Category Archives: Olympics 2014

Backstrom Situation Thoughts

As you probably know, Nicklas Backstrom had to withdraw from the Gold Medal game against Canada because he tested positive for something that’s banned.  It seems pretty clear that it came from an allergy medication, and the Washington Capitals and Bill Daly, the NHL’s deputy commissioner, also accept that.  The Swedish hockey GM said, “Our opinion is IOC destroyed one of greatest hockey days in Swedish history.”

And I think he’s right.  The IOC has gotta improve upon their testing protocols in general.  It has to be noted that 6 players have been busted in the Sochi Olympics, and 5 of them were busted for stuff that’s either found in food or normal medication.  That’s a problem.  I’m all for greater testing, and I, like many, have actually held the Olympics as a standard for how all sports leagues should test.  But this isn’t right.  No shit the guy has to take allergy medication, because I’m pretty sure it’s necessary.  Everyone admits that whatever the substance was in the medication can’t be used as a PED, so there is no reason to bust a guy like Backstrom.  Also, he apparently tested positive in connection with the Slovenia game, and that was TWO GAMES AGO.  Gotta feel for Backstrom.  Never should’ve happened, and the IOC has to address their testing protocol.

USA-Canada Preview: Get Jacked.

This Friday, the US men’s hockey team will face Canada in the semifinals of the Olympic tournament.  This is the game we’ve been waiting for, as Canada ended our Gold Medal hopes in the title game four years ago.  The two countries have a sibling rivalry, but they don’t feel much like family members now.  To put it nicely, Fuck Canada.  Let’s break down the game, starting with our evil northern neighbors.

            The Canadians come into this game looking far shakier than expected.  In the preliminary round, Canada did beat Austria 6-0 in their first game, but then they only beat Norway, probably the worst team in the tournament, 3-1.  The Maple Syrup Lovers then won a hard-fought 2-1 game in overtime against Finland and its netminder Tuukka Rask, probably the best goalie in the world.

But the game that is freshest in Canadians minds’ and will probably scare them the most was their 2-1 Quarterfinal win against Latvia.  Canada had a bye through the first playoff round and into the quarters, while Latvia had played a day earlier and beat the heavily favored Switzerland.  Latvia was the 11 seed after the prelims (out of 12 teams, and only Norway was worse), so nobody gave Latvia a chance to even keep the game close – myself included.  Well, Latvia did keep it close – or, more accurately, goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis kept it close.  He faced a ridiculous 57 shots (the average in an NHL game is around 30), and he stopped an even more insane 55.  Despite Gudlevskis singlehandedly keeping his team in the game, defenseman Shea Weber ultimately buried a slap shot on a power play with under five minutes remaining, and the Canadians held on for the nerve-racking win.

Even if you were to disregard the fact that Canada has won a few games in an underwhelming fashion over clearly superior teams, there are other reasons to worry.  Sidney Crosby, the world’s best player, has looked iffy at best.  He has registered only 0 goals, 2 assists, and 6 shots on goal in 4 games despite getting the second-most ice time among the team’s forwards.  To put that in perspective, a good guess before the tournament for Crosby’s stat line through four games against Norway, Austria, Finland, and Latvia would be about 2 goals, 4 assists, and 12-15 shots on goal.  Team Canada also selected Crosby’s linemate in Pittsburgh, Chris Kunitz, largely so that Crosby would have chemistry with his left wing.  Because Sid is simply so smart and quick, he is known as a difficult player to play with.  That’s what makes it all the most surprising that Crosby’s new right wing on Team Canada, Jeff Carter, is performing well while Kunitz isn’t.  Kunitz has a line of 0 goals, 0 assists, and 6 shots on goal to Carter’s 3-1-17.  Carter is performing mainly without Crosby’s or Kunitz’s help, as Crosby has assisted on just one of Carter’s three even-strength goals.  The best player in the world simply isn’t playing like it.

