You’ve seen these dramatics before. Everyone saw five days ago what can happen when the United States and Canada face off. This time it just happens to be for everything; the Gold Medal. Two weeks of hard work smashed in between a grueling NHL schedule has come down to this one game for 46 hopeful NHLers.
In fact, the United States and Canada were the only two teams to draw their talent completely from the NHL ranks. Is it any wonder why they’re here?
They have met before. Everyone knows the result by now. Canada was one shot away from doubling the United States in shots. That’s not including the massive amounts of blocked shots by the likes of Drury, Callahan, Brown, Suter, Rafalski, E. Johnson, J. Johnson…the list goes on.
USA played tough along the boards, got bodies in front of the net, and capitalized off of opportunities while their teams did their best to clog up passing lanes, pressure the puck, and keep Canada’s offense to the outside.
Even with a great defensive effort, it took Ryan Miller standing on his head to get the US a 5-3 victory.
After their loss to the States, Canada came out in the first round of the playoffs (while the US had a bye) and pummeled Germany. Then they slaughtered the powerhouse, Russia. Tonight, they squeaked by a Slovakian team despite handily outplaying them.
With the first win, it seems all the US managed to do was earn a bye and awaken a slumbering giant.
Even so, it’s not like Team USA has been doing nothing since their victory. Though they squeezed by a Swiss team that was giving all the competitors fits, they just crushed a tough Finnish team to earn a trip to the Gold Medal Game by scoring six goals in the first period.
Anaheim Ducks: Bobby Ryan, Ray Whitney (USA) vs. Scott Neidermayer, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry (CAN)
Carolina Hurricanes: Tim Gleason (USA) vs. Eric Staal (CAN)
Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Kane (USA) vs. Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook (CAN)
Nashville Predators: Ryan Suter (USA) vs. Shea Weber (CAN)
Pittsburgh Penguins: Brooks Orpik (USA) vs. Sidney Crosby (CAN)
San Jose Sharks: Joe Pavelski (USA) vs. Dan Boyle, Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton (CAN)
Vancouver Canuks: Ryan Kesler (USA) vs. Roberto Luongo (CAN)
- Average Age -- 26.57
- 12 first round selections
- Record -- 5-0-0
- Goal Differential -- +16
- GFG/GAG -- 4.40/1.20
- 0 Gold Medal Players
- 2 Gold Medals (1960, 1980)
- Average Age -- 27.48
- 19 first round selections
- Record -- 5-1-0
- Goal Differential -- +18
- GFG/GAG -- 5.33/2.33
- 4 Gold Medal Players (Pronger, Iginla, Niedermayer, Brodeur)
- 7 Gold Medals (1920, 1924, 1928, 1932, 1948, 1952, 2002)
Team of Destiny?
Canada has organized the best roster they have ever sent to the Olympic games with plenty of All-Stars, Stanley Cup Champions, and 1st Round Selections. Even so, their gold medal in 2002 was the “State of Hockey’s” only winning campaign in over 55 years. Even on home ice in 1988, Canada failed to even medal as the Soviet Union, Finland, and Sweden respectively stood on the podium. Now the games have come back to Canada in 2010. Even the great one, Wayne Gretzky himself, has never medaled at the Olympics. Mario Lemieux did in 2002, but there is enormous weight on the shoulders of a team made up of many players who won five straight World Junior Championship golds since 2005 before the United States upset them to win gold this year.
The United States has it’s own legacy to uphold. They are the only team to ever win a Gold medal in Ice Hockey when hosting the Olympics. They’ve done it twice in their last two hosting years but only managed silver their first time. This, the 30th Anniversary of the Miracle on Ice, has the United States once again competing against the center of the hockey world even though this time it’s for the gold medal. This also happens to be the golden year for USA Hockey in general. Never before has hockey in the United States been more powerful. Despite often being left on the backburner as far as nationally televised games are concerned when compared to other leagues, the NHL has amassed one of the largest regional followings with a mostly “underground” fanbase. Fans sick of ESPN’s monopoly of the “MTV version” of sports-journalism have become hockey fans despite ESPN’s embargo on most things hockey. Hockey revolutions for franchises such as Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Washington have only helped add to the state of hockey in the United States.
This year, only a few months ago, Team USA pulled off the greatest upset in World Junior Championships history to win gold against Canada on Canadian soil.
Don’t believe me? Here’s my proof as NJ-native John Carlson silences all of Canada:
So which team is this “Team of Destiny?”
No one will know until the end of the game this Sunday. By the way all of Canada chanted “We want USA!” at the end of the Slovakia semi-final, they must think they are. On USA soil, the opinions are very different.
We know how the first game went. It took a spectacular effort by goaltender Ryan Miller, the best goalie in the NHL, as well as a heart and soul performance filled with blocked shots, second efforts, and hard forechecking, just to upset the best team in the World. It will take that again if not more to beat an awakened Team Canada.
NBC, who holds all the broadcasting rights for the Olympic Games in the United States, made the mistake of putting their first divisional game on MSNBC instead of its main network. Even so, the first USA vs. Canada match-up for these Olympics nearly set a record for the most watched television program in MSNBC history, only 0.1 points behind the Obama Election Night Coverage. It was one of the most watched hockey games in hockey history across the world and didn’t even have the full backing of the nation who played the biggest role in an absolutely legendary game.
But obviously Ice Dancing was NBC’s “sport of choice” that evening…
This time the game is on NBC. It’s for the Gold Medal, something far more allusive to some of the greatest to ever play than the Stanley Cup. Either way, everyone goes home and right back to the NHL. One group will go home winners, and the others will be forgotten. That’s how it is. One game.
The other game, as impressive and legendary as it was, doesn’t matter anymore.
SATURDAY FEBRUARY 27TH
10:00PM EST – FINLAND (4) vs. SLOVAKIA (7) (MSNBC)
SUNDAY FEBRUARY 28TH
03:15PM EST – USA (1) vs. CANADA (6) (NBC)