Four Nations Cup Preview: Canada
Oh, Canada...they're a favorite again this year.
Canada’s had an eventful centralization, to say the least. After a rough 5-2 loss to Team USA in Quebec City, the Canadians came back and dominated in the second game against their rivals in Boston, winning 5-1.
But the team still has cuts to make and a goaltending situation to resolve, and this first look at the team over an extended period of international play may give us some clues as to who can stay and who could go.
If you haven’t already, go and read Kirsten Whelan’s article about Canada’s goaltending situation, because wow is it complicated.
The tl;dr version is that Shannon Szabados, Canada's presumed starter, has been out for weeks now with no real update on her status beyond "not feeling well." Though social media shows that she is indeed in Florida, it seems highly unlikely that she'll suit up for a game.
There's still plenty of time for the Olympics, so Canada fans shouldn't worry about that (yet). But this does make the fight between Genevieve Lacasse and Ann-Renee Desbiens for the second goaltender spot interesting...especially because fill-ins Emerance Maschmeyer and Erica Howe have been called in in Szabados' absence. How the crease situation shakes out at Four Nations remains to be seen.
Waiting on cuts
Team USA recently got shaken up when it announced it was adding Cayla Barnes to its roster, bumping the number up to 24. Canada centralized 28 players from the beginning, and it needs to get that number down to 23 before the Olympics roll around.
Canada's had plenty of games for coaches to start evaluating players, including a couple now against the United States. Four Nations will be its first (and only) extended tournament against other international rivals that they'll face in the Olympics, which will be a true test for those fighting for spots.
On the rebound
Canada's defense has looked shaky at times, and it showed in a 5-2 loss to the US in Quebec City.
That said, the team came out and looked much better against the US in Boston three days later, taking advantage of USA's mistakes and playing a physical style that left the US unable to respond.
If it can carry that momentum into Four Nations, this could be a Canada team that's tough to beat.
We're going to give Canada this one - it's about time they won a tournament, and though they have some things to shake out (and we expect it's going to be a very close tournament), our prediction is that Canada is going to skate away with a gold medal.