Team Canada has also received a whopping seven goals from its top two defensemen, Shea Weber and Drew Doughty, who are playing out of their minds.  No other defenseman has scored, Carter has three goals, and then three other players have one.  The fact that just six players have scored in four games against inferior challengers is not the kind of scoring layout that we would expect from the deepest and most well-rounded team in the world.  Seven goals from two defensemen is impressive and speaks to their overall awesomeness, but it’s unlikely to hold up.

But, are Team Canada’s supporters worrying too much?  In the past few years, closer analysis of hockey statistics has shown that the biggest factor to winning for any hockey team comes down to shot differential.  Canada has more than doubled its opponents’ shot output, at 168-74.  That’s insane, and it would likely lead to bigger wins than we’ve seen.  While outshooting the other teams did lead to a 6-0 win over the lowly Austria, it did not translate to big wins over the other three teams.  For instance, Canada outshot Latvia 57-16 against a goalie that doesn’t even play in the NHL, but they simply ran into a hot goalie playing the game of his life.  Canada can be expected to score more than five goals in 120 minutes against teams like Norway and Latvia.

Canada’s doubters are also discounting a very basic facet of hockey: Team Canada’s defense and goaltending has been insane!  Carey Price has given up three goals on 51 shots, which is excellent, even if those three games were against Norway, Finland, and Latvia.  Backup Roberto Luongo went 23 for 23 against Austria, which is obviously not too shabby.  And when a team has surrendered three goals in four games, it’s evident that their defensemen deserve a ton of credit.  There is something to be said for Team Canada’s inability to finish when they have had quality scoring chances, which is definitely a huge aspect of hockey, but it’s usually a good sign when you outshoot the other team buy that much.  Even if the forwards don’t pick up the slack, Team Canada could ride its strong defense to a Gold.

But that is a perfect segue to the United States team, because the US is the best scoring team that Canada could face in this tournament.  Team USA has scored 20 goals, which is the best in the tournament.  Any line for the Americans can score, and they’ll give Canada’s defensemen and goalie everything they can handle.

Team USA’s scorers should be at full throttle during the game against Canada, as Dan Bylsma – who is coaching extremely well, in my opinion – decided to reunite the first line from Vancouver four years ago.  In the preliminary round, center Ryan Kesler and right wing Patrick Kane had been playing with Dustin Brown on the left, but the line wasn’t clicking as well as expected, particularly Kane.  Kane is the most electrifying and offensively gifted player in our country, but he is only mediocre defensively, and Bylsma had started out the tournament by matching him with great defensive forwards Kesler and Brown to offset his slight weakness.  Left Wing Zach Parise had been on the third line with C David Backes and RW Ryan Callahan to create a defensive super line.  But neither the first nor third line were working as well as we had hoped, and Bylsma luckily realized that before the quarterfinals.  While both are great defensively, Parise is a better scorer and had chemistry with Kesler and Kane from 2010, so the switch was only logical…  and it worked.  Parise scored his first goal of the tournament in a 5-2 win over the Czech Republic in the quarters, Kesler recorded two assists, and Kane recorded one of his own in addition to playing all around better hockey.  Brown scored with his new line, and his new linemate Backes scored once and assisted once.

Then, there’s the second line, comprised of Joe Pavelski and two Toronto Maple Leafs, James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel.  Wow, is this line on fire.  Kessel has earned a whopping five goals, three assists, and the title of “Tournament MVP if it ended today.”  JVR (van Riemsdyk) netted his first goal Wednesday to go along with his four assists, which match Pavelski’s stats exactly.  This has been the best scoring line in the tournament, and they haven’t showed many signs of slowing down.  Compared to the rest of Team USA’s lines, they’re a little weak defensively, which means that Bylsma should and probably will use them primarily for faceoffs that take place in the offensive zone.  Given that JVR and Kessel play together on Toronto’s power play, their chemistry with the man advantage has already proven itself helpful in the Olympics.

