While the United States continues to dominate the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, everyone paused yesterday so the host nation could play a little hockey against its neighbor to the south. It was lovely of the Canadians to allow the Americans on the ice and show us how to play the game they invented, obsess over and field the most talent in.
I wonder how it feels to wake up in Canada this morning? Now, I don’t want anyone to possibly think I’m rubbing it in (since I would never do anything like that) but the United States beat the heavily favored Canadians 5-3 in what was a phenomenal hockey game. It was the first time the United States has beaten Canada in Olympic competition since 1960.
The US won because of sheer grit, determination, heart and hustle. It was beautiful. Oh yeah, and we’ve got the best goalie on the planet wearing red, white and blue.
Buffalo Sabres’ goaltender Ryan Miller is a freaking stud. There’s no other word for the guy. Quite possibly the best collection of forwards in the history of the sport peppered Miller relentlessly for 60 minutes and he made incredible save after incredible save. He faced 45 shots and saved 42 of them. Of the three goals he allowed, one was a brilliant deflection by Eric Staal and one was a power play goal by Sidney Crosby following a bit of a scrum in front of the net. Other than that, Miller was nails and that set the tone for the rest of the night.
Brian Rafalski continued his fantastic Olympics by dropping in two more goals, Dustin Brown, Ryan Kesler and Ryan Malone flew around the ice with reckless abandon, the venerable Chris Drury came up with a timely goal and Ryan Suter clocked two assists while performing solidly from the blue line. Throw in Patrick Kane and Zach Parise causing trouble all over the ice and young defenders Erik and Jack Johnson manning the blue line and this young, energetic American team is a joy to watch.
The Team USA was almost perfect Sunday night. The Canadians? They weren’t bad, the Americans were just better. They seemed to want it more. The United States played fearlessly, while the Canadians played almost as if they were afraid to screw up and disappoint the home country fans.
Though most experts expected the Canadians to cruise to a gold medal in this competition – while a possible challenge from the Russians – the Americans weren’t supposed to contend for a medal. At the end of the opening round the United States sits at 3-0, with a 14-5 goal differential. Simply stated, the Americans have been the best team in the tournament thus far and now they have earned a bye into the quarterfinals.
Here’s the lesson from Sunday night’s game: The United States sees Canada as its archrival in hockey, Canada might not agree. The “syrup suckers” (thank you Stephen Colbert) are focused on the Russians down the road and the potential of a Crosby-Ovechkin matchup with a gold medal on the line.
The Americans were focused and that’s why they won.
They also played better, smarter and harder.
On Canadian soil.
And Ryan Miller is better than Martin Brodeur.
So yeah, Go America! Suck it Canada!