Team USA Will Take Home Gold Because…

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by Peter Christian

Later today Team USA will take the ice in Canada Hockey Place for the chance to win the gold medal in the men’s ice hockey tournament. It will mark only the 2nd time in Team USA history that they’ve played in an actual “Gold Medal Game” (The medal round was not an elimination tournament until 1992, so all previous Gold or Silver medals for USA Hockey were the result of their rankings in the round robin of the medal eligible teams). The last (and only time) they played in a Gold Medal Game was against Canada during the 2002 Salt Lake City, Utah Olympics. That resulted in a 5-2 win by the Canadians and a US silver medal.

This year however, the US isn’t facing nearly the same amount of pressure that the 2002 team did. They aren’t playing on their home ice, they aren’t a team filled with players who are on their last chance for a gold and they aren’t the team that’s currently facing questions about reaching their full potential.

No, this US team is chocked full of young, first time Olympians that have at least one more shot at a Gold. They were picked to be a middle of the pack team,  but unexpectedly played unbelievably well together; anchored by a goalie who hasn’t had to make many amazing saves, but who has been up to the challenge when called upon.

Yet, this American representation at the games has a different feel which is hard to explain. They’re gritty and physical but they aren’t dirty. They’re talented and offensive minded but solid fundamentally. They aren’t household names but have really good ties to hockey communities littered around the country.

This is possibly the best assembled “team” in the Olympics because GM Brian Burke put the team together with chemistry in mind before name recognition, raw talent and desire to feed a superstar ego. Burke put guys like David Backes, Ryan Callahan and Ryan Malone on the team instead of just throwing the best US scorers together and hoping for the best. Those 3 (along with Chris Drury) really personify why the team has meshed so well and won every game they’ve played.

They do the stuff that scoring stars don’t have to. They grind it out in the corners, fight for the puck and sacrifice their bodies to block shots. They are the glue that keeps a hockey team together and most importantly, successful.

The most pleasant surprise from this team has been the very solid play of their defensemen. They have all played well beyond what most hockey wonks thought they would in an international competition and shined as the most solid unit in Vancouver. Guys like Tim Gleason and Ryan Whitney were late additions due to injury and were considered the weak link of Team USA’s explosive, speed based strategy. Instead, they’ve adapted more than adequately and shown they are just as crafty and talented as the bigger names from other countries.

And it’s for all those reasons. Because Brian Burke put together a cohesive team instead of an all-star team, because these players fill roles instead of name plates and because the question marks have stepped up and been answers (and because Ryan Miller has been on top of his game, and asserted himself as the most consistent goaltender in the tournament). The U.S. will skate on Canadian ice in front of a Canadian crowd against the best Canadian hockey players yet win the 2010 Olympic Gold Medal. I know Doc Emrick is the play-by-play man, but I’m gonna quote Marv Levy and say, “Count It!”

Comments

  1. “U S and A!!! U S and A!!!” nice.

  2. Great pts about how the “glue guys” are the ones making the ultimate difference

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