The Americans’ fourth line of C Paul Stastny, RW T.J. “Soshie 2014” or “The Hero” Oshie, and Max Pacioretty has played well at times in the tournament, but they’re a little inconsistent.  The line accounted for two goals in the first game rout of Slovakia, but it has struggled defensively at other times.  Team USA will rely heavily upon their first three lines against Canada and then their opponent in either the Gold or Bronze Medal game, not very much with the fourth line or the 13th forward of Blake Wheeler.

Defensively, Bylsma has also been shortening his bench, which is both smart and necessary.  However, if there was one thing that I was going to nitpick about Bylsma’s coaching thus far, it would be how he’s been distributing minutes to his blueliners.  He correctly is relying primarily upon Ryan Suter and Ryan McDonagh as his top two, and you can expect the pair to play approximately 187 minutes against Canada on Friday.  Suter is used to playing tons of minutes for the Minnesota Wild, where he currently leads the league in minutes played.

But after the top two, it’s been a little questionable.  I, and many others who have followed this team and its players at a borderline-religious level, feel that the next two best guys are Paul Martin and Kevin Shattenkirk.  The final three guys in order would be Cam Fowler, Brooks Orpik, and John Carlson.  After Fowler, there seems to be a little bit of a drop off to Orpik, at least in my opinion, but Bylsma disagrees.  He might be too loyal to Orpik, who plays for him in Pittsburgh and is actually Martin’s partner on the blue line.  I understand him wanting to pair them together due to chemistry, but not at the expense of cutting into Shattenkirk’s minutes.  Orpik played over 18 minutes Wednesday, and Shattenkirk played just over 13.  That should probably change, and the top four of Suter, McDonagh, Martin, and Shattenkirk should be played more than the rest.  If Bylsma would like to put Martin with Orpik and Shattenkirk with Fowler for some shifts, that’s fine with me, but it can’t cut too heavily into Shattenkirk’s ice time.

Finally, we have Jonathan Quick, Team USA’s goalie.  Quick went Beast Mode in the 2012 Playoffs, leading the Los Angeles Kings to a Stanley Cup.  From then until a little over a month ago, he only resembled a league-average goalie.  Luckily, he picked it up around the start of the new year, and he’s continued his success in Sochi.  He has not played out of his mind, but there has been nothing to complain about with Quickie.  That being said, he’ll really make his Olympic legacy in the next two games.  Nobody will really remember the preliminary and quarterfinal rounds.

America is an underdog against Canada in the semifinal game, as Canada simply has a ton of firepower, and they’re hard to stop.  Team USA may have the advantage in goal with Quick over Carey Price, but Canada is undoubtedly better at both forward and defense.  Many have drawn comparisons between this game and the two times the teams faced off in 2010, in which Ryan Miller was the key.  Miller gave the United States a chance against Canada, and Quick may have to do that again.  Quick could be the deciding factor, but no hockey game has just one x-factor.  It will be key for one of Team USA’s four lines of forwards to go off against the Canadians in terms of scoring, and it will likely have to be the second line.  After all, it would be pretty cool to see James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel return to Toronto after taking away Canada’s gold medal hopes.  But the first line will also need to step up and really play like a first line, and it might be time for Patrick Kane to net his first goal of the tournament.  Finally, the Ryans on defense – Suter and McDonagh – will have to play like the top defensive pairing that they are.  Team USA will have to play above itself and win on matchups, which makes Bylsma’s coaching all the more important.

As for a prediction, I would have entirely expected myself to pick Canada in this game before the tournament happened.  But now, it’s clear that Team USA’s biggest advantage over Canada, even more than the goaltenders, is chemistry.  Chemistry is overrated in sports, but probably not in a six-game tournament.  Team USA is playing more like a team for which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, while Canada has struggled to do the same.  Maybe I’m biased (actually, yes, I am), but I’ll pick the Americans in a 3-2 thriller.  Give me one goal from Kaner, one from JVR on the power play with an assist from Kessel, and a third from Parise.  And if the game goes to a shootout, well, we have T.J. Oshie, so good luck Canada.  And Fuck Justin Bieber.

Stats for US Hockey Olympians So Far

Just to analyze how each guy is doing, I’m gonna post the point totals and average ice time for each player.  Obviously, the point totals matter a little more for the forwards, and the ice time is bigger for the d-men.

