Sunday, February 21, 2010

USA Upsets, Russia Wins On Super Sunday

If you are taking in all the action at the Olympics, you will know that heavy favorites for gold are Canada and Russia. Canada on their home ice, Russia still basking in the winning glow at the World Championships. Both seem hard to beat. But no one expected that USA would come in and tilt the ice their way. But the Americans did just that with an upset win against heavy favorite Canada.

I always use the saying that a coach once told me when I was playing hockey. "Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn't work hard." That saying does apply to the boys from US. They simply outworked their neighbors to the north, on their soil. Here are some thoughts from that game and the other two games today.

Russia 4, Czech Republic 2
  • Russia badly needed this win after dropping to Slovakia a couple of nights before. They made up for it by defeating the Czech Republic and doing it in dominating fashion.
  • Alex Ovechkin didn't score a goal, but his presence was felt all game long. Whether it was a big hit, or a couple of helpers, he played a monster game. He laid out Jaromir Jagr as the forward cut up the ice with his head down. That set up the clinching goal on the transition. Ovi has had 2g, 2a through 3 games in the preliminary round.
  • Jagr was a non factor in this game. Not only did he get his bell rung by Ovechkin, he just couldn't get any kind of flow going. The rest of the team followed suit.
  • Russia wins their group and gets a first round bye.
USA 5, Canada 3
  • Riding a hot goaltender, and I mean smoking hot, Team USA got the upset of the tournament so far. Ryan Miller turned away 42 shots to help the cause.
  • Miller played out of his mind. He let in a softie or two, but besides that, he bent but never broke against the Canadian onslaught. He made some spectacular saves, including one that was Varlamov-esque on Rick Nash. Nash had an open net after a fantastic pass from Sidney Crosby. Miller was badly out of position but reached back with his stick and somehow kept the puck from going into a wide open net.
  • Ryan Kesler made good on his promise. He played a spectacular two way game, blocking shots and was dynamite on the backcheck. He also beat out Corey Perry in the waning moments in the game to get the puck into the empty net. If they gave out stars of the game, I am certain Kesler would have gotten second star, if not the first.
  • Brian Rafalski had another giant game for the US. Scoring two goals in this tilt, he helped USA dictate the goal pace for the game. Just when you though his career took a turn toward retirement, he comes up clutch in a big game.
  • There were other players that were considered just role players that made a difference playing in this tournament. Chris Drury was one of them. He scored a momentum changing goal for USA. Before the tournament started, the coaches told him not to expect a lot of ice time. Drury's play has earned him the right to be a regular on the checking line.
  • Canada just can't seem to get their bench revved up, unless they score. Miller's performance in net deflated Canada's high powered offense. Ryan Getzlaf seems so close to being a threat in each game he has played, but he hasn't really made a difference when it counts most.
  • USA won their group, earn a first round bye.
Sweden, Finland
  • Will update this after I take in the game tonight.

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