Streit steadies Switzerland to shootout with Canada

Despite the self-confidence and determination required to evolve from an obscure Swiss specialist to a #1 defenseman worthy of a five-year contract from an NHL team, Mark Streit still sometimes, I think, needs to be reminded just how good he can be. Captaining his underdog homeland team seems to do that.

Streit did not figure in the scoring last night, but his presence was felt all over the ice and throughout what became 65 minutes of game play. (The 2-2 tie ended in Canada's favor in the shootout gimmick, but thankfully the Olympic rules at least award three points for a regulation win and only two points for a shootout.) Where there was a penalty kill needed, a physical confrontation desired, a clear essential, Streit was there. And when Ryan Getzlaf wanted to line him up, it was Streit who kept skating while Getzlaf bounced off him like a crash test dummy.

Make no mistake: The skill mismatch was in effect, as Switzerland was outshot 46-23 -- though Canada's seven powerplays to Switzerland's one certainly inflated that figure. But the Swiss did all you can do in this situation -- call it a trap, fine, but it was a physical, controlled, fundamentally sound defensive effort that waits for the counterattack. Switzerland played more assertively and took more opportunities to attack than they did against the U.S., where they sat back too much until the third period. They needed every illustrious Jonas Hiller save to make it to OT, but then again Martin Brodeur had to make his share of eye-opening saves. The Swiss philosophy appeared to be bend, don't break: Make the safe chip, the frustrating forecheck-undermining reverse, the acceptable concession of neutral zone real estate.

I had the MSCNBC "Hockey 101" feed, but Canaada-residing BC here told us the CTV announcers raved about Streit and said the Canadians should rough him up. As well they should (rave, not rough up), for Streit was the steady hand back there. While he's rebounded from a slower start this year with the Islanders, I hope he takes this performance as revitalizing, another springboard toward what he can accomplish with the Islanders. This guy is a real NHL #1, and I think we've yet to see the best his career has to offer.

*  *  *

In the end, the shootout went to Canada, with Mike Babcock wisely using Sidney Crosby twice as part of the Olympic rules that stretch the shootout to its inevitable, absurd conclusion.

With Canada only taking two points, they are a point behind the U.S. However, their 8-0 win over Norway trumps 3-1 and 6-1 wins for the U.S. (goal difference: +8 vs. +7). So unless I'm missing something, the U.S. still needs a regulation win Sunday against the eh-oh-Canada-go's; an OT loss by the U.S. against Canada would still give Canada the group victory by virtue of their rattling of the Norge. Oh, I was missing something alright: Thanks to multiple corrections in comments; head-to-head takes precedent over goal difference, so suffice to say the U.S. needs to win Sunday, period. (I blame late nights trying to locate NBC Ocho ... or Olympic break rust.)

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