Kesler: 1 Goal, 1 Assist, 2 Points AVG TOI: 18:27

Kane: 0-3-3, 17:18

Brown: 1-1-2, 11:45

Pavelski: 1-3-4, 15:23

Kessel: 4-3-7, 14:46

Van Riemsdyk: 0-4-4, 14:38

Backes: 2-0-2, 14:57

Callahan: 0-1-1, 14:50

Parise: 0-0-0, 17:11

Stastny: 2-0-2, 13:19

Oshie: 0-3-3, 11:37

Wheeler: 0-1-1, 5:36

Pacioretty: 0-1-1, 10:00

Stepan: 0-0-0, 4:59

Suter: 0-0-0, 23:27

McDonagh: 1-0-1, 20:38

Shattenkirk: 0-2-2, 17:01

Martin: 0-0-0, 17:28

Fowler: 1-0-1, 16:04

Orpik: 0-1-1, 14:51

Carlson: 1-1-2, 11:02

What to take away:

First, it has to be said that this is an unbelievable small sample size, and I’m not even giving the game by game totals or ice time.  That will be done in a post leading up to the gold medal game if the US gets there, because that’ll be after two medal round games, which should tell us more.  Also, at that point, we won’t be able to get enough analysis of the team.

Bylsma’s three top forwards in terms of ice time are the ones expected coming into the tournament: Kesler, Kane, and Parise.  This begs the question why they’re not on the same line, especially because Brown has enough defensive chops to fill in really well with Backes and Callahan.  I’d put Parise’s better scoring ability — and all around better game — on the ice with Kesler and Kane and try to re-create the chemistry they had in 2010.  Parise isn’t playing as well as he should, and neither is the 3rd line for the most part, so this switch seems logical.  Kesler isn’t performing that well in terms of points, but he’s been big in other ways, especially PK.  Kesler took a slap shot straight on his left hand in the Russia game and stayed in.  Of course, Pierre McGuire cited a brief interview that he conducted with the team doctor, who was obviously in awe of Kesler’s toughness.  As if there would be any other kind of report from Pierre McGuire.  Kane is playing well, but not well enough to meet his standards.  His presence on the PK will be huge, as his zone entries are so impressive and so key for the US.  The second line is playing their asses off, especially scoring wise.  Just look at those numbers, and you’ll see that no more analysis is really necessary.  Bylsma is smartly playing them all between 14.5 and 15.5 minutes, which is the same for Backes and Callahan.  That’s fine by me, so long as he continues to see the second line as a primary scoring line and the third as a defensive line.  As I said, the third line isn’t doing that great, but they’re still doing well enough for Team USA to be a top dog.  The 4th line is a question mark, partly because we don’t know who will play on it.  I loved that Stepan was in for the Slovenia game since I’m a big fan, as he was rotating in sometimes the way that Wheeler did in the first two games.  Wheeler finally played really well in the Slovenia game, but he was a nightmare in both the Slovakia and Russia games.  I’d rather put Pacioretty, who sat the Slovenia game out, back at his natural LW and try to get back what the 4th line had in the Slovakia game, and then I’d make Stepan the 13th man.  Give me the more versatile center over the more one-dimensional wing in Wheeler.

The defensive minutes look like they should, in my opinion, for the most part.  Suter should be playing as many minutes as possible, like his ridiculous 29:56 in the Russia game.  McDonagh is up next, followed by Shattenkirk and Martin.  That should be the top 4, although Orpik playing more than Martin in the Russia game is inexplicable.  Fowler is fifth in ice time, which I like, and then Orpik and Carlson come in last.  But Orpik clearly has a lot more of Bylsma’s trust, based off of playing in Pittsburgh and his 15:47 in the Russia game to Carlson’s 3:56.  I’m not a huge fan of that last stat, because I’m not a huge fan of Brooks Orpik, as you can tell.  It’s a testament to how shallow Pittsburgh’s defense was in last year’s playoffs that Orpik was on the “shutdown pair” with Martin.  He’s a good defenseman, but idk about top 6 for Team USA.  I’m not saying that Carlson is much better, but both of them should be way below Fowler and the rest in terms of ice time, as evidenced by Pavel Datsyuk’s first goal being almost entirely due to their inability to cover the center of the ice on his break.

