Before we launch into that, let us pause for a moment to contemplate exactly how bad that call was. It was probably top three in the worst call pantheon I have personally witnessed. What makes it particularly egregious is that the referee knows she blew the whistle. It was her own action, not a player’s. It makes absolutely no difference that she blew it in error. Unless you are that jerk who always finishes his lay-up after the whistle sounds, you stop what you’re doing when you hear that. Even the jerk who finishes the lay-up does it in a haphazard way usually. So Jessie Vetter didn’t think she had to know where that puck was. The fact that they reviewed the play so they could then hear themselves blow the whistle, which was clearly audible on my broadcast and also apparently from the U.S. bench, is just the icing on the cake. The terrible, terrible cake. That is not even touching on the inconsistent enforcement of the checking penalties, and the instances they missed of too many players on the ice (you see how easy, Doc?)
But. The U.S.’ job once they had absorbed that hit was to try harder, not to appear to be so discombobbled they handed the Canadians the game. That giveaway at the blue line was inexcusable. If they had played the whole rest of the period the way they did the last two minutes, we’d be having a very different conversation right now. I singled out the Coyne line for defensive concern for a reason. Decker took two huge penalties; Coyne let Wickenheiser’s assist go right past her; and unfortunately they tend to get paired with Marvin/Stecklein, who are porous. But all of that would have been escapable if the U.S. hadn’t been so shell-shocked by their bad luck.
Now honestly most aspects of this game should give the U.S. little cause for concern. In the first two periods the shot selection (I’m going to start trademarking that, given how often I mention it) was somewhat weak but honestly given Labonte’s surprising start throwing the puck at the net and seeing what happened was a decent idea. Knight was getting great chances as were the Lamoureuxs. Although I have never been more frustrated than when Jocelyne didn’t take that odd-player rush during a change right toward the goal. Vetter stopped some tough shots. The penalty kill was looking quite solid. Then the wheels came off.
The Canadians have to be thrilled with how Labonte performed (although the scene in the final moments might give them pause if they were to be reflective about it). They also were due some production from Spooner and they got it. But they should be concerned about Poulin’s not really being a factor on the offensive side, and they really must start moving the defense forward. Their offense continues to have long periods of stagnation and taking advantage of poor officiating is a lousy way to win.
I have assumed that Finland will come through to be the team the U.S. sees in the semis. It was a bit shocking it took them overtime to beat the Swiss. If Canada is to face any of the other teams, it will destroy them. They are not going to go through a Swedish scare twice. However if Canada faces Finland again, it will be interesting to see what adjustments Dineen makes. I have an unfortunate suspicion he will make none. I hope I’m wrong. If the U.S. faces Finland they need to guard against complacence. Luck played a huge role in their early lead too. Being on the other end of a bad bounce could put them in Finland’s position quickly. To be gold medalists, this group needs to be able to replace their lost wheels quickly, rotate them if necessary, and get back on the path. This may come as a surprise but I am more comfortable with Katey Stone at the helm than I was with Mark Johnson a few years ago. If she can get the players to follow her instructions (for instance taking advantage of the lively boards is brilliant), they should come through this.
Then we can start worrying about the rematch.