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U.S. vs. Canada gold-medal game breakdown

by Adam Kimelman
U.S. -- The U.S. attacked with speed and size, catching Canada off guard. Canada coach Willie Desjardins said as much as the speed, it was the U.S. players' hard work that made his team's job so tough. The line of Chris Kreider, A.J. Jenks and Jeremy Morin all are big players who can skate well. All played well against Canada and will need to do so again for the U.S. to have its best chance at winning.
Canada -- Canada's biggest advantage is having 13 forwards who can put the puck in the net. Jordan Eberle is the team's leading scorer and is second in the tournament with 11 points. Canada's second line of Taylor Hall, Nazem Kadri and Greg Nemisz is just as scary. Hall, the projected top pick of the 2010 Entry Draft, has 5 goals and 9 points, second on the team in both categories.
U.S. -- The U.S. defense has been solid and aggressive offensively. Matt Donovan has 3 goals, and John Carlson netted the game-winner against Sweden. And with John Ramage and Brian Lashoff, they have good size to hold off Canada's better forwards. The key is avoiding penalties against those highly skilled players -- Cam Fowler and Jake Gardiner each were whistled for penalties in the teams' first meeting.
Canada -- Canada will play this one a man down following the loss of Travis Hamonic (shoulder) against Switzerland. But they also played without Calvin de Haan against the U.S. and he's recovered from a concussion. While Canada hasn't gotten the offense from the blue line it has in past tournaments -- except for Alex Pietrangelo, who's tied for the team lead with 11 points -- they have played very well defensively, allowing just seven goals and 101 shots, both the fewest in the tournament.
U.S. -- Coach Dean Blais wouldn't reveal who his starting netminder would be Tuesday. Jack Campbell played well in the loss to Canada on New Year's Eve, but Mike Lee has started the last two games. Blais has the most familiarity with Lee, who he coached last season with Fargo of the USHL. Coaches tend to go with what they know, and Blais knows Lee. "He played 60 games for me in Fargo and he was good every game," said Blais. "I saw Mike play 60 games for me last year in Fargo and I know he's this type of kid and can play this well."
Canada -- Goalie Jake Allen hasn't been tested very much, but his teammates are confident he'll make the big plays when needed. "He's a tremendous goalie," Pietrangelo told "Look what he's done so far in this tournament. He's proved himself in international hockey. We have a lot of confidence having him back there."
U.S. -- Blais' up-tempo, attacking style has worked well, and it's put teams on their heels early. His team has been disciplined and stayed within the game plan. He's been consistent with his approach, often citing the foundation he laid at the summer evaluation camp in Lake Placid and carried through all the way to the gold-medal game. Blais is a veteran coach with experience at all levels. Nothing will surprise him and he'll keep things at an even keel on the bench regardless of the situation.
Canada -- Desjardins was an assistant to Pat Quinn last year and is a disciple of Dave King, so he has tremendous coaching blood lines. He's not a screamer on the bench, but he proved in the semifinal against Switzerland that he can peel the paint off the walls of the locker room when needed. He went after his team pretty hard in the second intermission after they took a few penalties he didn't like, and they responded by blitzing the Swiss in the third period.
U.S. -- The power play has good numbers but has been tremendously inconsistent. It blew a major chance in the third period against Sweden in the semifinal. Getting bodies to the net is a must. "We had chances but we didn't screen the goaltender (against Sweden), he saw most everything," Blais said. "We have to get guys in front of the goaltender and get the puck to the net. The penalty killing has been great, led by Jordan Schroeder and Ryan Bourque. They scored two shorthanded goals against Canada on New Year's Eve and really put an element of doubt in the Canada attackers.
Canada -- The power play skill starts at the top with Pietrangelo and Ellis on the point. Eberle is a key because of his knack for finding open spaces. There's little chance they'll make the same mistakes in the gold-medal game they made against the U.S. the last time they played. "They did a great job of pressuring us," Pietrangelo told "We didn't really execute the way we wanted to, simple as that. We weren't moving our feet. There are a lot of things we needed to work on." Losing Hamonic is a blow to the penalty killing, but Patrice Cormier and Stefan Della Rovere are a nice forward combination up front.
U.S. -- Jason Zucker isn't the biggest dog in the fight, but he'll be the first one to wade into trouble. One scout said of Zucker that if he didn't have the USA crest on his sweater, you'd think he was Canadian. He plays an up-and-down game, and skating on the top line with Schroeder and Bourque means he could get the chance to be a hero.
Canada -- Last year Ellis was brought on as a seventh defenseman and ended up earning a regular shift and making one of the biggest plays of the tournament, holding the puck at the point to set up Eberle's tying goal in the final seconds of the semifinal against Russia. He's had a very quiet tournament so far -- 1 goal in five games -- but he's got a cannon from the point and is a brilliant power-play quarterback.

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