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Team USA's surprising offensive output has been the story of mens hockey in Sochi thus far.
Today's matchup of USA and Canada in the Olympic men's hockey semifinal pits two of the best teams in the world in a game that will send one squad to the gold medal game.
Here's a closer look at what to expect when the two teams face off at noon ET/9a PT on the NBC Sports Network or on nbcolympics.com.
Scoring Depth vs. Grit:
Team Canada has 11 of the top 25 NHL scorers on their roster, but have only scored 14 goals in four games. The significantly less star-studded USA offense has scored 19.
Team USA also has three of the top hitters in the game in Dustin Brown, Brooks Orpik and David Backes, who are all in the top 20 in hits in the NHL.
Nothing slows down speed and finesse like grit and wide shoulders. While Team Canada has a few guys that can hit in Chris Kunitz and Drew Doughty, Team USA has a better balance of two-way players with Ryan Kesler, Backes and New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan.
If Team USA can keep Sydney Crosby and the rest of the hungry Canadian offense away from the front of the net, the game can get feisty, fast.
Powered by Phil Kessel, who leads all Olympians in goals and points, and the heroics of TJ Oshie in the shootout, the gritty and well-balanced Team USA has fared much better than Canada on the scoresheet in Sochi. When the Team USA roster was decided, many pundits had qualms that scorers including the Islanders' Kyle Okposo and the Senators' Bobby Ryan were left off. Offensive production, however, has not been a problem for Team USA.
How They Match Up:
Offensively, Team Canada is stacked, with five of the top ten scorers in the NHL on their roster. While the MCL tear that knocked John Tavares' out of the Olympics may seem like a big hit for Canada, it's not nearly as big a deal as you'd think. The team's fourth line center, Tavares wasn't getting the ice time you'd expect being the NHL's third leading scorer and wasn't a real factor. Tavares' replacement, Matt Duchene, has a similar skill set and can break a game open the same way Tavares could if given ice time.
However, that deep bench hasn't helped Canada in the Olympics. While they have gotten excellent goaltending from Carey Price, the offense hasn't produced (away from a 6-0 drubbing of Austria) the way that many predicted. A sleeping dragon- or one in a coma, Canada's offense will either wake up or allow the rambunctious USA to hit and skate all over them.
Team USA will have to deal with injuries as well. Puck-moving defenseman Paul Martin will not play due to an undisclosed injury/illness, replaced by another smaller, smooth-skating D-man in the Hurricanes' Justin Faulk. A part of Team USA's second D-pairing, look for USA's top D-men, Ryan Suter and Ryan McDonough, to carry more of the load on the blue line.
How quickly each team finds a weakness and capitalizes could be the key to the game,. With Canada's lack of offensive output thus far and Team USA's surprisingly dominant play, anything can happen once the puck is dropped.