-- TORONTO -- Canada's Sidney Crosby separated Czech Republic defenseman Michal Kempny from the puck just inside the blue line, linemate Brad Marchand retrieved it, and Patrice Bergeron finished it off, all in a blink of an eye.
It was the kind of goal you get on NHL ice and rarely would have seen two and a half years ago at the Sochi Olympics on the larger international ice.
"Everything happens faster," Team Canada forward Matt Duchene said Sunday. "You look at Bergeron's goal ... it's bang-bang-bang and it's in the net. On big ice, that wouldn't have happened. Marchy wouldn't have been close enough to get that puck with that much time. It just wouldn't have happened that way. You probably would not have seen a goal there. That's prime example No. 1, everything happens faster and you have less time to think. So, the margin for error is higher."
There will likely be no better example of the impact of the ice size than Team Canada in this World Cup of Hockey, the intention pretty clear from Saturday's 6-0 win over the Czech Republic -- a more aggressive forecheck than we ever saw in Sochi.
There, Canada came up with a keep-away concept that valued a low-risk, defense-first approach with players staying tight in the right lanes and not chasing.
Team Canada perfected it in Sochi en route to a 6-0 run and another gold medal while scoring only 17 goals in those six games, including just four in the final two games. Of course, Canada also gave up just three goals in Sochi, with back-to-back shutouts to wrap it up in the semifinals and gold-medal game.
Now, Canada's star-studded team is back to playing NHL-style hockey, which means a more exciting product.
"I think the biggest difference for me right off the hop and kind of knowing coming into this tournament is just the difference in the style of game on the ice sheet in Sochi compared to the NHL sheet here in Toronto," said Team Canada forward Jonathan Toews. "You're going to see way more offense right away. It's almost a very neutral game when you're in Europe when you're on that big Olympic-size sheet. It's tough to create offense, it's tough to shoot from the right areas. It's just a whole different animal."
On the smaller NHL ice on Saturday night, Canada smothered the Czechs in their breakout attempts, forced turnovers and created puck-possession changes and, of course, ultimately scoring chances.
"It's a completely different game playing on the big ice than it is the smaller ice," said Team Canada defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. "One, I think we're all used to this ice, which makes it a lot better. When you have the size and the speed that we have [among the forwards], put that with the skill and smarts -- these guys know where they're supposed to be at all times. They're some of the most dominant forwards in the league in terms of occupying the offensive zone. It's part of the reason it looked like [the Czechs] were having such a hard time getting the puck out."
Former Hockey Canada coach Mike Pelino has been an assistant coach for Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL for the past four years, winning a league championship twice. He's well-versed on both sides of the ocean and believes the approach here in the World Cup is the right one so far for Team Canada.
"I agree in that you can afford to have your players be more aggressive on the smaller ice surface," Pelino wrote via email Sunday. "The pluses outweigh the minuses. By being aggressive, you force your opponent to work in less time and space ... you have a better opportunity to outnumber your opponent defensively. If you are aggressive and your opponent is able to beat you, one of your teammates is more likely to be close enough that he can help cover for you, and even if your opponent does beat you, he still has less time and space to try and make a play. Basically, if you get beat by your opponent on the Olympic-size surface, he has much more time and space to create a manpower advantage, as you are further out of the play."
The most noticeable difference Saturday night was how Canada's defense corps stood up at the blue line and shrunk the Czech's area to navigate out of their zone. That's something you just can't do on the bigger ice surface.
"Yeah, you can't [on larger ice] because you don't want to go out there. All the dangerous stuff is in the middle," said Team Canada defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who has played a ton of international hockey. "Whereas here, yes, you can. We're trying to play more aggressive that way and trying to have defensemen stay up and have a good gap with forwards coming back real strong. The combination doesn't give teams much room."
Translation? Team Canada should be a lot more explosive offensively in this tournament. A scary thought indeed.