All in all, Bylsma seems to be doing a great job.  The 4th line looked like it was slapped together, but they played better than expected the first game, and I do think there’s more to be had from them than what we saw in the Russia or Slovenia game (the latter of which they weren’t even together because of Pacioretty’s scratch).  No line is letting anyone down, and putting the Maple Leafs with a scorer like Joe Pavelski was crucial for the team, although it wasn’t that difficult of a decision.  With the exception of how he handled Orpik in the Russia game, Bylsma is doing a great job with the defensemen, also.  The hierarchy of the blueliners seems about right, and I feel pretty comfortable with the national team in Bylsma’s hands going forward.

Looking ahead in Olympic Hockey

If you care about Olympic hockey, you’ve probably seen the bracket, but I’m still gonna post it, because it’s pretty easy to forget the seedings when you’re down to the terrible teams.

Game A) 5-12 Russia vs. Norway

Game B) 6-11 Switzerland vs. Latvia

Game C) 7-10 Czech Republic vs. The Charas (Slovakia)

Game D) 8-9  Slovenia vs. Austria

Should I analyze these games?  Nah. (Except to say that either Krejci or Chara will play another game beyond this one, because they’re playing each other, and it sucks that Krejci’s legs come playoff time could handle the extra game better than Chara’s, but Chara’s team would obviously be the easier opponent for the US in the Quarters, so that blows.)  But there’s no point because Russia and Switzerland will both beat crappy Norway and almost as crappy Latvia, the Czechs will likely beat the Slovaks, and Slovenia-Austria doesn’t matter because both teams suck and will get spanked by Sweden in the next game.  So who cares.

What’s more interesting is that they finally told us the times for each game on Wednesday:

Sweden vs. Game D winner at 3:30 am EST.  Thank God this one drew the middle of the night game, because it’ll be the worst and probably most lopsided.  This is probably why Putin (sorry, the IOC) scheduled the game then.

Finland vs. Russia (aka Game A winner) at 7:30 am.  This will be the best game, so it’s questionable that they’d make it early in the morning here, at 2:30 pm in Finland, and 4:30 pm in Russia (not that anyone in Russia will be working that day).  Well, the reason is that the next two games are at the same time, so Russia wanted both the American and Canadian games to be readily watchable over here, and they also clearly wanted Russia’s game to be the only attraction in the middle of the afternoon over there.

This matchup is brilliant, because it pits both strength on strength and weakness on weakness.  The Russians are weak defensively, but Finland, without its top 4 centers of both Koivu brothers, Alexander Barkov, and Valtteri Filppula, are weaker than expected up front.  Where is Russia the strongest?  Well, with its superstar scorers on the top two lines: Malkin-Ovechkin-Semin and Datsyuk-Kovalchuk-Alexander Radulov, who most people will (and maybe should) know just for his two really stupid penalties in the USA game.  But Radulov is the highest point-scorer in the KHL’s brief history, cementing a fearsome top 6 scoring collection.  They’ll be up against Finland’s biggest strength, our own Tuukka Rask.  Finland will go as far as Tuukka takes them, and he may have to pull a Dominik Hasek in 1998 to pull out the Gold for his home country.

Also, I have no idea who I’d root for here.  Even when factoring in that I don’t want Tuukka to play too many games, I’ll probably be rooting for Finland.  Finland is barely the better team of the two now, and it’d be helpful to have the better team go against Sweden in the semifinals and maybe knock off the top seed.

