Talent-riddled Team Canada launched its attempt at an Olympic gold medal tonight with an 8-0 victory over Norway at Canada Hockey Place.
What at the outset looked like a nervous, almost self-conscious side soon began playing like the kind of team Canadian hockey fans were hoping for in the long runup to 2010: large, fast, and highly skilled.
In the first period, Canada’s elite corps of forwards seemed to have more trouble than anticipated in finding one another, often passing into skates and failing to find the seams in Norway’s defence.
By the third period, which opened with the score 3-0, there was more than a hint of swagger in Canada’s play. You had to feel for Norwegian goalie Andre Lysenstoen, who had taken over for starter Pal Grotnes at the start of the period and then watched wave after wave of red uniforms roll in. Canada scored five times in the final frame.
Big bodies like Ryan Getzlaf and Eric Staal stormed the net—their line with Corey Perry appeared unstoppable tonight. There were hard, high shots from the top of the circle, like the one from Dany Heatley that made the score 5-0 nearly seven minutes into the period. There were tic-tac-toe passing plays, like the stunner that unfolded less than a minute later between Sidney Crosby, Rick Nash, and Jarome Iginla, who were likewise more and more dangerous as the game wore on and the Norwegians wore down.
It was a fun night for the packed house of red-clad Canadian fans. It was also the kind of start that Team Canada wanted (needless penalties aside). But how accurate a measuring stick did it provide?
Norway hasn’t iced an Olympic men’s hockey team since it hosted the Winter Games in Lillehammer in 1994. Nearly all members of its roster play in Europe, and so had to make the disorienting adjustment to the smaller North American ice surface tonight.
That’s not a problem that will plague teams like Sweden, the U.S., and Russia, each of which is loaded with NHL-rink-ready talent.
Photo gallery: Men's Hockey - Canada vs. Norway.