Saturday, February 22, 2014

Crosby, Kunitz focused on gold, not goals

By Dejan Kovacevic
Published: Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, 8:00 p.m.

AFP/Getty Images
Canada's Sidney Crosby pushes the puck from the home goal during the Men's Ice Hockey Semifinals USA vs Canada at the Bolshoy Ice Dome during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 21, 2014.
SOCHI, Russia — Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz have combined for zero goals, have been criticized back in Canada more than any athletes here, and be very sure, they couldn't care less about either right now.
They're going for gold.
And so are the other seven forwards without a goal — Jonathan Toews, Corey Perry, Martin St. Louis, Patrice Bergeron, Rick Nash, Patrick Marleau and Matt Duchene — who instead contributed to a brilliant two-way effort in eliminating the United States, 1-0, in the Olympic semifinal Friday at Bolshoy Ice Dome.
Next: Sweden on Sunday.
“I think guys trust that the puck's going to go in and, if it's not, they're going to do the right things away from it,” Crosby said. “You don't change the way you play. There's a right way to play the game.”
It's hard to imagine Canada could have done much more right, other than score. But it just might be that the captain's example of not pouting has set the tone for an entire collection of forwards who could be squeezing their sticks to sawdust right about now.
“Our focus is on one thing, and that's winning,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Would we like more goals? Yes. Do we believe they're going to come if we keep creating chances like this? Absolutely. In the meantime, you keep playing.”
The lone goal in this game came early in the second period from Jamie Benn, his second of the Olympics, on what essentially was a give-and-go with Jay Bouwmeester at the left point, followed by a Benn redirect past Jonathan Quick.
There could have been many others, including by Crosby, who had four shots, and Kunitz, who had two excellent chances, one shot wide, the other thwarted by an exceptional Quick save.
Most important, per Crosby, was that every minute of attacking-zone time – whether resulting in goals or not – contributed to the cause against this particular opponent.
“I think we had really good puck possession,” Crosby said. “We've got some big forwards, and we were able to hold the puck down low for 20 seconds at a time in shifts. That hopefully would take away some of their offensive energy.”
The line Crosby was singling out was Benn-Corey Perry-Ryan Getzlaf, a talented group of tall trees. But the Patrick Marleau-Jonathan Toews-Jeff Carter line also created offense and shut down the Americans' top threat, Phil Kessel.
Crosby's line remains “a work in progress,” as Kunitz described it, but progress was seen. Patrice Bergeron took care of most defensive duties, and Crosby and Kunitz looked more like their Pittsburgh selves in springing quick offense through the neutral zone.
That might help explain why Kunitz seemed more at ease during and after this game than at any point in the Olympics. At one point in the second period, he took advantage of the quiet crowd and screamed “Hey Sid!” to call for a pass.
Having fun yet?
“Yeah, I think so,” Kunitz said, offering a seldom-seen smile. “Things are starting to work out a little better for all of us right now. As long as we stick to taking care of business, we believe good things will happen.”
And the criticism?
“I don't worry about that. The only people whose opinions count for me are in our locker room.”

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