In their preliminary round matchup at the 2013 WJC four days ago, Canada stifled the United States by clogging the middle of the ice and failing to allow the Americans solid second-chance opportunities at the net. Even when the USA controlled play, they gave Malcolm Subban relatively easy looks at the puck. It led to a Canadian victory.
That's all changed in the first period of this semifinal matchup between the two nations Thursday morning, however. Perhaps the extra day of rest thanks to an earned bye through the quarters has left the Canadians a bit rusty, but their defensive coverage has been suspect and the Americans have taken full advantage.
Captain Jake McCabe has two goals for the USA -- both shots from the high slot through traffic -- as they carry a 2-0 lead into the first intermission. It's the complete inverse so far of the first game between these two squads, where the Canadians took the 2-0 first period lead thanks to iffy defense by the Americans.
All things considered, Canada just looks a step slower than the USA. When they gain possession, they're having trouble with transition through the neutral zone, their passing isn't crisp and they're allowing the United States to walk all over them in the defensive end.
Canada's the most talented squad in the tournament and a 2-0 lead certainly isn't safe for Team USA, especially with 40 minutes of hockey to play. But coach Phil Housley would have been hard-pressed to draw up a better first period than he saw in this semifinal against the USA's biggest hockey rival.