Canadian hockey fans have put a lot of hopes and dreams in their hockey teams for the Vancouver Olympics. On Tuesday night the men's team showed they are ready to go for gold.
The first period was all Grotnes, as in Norwegian goalie Pal Grotnes. The big part-time goalie and full-time carpenter reminded Canadian hockey fans of 2006 in Torino when Grotnes held Canada to a 1-1 draw until the dying minutes of the third period when Canada scored a late goal to escape with a 2-1 win. Grotnes held the Canadians off the score sheet in the first period with save after save and no rebounds to pounce on.
It's hard to imagine how good a carpenter Grotnes is that he can't make more money as a goalie somewhere in the world, but that's just the way things are in Norway. You're a carpenter, you enjoy your job and hockey is just for fun! It's been many, many years since hockey was played that way in North America and it's nice to know hockey is still played that way somewhere.
But the Canadians were owning the puck instead of the podium this game and it was only a matter of time before they started filling the net. The second period saw a quick goal by Jarome Iginla and then another by Dany Heatley on a tipped point shot from bad boy Chris Pronger. When Mike Richards jammed the puck in before the second period was half over, the rout seemed to be on.
Despite being outsized by big Canadian boys, the Norwegians played a feisty game, leveling young star Jonathan Toews and playing hard along the boards all game. Roberto Luongo, the surprise starter in goal for Canada, was rarely tested but looked confident and sharp. Norway regrouped to hold the Canadians back for the rest of the second period.
The third period continued with more Canadian attacks although Luongo stoned Thoresen at the side of the net early in the period. Thoresen, a top 10 player in points in the Russian Kontinental Hockey League, is trying to audition for a spot in the NHL next year and he was clearly the most dangerous Norwegian in this game. Grotnes was mercy pulled after Getzlaf slid in the fourth goal off a rebound on a delayed penalty call. Norway head coach Roy Johansen needs to save Grotnes for the rest of the tournament and there clearly was a Canadian Tsunami coming. On cue, Heatley then took a drop pass and top shelved a bullet while Iginla finished off a pretty passing play with Sidney Crosby and Rick Nash.
The next wave saw Eric Staal and Ryan Getzlaf storm the net while Corey Perry shot home the rebound for another Canadian goal. Iginla, buzzing around the net all night, tipped in a point shot for his hat trick goal from Rick Nash to finish off the scoring at 8-0.
The almost violent Canadian crowd kept chanting for more goals with less than two minutes left in the blowout game and the players obliged, waving in on Norway right up until the foghorn ended the game and stopped the players and crowd from taking Norwegian body parts home as trophies.
The Canadians rolled all four lines throughout the game and remained fresh all night long, however that's unlikely to continue when they play some of the top teams in the tournament. Each line seemed to already have good chemistry which is a big advantage in such a short tournament like the Olympics. Canada will start Martin Brodeur, by far the most decorated goalie currently playing in the NHL, in goal for Thursday's game against the Swiss. It's widely speculated Brodeur will get the rest of the Olympic games short of a complete meltdown.
Norway moves on to face the young Americans on Thursday. With a lack of scoring forwards they will be in tough but a hot goalie can steal a game at any time in hockey. Only Pal Grotnes can steal a hockey game and build you a beautiful trophy case all at the same time though!
My three stars are:
*** Pal Grotnes, Norway – Pitched a shutout for 20 minutes against a top world class hockey team
** Ryan Getzlaf, Canada – Moved the puck, drove to the net and scored.
* Jarome Iginla, Canada – Simply filled the net.