Canada fell 5-2 to the U.S. on Sunday in Quebec City in the first of six exhibition matches planned between the rivals over the next two months. After the game, head coach Laura Schuler didn't mince words.
“We played awful. It was just a poor performance all the way from all of our players. We'll address it tonight and make sure we're better. We'll be ready in Boston.”
As Canada seeks to be better in Boston, here's a look at some things that they could change.
Plenty of players turned in sub-par performances, but were they all awful?
The top line of Mélodie Daoust―Marie-Philip Poulin―Jennifer Wakefield generated a number of dangerous opportunities but couldn't capitalize on them. It'd be nice to see that trio together again, but it won't be shocking if they're not. The bottom two lines spent a considerable amount of time in their own zones, and moving Daoust from Poulin's wing to her natural centre might help stabilize an inexperienced bottom-six group that's all in its first centralization cycle.
Brianne Jenner had a strong game as the second-line centre, and Meghan Agosta stood out on the third-line wing. Natalie Spooner was playing on the bottom line, a role she's certainly not used to, but had some good moments. Laura Fortino was solid on defence, but most of the other defenders got caught up-ice more than once and were unable to beat the U.S. forwards back.
Amy Potomak, Laura Stacey, Renata Fast, and Micah Zandee-Hart were scratches in Quebec and could slot into the line-up in Boston. Who they replace is anyone's guess and could depend on whether Schuler and her staff intend to use this game more for individual player evaluation, or especially after Sunday's debacle, to analyze the team as a whole.
“I thought we were bad from the net all the way out. All of us. We weren't good.”
Sunday's loss certainly doesn't fall on Ann-Renée Desbiens, but she didn't exactly prevent it, neither. The question going into Boston is will she get another chance, and if she does, is it by choice?
Shannon Szabados didn't travel and is “not feeling well,” as per Schuler, and Geneviève Lacasse ― who warmed up on Sunday and seemed healthy ― appears to be making a gradual return in the Alberta AAA Midget Hockey League Esso Series after being kept out of play for some time. Alternate Emerance Maschmeyer was the third goaltender in Quebec, and either she or Erica Howe will likely be the emergency back-up on Wednesday. It's possible that Desbiens remains the best option based solely on external factors.
“It was not a good example of how we can play. It was an embarrassment to our country and we need to be better as we go forward.”
“We're going to have to continue to look at how we can be better as we go forward.”
“We've just got to be better going forward.”
Schuler was quick to emphasize that Team Canada needs to be better. Apart from saying they'd “address it tonight” and reciting a list of intangibles though, she was (perhaps understandably) not specific about how they'll do it.
Asked what would change moving towards the Olympics, Schuler had this to say:
“You'll see a different team, for sure. You'll see a different team — a team that will play how they can play with grit, determination, and pride. You did not see that tonight.”
There's a lot of time between now and February, but Wednesday's response could provide a hint as to what this vision of 'being better' means. Stronger execution, certainly, but will Canada look to achieve that with different players, different line combinations, and different systems, or just more 'heart'?