It’s amazing the difference four years will make.
After boasting a team in the ’06 Olympics with a first line of Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez, and Bill Guerin, this year’s USA version is just a bit more talented. The Americans finished the preliminary round with a resounding 5-3 victory over host Canada and finished the opening round a perfect 3-0.
The final game of Group A featured an insane amount of skill. The speed of the game was simply breathtaking. Guys were flying around the ice making important decisions in less than a split-second. Really, it’s incredibly difficult for me to even describe how fast and how high of a level the game was being played at.
The best way I can think to describe it is this: You know when you’re watching a game on television and it’s always slower than when you’re watching it in person. Well, this game was played at a speed you’d see live at the arena except we all watched it on TV. I can’t even imagine what this game looked like to the 20,000 in the Canada Hockey Place.
Either way, the win was a tremendously tremendous (H/T to Edzo) boost for USA Hockey. While it won’t guarantee them any medals and it was strictly a vanity win, the talent gap between Canada and the US isn’t as wide as many believed. Combine this win with the US striking gold in the World Junior Championships and it’s been a wildly successful year for the USA Hockey organization.
Other thoughts bouncing around my skull on this lovely evening:
–Mike Babcock is going to be incredibly hard-pressed to give Roberto Luongo the starting nod in Canada’s first playoff game against Germany. Martin Brodeur cost Canada two goals by playing outside of himself. The first time, he took a wild baseball swing at the puck. He made contact, but the puck went right to Brian Rafalski and he put the Americans right back on top with his second goal of the game. The second time, Brodeur was trying to clear a loose puck as though he was the third defenseman on the ice. Chris Drury was more than happy to deposit the puck into the vacated net.
–I’m sorry, Chris Drury. I take back any negative word I said about your addition to this team. You haven’t played at a level like this since you were dominating 11-year old Taiwanese kids. Drury put the Americans on top for good at end of the 2nd period with his second goal of the tournament. He also blocked roughly 131 shots.
–After going 3-0 through the opening round, I don’t think Brian Burke and Ron Wilson can play the ‘underdog’ card anymore. If the Americans don’t at least get themselves into a medal round game, it will be a colossal disappointment.
–Depending on the outcome of the Finland-Sweden game, the USA has a chance to avoid Canada and Russia until the Gold Medal game. That would be an incredibly fortuitous development. Especially if you’ve watched Alex Ovechkin play for 5 seconds in this Olympics. Ovechkin is playing as though his family’s freedom depends on him winning the gold.
In Sunday’s game, he single-handedly turned the tables on the Czechs when he sent Jaromir Jagr back to 1987 with a huge open-ice check. On the ensuing rush, the Russians scored and the game was essentially over at that moment.
–On the other hand, Ilya Kovalchuk looks like he’s never seen a hockey puck before.
–All the Blackhawks played well in Sunday night’s affair. Jonathan Toews had two assists for Canada. Brent Seabrook also had one and so did Duncan Keith. Seabrook saw very limited action after the first period. If he had more than three shifts after the opening frame, I would be surprised. Keith, on the other hand, saw a lot of action especially in the last ten minutes of the game.
Patrick Kane didn’t show up on the scoresheet but it wasn’t due to lack of chances. Kane set up several teammates with some sweet passes but had nothing to show for it. He also was denied by Brodeur on a couple of golden opportunities. Kane and Dustin Brown really seemed to work well together.
–If Rick Nash played every game like he did on Sunday, he would be a monster. Nash was seemingly everywhere and when he wasn’t omnipresent, he was peeling himself off of Ryan Miller.
*On the Farm*
Friday: Rockford 6, San Antonio Rampage 5– The IceHogs jumped out to a quick 4-1 lead and then proceeded to hang on for dear life the rest of the way in. Matt Keith scored twice in the opening frame while defensemen Richard Petiot and Mike Brennan chipped in with goals of their own.
After San Antonio responded with two goals in the second, Kyle Greentree scored his 22nd goal of the season with just over a minute left in the period to give the IceHogs a two-goal cushion. Kyle Turris cut Rockford’s lead to one early in the third but Matt Keith completed the hat trick by scoring his third goal of the game late in the third to ice the game away.
The Rampage scored with under a minute left to threaten, but it was as close as they would get. Other IceHogs with big nights were Peter MacArthur with three assists and Jack Skille had two assists.
Corey Crawford stopped 29 of the 34 shots he faced.
Saturday: Rockford 3, San Antonio 2– The IceHogs completed the weekend sweep over the Rampage with a come -from-behind victory. Trailing 2-1 heading into the third period, Jack Skille scored on the power play to tie the score. Then four minutes later, Matt Keith scored his fourth goal of the weekend to give the IceHogs the game-winner.
Skille also scored the first goal for Rockford. Evan Brophey and Peter MacArthur each had two assists. Joseph Fallon got win with 29 saves.
Sunday: Milwaukee Admirals 4, Rockford 1– The IceHogs couldn’t complete the weekend sweep on Sunday afternoon. Traveling up to Milwaukee, the IceHogs found themselves trailing 3-0 halfway through. Only Akim Aliu would find the back of the net with his 11th goal of the season. It wasn’t nearly enough. Corey Crawford stopped 25 of 29 shots.
—Shawn Lalonde had two assists on Friday night in Belleville’s 9-4 win. Saturday, the Bulls were shutout 6-0.
—Kyle Beach had a goal and no penalty minutes in two games this weekend.
—Byron Froese scored a goal and had three assists as the Everett Silvertips swept their weekend set of games.
—Dylan Olsen played in only one game this weekend as UMD was swept by North Dakota by a combined score of 10-3. Dan DeLisle did not dress for either game.
—Brandon Pirri scored a goal on Friday night in RPI’s 5-3 win over Quinnipiac. RPI was shutout 7-0 by Princeton on Saturday.
—Nick Leddy scored a goal and chipped in with two assists during Saturday’s 7-4 win over Colorado College. Billy Sweatt assisted on Colorado College’s second goal of the game. Neither player found the scoresheet in Minnesota’s 3-0 win on Friday.