Team USA Takes a Step in the Right Direction with Win over Swiss

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by Peter Chrisitan

Heading into the 2010 Olympics the USA Hockey had a very public list of relatively attainable goals:

  • Don’t get embarrassed
  • Establish the United States as a premier hockey country
  • Compete for a medal

One game wasn’t enough for Team USA to check off any of those goals but they put the right foot forward with an opening game win against Switzerland in the preliminary round. The 3-1 victory gave the U.S. Team time to build chemistry while showing off their fast pace and plan to physically punish their opponents.

With only one practice under their belt before the game versus Switzerland, it was a lingering concern as to whether the team would have any cohesiveness out on the ice. With the exception of the first few shifts, that concern was easily put to rest. New Jersey native and Anaheim Ducks forward, Bobby Ryan allowed the team, coach Ron Wilson and Team USA General Manager Brian Burke to take a collective sigh of relief as he scored the first goal of the Olympics late in the first period on his Anaheim teammate Jonas (that’s a soft J for all you newbies) Hiller. Ryan’s goal was a big confidence booster for the Americans and it also allowed them to calm down, settle into their game plan and avoid getting caught up in the pressure of possibly getting upset by the Swiss team. That much was evidenced by the American’s play in the 2nd period.

In the 2nd, Ryan Miller showed off some prowess between the pipes shutting down a couple of prime scoring chances for the Swiss and a couple under-the-radar players were able to score goals to give the U.S. some breathing room in the 3rd. Minnesota native and St. Louis Blues forward David Backes scored by putting a nice move on Hiller after carrying the puck the entire length of the ice and just a couple minutes later, on the power play, Pittsburgh native and Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ryan Malone tapped a rebound of a Ryan Suter shot past Hiller for a 3-0 lead.

In the 3rd, Miller did allow one power play goal but it wasn’t as if the Swiss made a huge charge to get back into the game. Instead it appeared to be more a result of the early game adrenaline wearing off as the game wore down.

Team USA, surprisingly, won without the aid of any production out of their top two lines which was thought to be crucial for the American’s to have success with their young team. However, this can be looked at as a definite positive attribute for the confidence of the lesser known players. As was the case with Bobby Ryan’s goal, hustle and physical play go a long way and behind those top two lines (Patrick Kane, Zach Parise, Paul Stasny, Phil Kessel, Ryan Kesler and Jamie Langenbrunner) there are a lot of players that are going to give just that.

My only nagging concern is Coach Ron Wilson’s strategy of using all 13 forwards in rotation was a bit interesting at times as he was constantly switching up the make-up of the lines. Most of that shuffling came in the second period when the U.S. was controlling the style of play and had a comfortable lead which may explain why he did so, but if you’re chief concern going into the game was lack of chemistry on the ice, why play a style that isn’t going to let that chemistry develop? I really hope that isn’t a continuing trend through the next few games.

Check out the U.S. in action again on Thursday against the defending gold medal team, Sweden.

Also, be sure to check out Teamusa.org. Anyone who registers on Teamusa.org will have access to the latest info and will receive exclusive updates throughout the games.

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