SOCHI – Slow and messy starts seem to be par for the course for the Canadian men's Olympic hockey team.
Even though, the 2014 edition enjoyed three days of practice and four skates, in total, before the opener, Sidney Crosby and Co. were not sharp in their 3-1 win against Norway at the Bolshoy Ice Palace on Thursday.
There was little authority from Canada. There were some nerves.
But slow starts have been the case in the past three Winter Games, when Canada usually had only a day or two of on-ice sessions before the game-action began.
Norway deserves credit for its determined game and defensive zone coverage. But even though the Canadians outshot their opponents 38-20, their power play (0-for-2) was abysmal and their scoring touch around Norwegian goalie Lars Haugen was missing in action.
Canadian head coach Mike Babcock revealed afterwards that his club mustered only 24 scoring chances.
Canada pulled out the victory because the fourth line of Jamie Benn, John Tavares and Patrice Bergeron came to play, despite limited ice time, and the defence played an active and effective game offensively.
At best-on-best tournaments like the Olympics, Canadian players remark time and time again that they want to get better as the tournament goes on. Sometimes they overcome slow starts, like in 2002 and 2010. Sometimes they don't, like in 2006. But a common theme has been a slow start in the preliminary rounds.
L 5-2 Sweden
W 3-2 Germany
T 3-3 Czech Republic
W 7-2 Italy
W 5-1 Germany
L 2-0 Switzerland
W 8-0 Norway
W 3-2 Switzerland (shootout)
L 5-3 United States
Canadian Olympic teams struggle to come together quickly. It doesn't matter if it's the bigger international-sized ice surface or the smaller NHL rink. One of the reasons is because they are asked to take on different roles and reduced ice time. Not every one can make the adjustment seamlessly.