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Analyzing Team Canada a 24-hour a day obsession

by Brian Duff
Opening-day jitters are gone, and the quest for perfection continues.

We're talking about Canada's fans, of course.

Heightened anxiety among the host nation's supporters through 20 minutes on Tuesday was all for naught, as a little forward re-alignment by coach Mike Babcock seemed to ignite and re-unite Jarome Iginla, Sidney Crosby and Rick Nash. From that point on, there was simply no way for Norway to stop them.

And you had the sense it was exactly what many were expecting. Not just the 8-0 final score, but the big line, with Patrice Bergeron no longer a part of it, playing a role.

It's no slight on the Bruins' terrific two-way forward. It's just that people were anticipating a more proven weapon patrolling Crosby's right side, and that's what they got.
So now the question is -- how dominant will that trio be from here on out?

All Crosby did was post 3 assists in his first Olympic game.

Nash already has doubled his total output from Torino with 2 assists. And Iginla is up to 8 goals in 13 career Olympic games, following his Tuesday hat trick.

Games like these can ease the psyche for a lot of fans, regardless of the quality of opponent.

They can also allow you to appreciate more than just the obvious.

On what is now a red-and-white version of Leafs Lunch on AM640 in Toronto, callers were quick to point out that Canada's defense corps looked phenomenal with swift, skilled puck movement in all zones, and great mobility.

Overall team discipline was noted, almost with a hint of surprise, but certainly cited as one of the biggest keys moving forward.

And of course, even in an 8-0 rout, something had to be amiss.

"Joe Thornton looked slow," said one observer, who wasn't overly impressed with the San Jose Sharks trio (that included Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau) that did combine for 2 goals and 4 points.

Tough crowd, but all-Canadian to be sure.

Players of interest -- Really impressed with Drew Doughty (so poised), Shea Weber (lethal with his shot), Dan Boyle (so motivated from not being a part of 2006 and believing he should have been) and Duncan Keith (can you say saucer passes?) for Canada on night one.

All right, throw in Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer too!

Danis Zaripov, the 28-year old Russian, looked good on a KHL line. Never drafted by the NHL, Zaripov did play for Swift Current in the WHL 11 years ago. But I think his vital stats may have held him back. Depending on what you read, he's 6-feet tall and anywhere from 163 to 174 pounds. A rather slender dude.

Team Canada GearPeter Forsberg and Jaromir Jagr would have been under this heading regardless, but given how they played, and with the potential for more, what a great dynamic they bring to this Olympic tournament for the champs from '06 and '98, respectively.

Random observations

* The failed stretch pass is resulting in a lot of icings. Or at least a lot more than we would see in the NHL when many of them are waved off. The automatic icing rule makes the failed attempts that much more obvious.

* I am the first guy to go to bat for the on-ice officials and will continue to do so. But I am concerned, and will be even more so, if we don't start seeing some consistency when it comes to hooking and goaltender interference.

* Maybe Tomas Vokoun just has an addiction to rubber. Thousands of miles from Sunrise, and the team that keeps him busier than most, his Czech team - noted in the past for trapping the life out of an opponent, especially with a multi-goal lead -- found a way to let him see 35 Slovak shots in the tournament opener. As usual, the NHL's save percentage leader was more than ready to handle the workload.

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