was named to the Canadian Olympic team. The critics were out in full force, questioning the decision. They said, Doughty’s too young and he won’t be able to handle the big stage. Doughty proved the doubters wrong, as he used the Vancouver Olympics as his coming-out party, establishing himself as one of the bright young stars in the sport. His poise and composure at the tender age of 20, was instrumental in helping Canada win gold on home ice.
Two years later, Doughty was a key member in the Kings first Stanley Cup championship. He played the most minutes, usually against the opposition’s top line, and shut them down with precision and force.
While Doughty has yet to win a Norris trophy as the league’s top defenceman, he will be a leading candidate this season, and it won’t be long until that piece of silverware is in his possession.
Doughty showed yet again why he is one the game’s elite in Canada’s 2-1 overtime victory over Finland on Sunday, which clinched first place in Group B. Not only did he score both of Canada’s goals including the overtime winner, he was a rock in his own end, limiting the scoring chances for Finland. While he was on the ice for the only Finnish goal, he regained his form afterwards, and delivered a clutch performance for Canada.
The win gives Canada berth in the quarterfinals, where they await the winner of the qualification match between Switzerland and Latvia. The Swiss will be favoured in that game and if they do pull off the result that most expect, Canada will have a difficult time against the pesky Swiss. While lacking offence, Switzerland is a very structured, disciplined team that doesn’t make mistakes in their own end. Jonas Hiller has been brilliant in goal for Switzerland, and the Anaheim Ducks goalie, has the capability to steal any game. In a one and done format, that’s a scary proposition. Canada will need players such as Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Corey Perry and John Tavares to start putting pucks in the back of the net, and become the offensive forces that they can be. While no one is complaining about Doughty’s scoring streak from the back-end, it won’t continue forever. It is time for the Canadian forwards to step up their game. If they don’t the chances for Canada to repeat as gold medallists are slim.
- P.K. Subban and Martin St. Louis were healthy scratches for Canada against Finland. However, head coach Mike Babcock told the media following the game that changes will be made to the lineup for Wednesday’s quarterfinal. Patrick Sharp, Chris Kunitz and Dan Hamhuis all saw their ice time drop in this game so expect at least one of those players to sit out the quarterfinal.
- Carey Price got the start in the Canadian net and wasn’t very busy, making 14 saves on 15 shots. The Finnish goal, scored by Tuomu Ruuttu, was tipped and Price can’t be blamed for the goal. Babcock could go back to Roberto Luongo, who did record a shutout against Austria, but the feeling is Price is the number one guy, so expect the Montreal Canadiens keeper to get the call on Wednesday.
- Team USA have looked like the best team so far in the Olympic tourney. The Americans defeated Slovenia 5-1 to clinch top spot in Group A, thanks to Phil Kessel’s hat-trick. However, since the NHL has sent their best players to the Olympics in 1998, no team has ever won the gold medal after going undefeated in the round robin. The Americans could very well change that, thanks to their speed and solid goaltending from Jonathan Quick. It is possible that Canada could face the USA in the semifinals. If it’s anything like the 2010 gold medal game, it will be another classic.
- The most intriguing game of the qualification round is between Slovakia and the Czech Republic. These two nations used to be one, until the split of Czechoslovakia in 1993. This is a fascinating rivalry with many plot lines and bad blood. Neither team has been impressive in this tournament and one will have to face the humiliation, of being knocked out in the qualification round, by their bitter enemy. This will be a game to watch on Tuesday. The winner plays the USA on Wednesday.
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