Written By: Mike Ulatoski
#1 SEED United States (5-0-0-0, 22 goals for, 6 goals against) vs. #6 SEED Canada (4-0-1-1, 32 goals for, 14 goals against), 3:15 ET, NBC
What to Watch For:
Most of the NHL’s best players going at it with reckless abandon for 60 minutes, with the home side defending the honor of “their sport” and the visiting neighbor continuing its quest for hockey respect.
If you tune in late, you’ll probably miss a few thunderous bodychecks. If you blink you might miss a perfect breakout pass that leads to a breakaway. If you look away, you might miss a perfect, top shelf wrist shot. Don’t count on anything other than minute after minute of rivalry-fueled hockey. Nobody puts more on the line than NHL players, and we’ll be able to see that today.
Canada – This has hardly been the march to gold that many expected before the tournament began. Canada stunningly was extended to a shootout against Switzerland, which Sidney Crosby and Brodeur pulled out, and lost to Team USA in group play. And after obliterating overmatched Germany in the quarterfinals and blasting Russia, Canada survived a major scare when Slovakia came within a desperate Luongo save with 8 seconds left of erasing a 3-0 deficit in Friday’s semifinal. Through six games, the Canadians have played stretches of awe-inspiring hockey that prompted Slovak star Marian Hossa to compare them with the legendary Soviet teams of the ’70s and ’80s. But, Canada also has had some inexplicable hiccups. These have prompted head coach Mike Babcock to shake up his lineup, almost every game, and change starting goaltenders.
United States – Center Ryan Kesler said last August that Team USA would beat Canada in the Olympics, and that they would win a medal. Patrick Kane said, “We’re not coming here just to win bronze or silver.” Nobody outside of the American’s locker room believed any of this was possible.
The Americans have been more consistent and focused than any team in the tournament, and they have never trailed in any game so far. They hammered the opponent (Norway) they were supposed to crush. They patiently outlasted a dangerous Switzerland team, twice, and did what was necessary to upset Canada. Then, amazingly, Team USA destroyed Finland with a six-goal first period in the semifinals.
Ryan Miller has been spectacular in net, the no-doubt MVP of the tournament, and will need to be one more time. The best goaltender in the NHL this season, the Buffalo Sabres’ netminder leads these Games in both goals against average (1.04) and save percentage (.954). And he hasn’t allowed a goal in his last 111:38 of play – since Sidney Crosby beat him late in the third period of their pool play finale.
When Patrick Kane erupted for two goals against Finland, it meant that every American was doing the job for which Burke had selected him.
Still, even if it is the No. 1 seed as a result of pool play and gets to wear its blue sweaters, Team USA remains the underdog going into this game. There’s still the question of whether this group of young, brash Americans have enough jam to win on the biggest stage most of them have ever played on, in front of the most intense atmosphere most of them have never quite experienced.
Total NHL Players – All 46 are on NHL rosters. This is an NHL All-Star Game, played at the intensity level of a seventh game of the Stanley Cup Finals.
It’s not 1980 in Lake Placid. The U.S. is not facing Russia, the greatest team to ever play hockey, in the midst of the Cold War. It’s 2010. It’s Vancouver, and Team USA is facing Canadians on home ice. Again. And while nothing will ever compare to the Miracle, a U.S. win today would be miraculous.
Miracles can happen.
USA 4, Canada 3
Shot Calling – goal for Zach Parise