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Knee-Jerks: Canada 5, Switzerland 1

by Staff Writer / Washington Capitals
MOSCOW–May 10

•    Five minutes in, with one Canadian power play helping, the shots seemed to be about 14-0 in favor of Canada. Deeper into the first, we wondered if the arena rink staff would even have to Zam the Canadian end of the ice during the first intermission. But the Swiss gained some composure and confidence with the puck, and actually engineered a couple of strong scoring chances. And we saw more of this in the second period. With a bit of time and space, the Swiss can cause Canada moments of nervousness – the underdogs are not a team devoid of skill, they are superbly coached, and they can certainly skate.   

•    Defensively, the Swiss deploys four skaters to its half of their zone with the puck in a bit of a vertical trap. This regularly affords them opportunities to get sticks in Canadian passing lanes. But a brutally tragic whiff-fail of a clearing attempt by a Swiss defender is snapped past Swiss netminder Jonas Hiller for the opening period's lone tally.

•    The Swiss are rarely even competitive in draws. And that’s too bad for them, because their style leads to a lot of stoppages and thus, a lot of face-offs. Because they like to create off the rush, they’d have much more success if they were more proficient in the circles and could play more of a puck possession game.

•    Vogel uses the description “plucky” for the Swiss team, and I've always interpreted that as code for “well coached.” This the Swiss are. I'd add this: because they play with conspicuous precision and cohesion and display a knack for making scoring chances out of nothing, they are – for me – a more appealing team to watch than all other second-tier contenders in this tournament.    

•    The discipline Switzerland used to upset Canada in Torino is missing Thursday afternoon. They take far too many penalties, the most egregious of which was Andreas Ambuhl's needless interference penalty while en route to his bench at the end of his shift. It placed the Swiss at a 5-on-3 disadvantage for more than 70 seconds, Rick Nash subsequently tapped in the Canadians' third goal, and the game was broken open.   

•    Keeley noted (see above) that the Swiss play a sort of “vertical trap” in their own end of the ice. They almost always have four players on the side of the ice where the puck carrier is. As a result, they’re very effective at taking away time and space and getting sticks and skates into the passing and shooting lanes.

•    Team Canada’s power play is hard to stop, whether it is up against Switzerland or Russia.

•    Nash is one big handful in front of the net when Canada has the man advantage.
 
•    Swiss forward Adrian Wichser reminded us somewhat of former Cap Joé Juneau. He is very adept at pulling up at the half wall after gaining the zone and then creating, either by going to net himself, hitting the trailer for a one-timer or going cross-ice. Wichser was Florida’s ninth-round draft choice in 1998 (231st overall), but he has never played in North America. We’re happy to have had a chance to see him up close
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