Joe Hanretty, Contributing Writer
If there is one thing American citizens can come together over, it’s the fact that our great nation will showcase its various talents in the Olympic Games on our behalf; it’s the fact that we can forget our differences and root for our nation as one.
We have all heard of hockey, the greatest sport on ice. During these Olympic Games, the U.S. team entered the tournament as the favorite for its respective group (Group B). Its only problem was its matches against Slovakia and the host nation Russia (memories of “Miracle” should fill your mind).
Slovakia sports one of the best first lines in the tournament: Marian Hossa, Marcel Hossa, and Michael Handzus. It also has the best defenseman in the game besides Duncan Keith: Zdeno Chara. But on Thursday, none of that mattered to the Americans. The first period resulted in a lone goal by John Carlson, as he was assisted at the top of the right circle by Patrick Kane, ripping it top shelf. The Slovaks answered by getting away with an offside pass that resulted in a goal by Tomas Tatar. The Americans responded quickly, and in the second period, they increased their lead, rendering the game an inevitable win. Jonathan Quick displayed his pre-injury form, setting aside 22 shots on goal. “Confidence” is an understatement of what the American team must have been feeling.
However, Russia has a much deeper team than that of the Slovaks. Russia, led by three of the best players in the NHL (Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Pavel Datsuk), gave the U.S. a much tougher test of its prowess.
The first period proved to be a stress-builder as opportunities came, but no scores were recorded. The second and third periods, on the other hand, gave the Americans plenty of heart-stopping and heart-warming moments, only to end in a tie.
Datsuk started the scoring by sneaking past John Carlson and banging the puck off the far post. Defenseman Cam Fowler answered with a power play goal after it ricocheted off Bobrovsky’s pad.
Joe Pavelski gave the American team the lead on a sweet saucer pass from the opposite board by Kane. The Russians then received a power play of their own and once again, Datsuk delivered by snapping one under the pads of Quick. Russia would then have scored the go-ahead goal off the stick of Fedor Tyutin, had not the goal been pushed off the moorings. By Olympic rules, if the goal is not completely in place, goals are discounted. The game reached overtime but yielded no goals. The shootout heard ‘round the world finished with Minnesota native T.J. Oshie scoring four goals to give the U.S. a 2-0 record in the Group B round. The team headed into Sunday to play Slovenia, winning both that game (5-1) and the Group, and earning a bye in the quarterfinals.
The rest of the pool poses some threats worth mentioning. Canada, Russia and Sweden are the biggest obstacles standing between the Americans and Olympic gold. Canada is the reigning winner, looking to repeat. Sweden has a deep roster and a spectacular goalie in Henrik Lundquist. Russia, although it already lost to the U.S., has a power play worth watching, as Ovechkin displays the hardest and most accurate one-timer shot. Also not to be overlooked is Finland, which played very well in the three games it finished, but which came up just short against the talented Canadians. Hopefully the Americans will stay with Quick at goalie, and keep the lines rolling as they have. The best-looking line seems to be Oshie, Statsny and Pacioretty. Kane and Pavelski seem to be working well. Finally, the physicality of the defensemen has been helpful and needs to continue if they hope to capture the gold medal. This is a very obtainable “goal” — the only problem? Everyone else wants it.