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A Second Bite at the Apple

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Frenemies battle round 2 today; should be at least as much fun. How did the last meeting come out? I’m having trouble remembering…

There are two bad ways of handicapping today’s game. One would be to look at raw goal totals and Canada only beating Latvia 2-1 and conclude that the Americans are in much better shape. This would be really silly, unless you think that Canada can be expected to keep shooting way under 10% because of their deficient offensive ability. On the other hand, one can look at the kind of stats you’d use to evaluate the quality of NHL teams and conclude that Canada has been by far the best team in the tournament so far. But this also would be highly misleading because this isn’t the same context as the NHL, where possession stats are better predictors of team quality than actual goals because given the relatively narrow talent differences shot quality generally evens out over the course of a season. In the Olympics, that doesn’t hold — Canada got 57 shots against Latvia in part because Nolan executed a shrewd David strategy in which he repeatedly collapsed 5 players around the net to prevent premium chances. Canada outplayed Latvia by a much greater margin than the final score suggests, but those 57 shots aren’t anything like 57 shots in an NHL game, because NHL teams are generally not going to essentially give up on the idea of trying to drive play. In addition, the Tavares injury also means that Canada is fielding a somewhat weaker team than they were earlier in the tournament.

Basically, these teams are pretty even; Canada might deserve to be slight favorites, but I think if these teams could play 100 times neither team would win more than 55. Both teams made obvious roster construction errors — the Americans leaving off Ryan, Canada taking players (Bouwmeester and especially Kunitz) because of their teammates. I do know that if it’s 75% as good as the women’s game it will be a treat, and odds are it will be at least as good.

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