Team Canada has best defense in the tournament which leaves little room for the outside seventh man that is allowed in the lineup under IIHF rules. Subban sat out the game against Finland on Sunday in favour of Vancouver’s Dan Hamhuis, but with Mike Babcock rolling his three pairs, we barely hide nor hair of him. He played only seven shifts and was limited to just three shifts through the second third and overtime periods. Whether it’s Hamhuis or Subban, it’s going to be that way the rest of the tournament.
Babcock couldn’t have been any clearer at his Monday news conference. “I’ll be honest with you, Hamhuis and P.K. haven’t got much of a chance. I mean the pairs are good. There hasn’t been any changing of players there just because they’ve been real solid.’’ An injury might change things, but that seems to be the only possibility.
It was my belief from the outset that, by the way Babcock scheduled his goaltending, he had set his sights on Carey Price as his go-to guy. He started Price in game one, Luongo against the Austrians and came back to Price against Finland, the only potential pressure game of the preliminary round. Neither Price nor Luongo was really tested, although Price made that spectacular overtime save on Sami Salo just before Canada won the overtime game against the Finns. Babcock is playing it close to the vest, but my bet is, it will be Price back in the nets against either Switzerland or Latvia on Wednesday.
There’s a decision pending on Max Pacioretty as well. Pacioretty was left out of the US lineup Sunday against Slovenia without comment but there’s a suspicion Pacioretty may be suffering from the hangover of the back injury he suffered when he was checked into the goal post during the Canadiens’ win over Carolina in the final game before the Olympic break. X-rays showed no structural damage but Pacioretty was experiencing back spasms and had a bad back bruise at the time. Whether he’s still bothered by the problem or he’s simply caught in the Team USA numbers game is unknown. He was replaced by Derek Stepan in the game against Slovenia.
In the qualifying round games Tuesday, captain Tomas Plekanec and his teammates will try to overcome the extreme mismanagement of the Czech team when they play Slovakia. Goaltending has been a problem for the Slovaks but Peter Budaj has yet to play in the tournament. So far they’ve used Jaroslav Halak and third stringer Jan Laco.
Russia will play Norway with Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin in their lineup again.