Monday, February 22, 2010

U.S. beats Canada in Olympic play for the first time in 50 years

People who know me know I'm not the biggest hockey fan in the world. But if every NHL game was as scintillating as last night's USA-Canada matchup, maybe I would start watching a little bit more.

Like most who tuned in last night, I expected a Canadian victory. Of course I was pulling for the Americans out of nationalistic pride but even I could see, as a casual hockey observer, that Canada was stacked. With premier NHL players like Sidney Crosby, Jarome Iginla, Rick Nash, Martin Brodeur, Joe Thornton, Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger among others, the Canadians entered the tournament as heavy favorites, particularly playing at home in Vancouver.

But the most important name in last night's game was an American: goaltender Ryan Miller. The Americans were outshot 45-22, but Miller turned in an awesome performance with 42 saves, while counterpart Brodeur stopped just 18 of the 23 shots he faced and seemed uncomfortable in net at times as the Americans won 5-3.

Many people have been comparing this victory to the 1980 Miracle on Ice, when the Americans beat the heavily favored Soviets. But that was a medal-round victory that propelled the U.S. to the gold-medal game, while this matchup was just a qualifier. Regardless, it was an awesome and gutsy effort by a scrappy American team, and one that had myself and thousands if not millions of other Americans going crazy in their living rooms.

The U.S. is now the top-ranked team in the tournament, a huge advantage that most thought would be afforded to the Canadians. The most important position on an NHL team come playoff time is the goalie, and that position is only magnified in the one-and-done setup of Olympic play.

That is one position where the Americans have no issues. Miller is one of the better goalies in the NHL and if he can maintain the level of play he showed against Canada, this American team has an outside shot at a gold medal. Then, and only then, can we start talking about miracles.

1 comment:

  1. I thought the 1st and 3rd goals the U.S. scored were Sidney Crosby's fault, and that was the difference in the game.

    The 1st goal deflected off his stick. It was a very poor attempt to block a shot. He chose to use his stick instead of his body. From the replay it was obvious that Brodeur would have had if it wasn't deflected.

    On the 3rd goal, instead of playing the puck Crosby goes to take out the American in front of the net. In the process he also takes out another Canadian defender leaving the net wide open for Chris Drury.

    p.s. - It was the Soviets in 1980 not the Russians.