Canada puts on dazzling display of skill in winby Corey Masisak
SOCHI -- Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry were standing nearly shoulder to shoulder in the mixed zone, the area where players meet with media after games at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Each was talking about the same thing.
Getzlaf lofted a long, backhanded saucer pass from the left side in Canada's defensive zone in the first period Friday at Bolshoy Ice Dome, and his Anaheim Ducks teammate was racing down the right wing in the neutral zone. When the puck reached Perry, it was in front of him and about waist-high.
No problem -- Perry just stuck his stick out with one arm, knocked the puck to the ice and proceeded to set up a howitzer of a shot by Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber to give the Canadians a two-goal lead en route to a 6-0 victory against Austria.
Getzlaf did not know Perry had pulled off this incredible feat of hand-eye coordination while using only 50 percent of the hands available to him.
"It doesn't surprise me," Getzlaf said with a bemused look as Perry acknowledged him with a quick smile and a "yeah" in the middle of one of his own answers. "He made a great play and [Weber] did a great job getting up the ice."
The play was a dazzling procession of athletic achievement rarely seen at any level of hockey. Weber's shot featured incredible speed and accuracy; Perry's play included a little bit of luck but also a level of hand-eye coordination few players possess.
"I just threw my stick up in the air," Perry said. "It's just one of those things where I'm hoping it hits my stick and then it laid down for me. It is one of those passes that you're going to get one out of 10."
That's part of the incredible skill though. An elite player such as Perry or Getzlaf might be able to snare that pass out of the air and have it drop to the ice perfectly like a soccer player collecting a long ball one out of 10 times; for an average NHL player, it's probably more like one out of 50 -- and for someone in a rec league, it might happen once in a lifetime.
Weber's shot was so hard and well-placed it went in and out of the net without the goal judge seeing it and elicited a delayed reaction from the nearest official, who eventually declared it a goal. Weber is known for having one of the hardest shots in the NHL; he finished second to Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara the hardest-shot competition during All-Star Weekend in 2012 with a blast that was clocked at 106 mph.
"I knew right away it went in," Perry said. "There was no sound and it kind of came out on a downward angle. He's got one of the hardest shots in the world and just grooved one there."
The incredible team goal was one of several "Did he just do that?" moments in the victory for Canada. Getzlaf produced a highlight-reel goal of his own later in the game, deking through the slot and scoring his first goal of the tournament late in the second period to make it 6-0.
Late in the third period Canada captain Sidney Crosby was knocked to the ice near the goal line in the Austrian end but still managed to win a puck battle while on his knees by making a one-handed bank pass to himself off the end boards and then backhanding a pass to the point on the far side of the ice.
This game featured the type of creativity and skill only a handful of players can produce, and most of those players are on Canada's or Russia's roster. The first game of the tournament was more rigid for the Canadians as Norway adhered to a more disciplined style.
Not only did the Canadians find more offensive opportunities against Austria, they did so with style.
"It was crazy. They're making some great plays," Canada goaltender Roberto Luongo said. "I've seen Shea in practice for a week now and especially with the blue line closer to the goal line, when he winds up for a shot, if it doesn't hit you, you don't have a chance of stopping it. He could probably be the leading scorer in this tournament if he shot more."