USA vs. Game C winner at noon EST.  God, Slovakia would be an easy opponent, but I don’t want Chara to have to play an extra game.  My gut reaction was that the CZE-SVK game would be a blowout, and, despite some trying to talk me into a close game, I still feel that way.  The Czechs had a -1 goal differential, which is kinda bad obviously, but it’s a hell of a lot better than Slovakia’s -9.  Slovakia lost to freaking Slovenia.   So we’ll be playing the Czechs, and we should still win.  I don’t see the Czech Republic slowing down our American scorers, not when Tomas Kaberle is on their second defensive pairing (HAHAHAHAHAHA).  And not with Ondrej Pavelec in net. USA advances.

Canada vs. Switzerland (aka Game B winner) at noon EST.  We’ll all be checking in with the Canada game during the USA game, but we all know the result.  No chance Switzerland beats Canada, although we’d all like to see it happen.

Going into the tournament, it seemed like the top 4 were Canada, Sweden, Russia, and USA in that order.  Then Finland would be with CZE, Slovakia, and Switzerland in the second tier.  Now, the final three teams are on the outside looking in at the top 5 of Canada, USA, Sweden, Finland, and Russia in that order.  The semifinals already look to provide some justice, as they should consist of Sweden, Canada, US, and either Russia or Finland.  Too bad that the USA has to go through Canada a round earlier than we wanted, but hopefully it’ll make the story better when they’re getting their first Gold medal in 34 years.

Team USA rolls on

The US now has 2 wins in the Olympic tournament after taking a bat to Slovakia and barely escaping the evil Russians.  I gotta talk about the Russian game first, which is fresh in my mind.

Holy shit that game was amazing!  The US played their ass off but actually looked like the team some expected at the start of the tournament — one that might not be able to score.  There weren’t that many scoring chances during 5on5.  Both goals were scored on the power play, and even Kaner’s breakaway in OT was 4on4.  There were opportunities to score, but not enough, and it made the Americans rely on their power play

…which delivered and then some.  After Datsyuk scored on a Datstukian shot on a break, JVR and Kessel played beautifully on the PP together, and JVR said during the intermission (in a shockingly somewhat interesting comment during an intermission interview in any sport) that it mainly happened because of the chemistry.  I guess that’s the last good thing that Randy Carlyle has made happen.  Cam Fowler was the beneficiary of JVR and Kessel’s assists.

In the 3rd, Patrick Kane made up for what was otherwise a mediocre day for him by making on orgasmic-to-watch saucer pass.  Pavelski buried it, and it had looked like the US was pulling away from Russia in the previous few minutes, so we were feeling good.  Alexander Radulov had taken both penalties, causing a Twitter frenzy.  You know how it’s almost always annoying when everyone on Twitter makes the same joke?  Yeah, this time the joke about how “Putin is gonna kill this guy!” was actually still funny, and it was a precursor to a whole other set of jokes that you’ll see in two paragraphs.

But it’s true, Putin is sending him to Siberia as we speak.

Annnnd then Dustin Brown had to one up him.  Took an incredibly stupid penalty, his second of the day, for no fucking reason.  Knee on knee hit to Slava Voynov, giving the Russians a power play.  Datsyuk capitalized again.  Things looked real bad when Fedor Tyutin had apparently scored, and, although it’s incredibly overrated, the Russians seemed to have all the momentum.  But it turned out that Radulov might have deflected the puck with a high stick, so the refs had to take a look.  McQuire and Olcyzk correctly noticed that the puck hadn’t hit his stick, which would have been so funny because Putin actually would have strangled him on the ice.  The broadcasting duo was then shocked when the ref waved it off, because they hadn’t realized that Jonathan Quick had accidentally knocked off the net, which warrants a whistle in international hockey.  Twitter then unleashed the “Putin is gonna kill these refs!” joke that, again, was somehow funny.  My favorite was this:

The refs had made the right call though, and the game rolled on.  The last five minutes was tense but didn’t have any serious scoring chances, and we were on to overtime.  Two minutes in, Patrick Kane had a breakaway that Bobrovsky read from the start.  Kane went five hole, and it was closed when the puck was less than halfway from Kane to Bobrovsky.  We head to a shootout, where Kane doesn’t get a turn to shoot.  Some may think that it had to do with his miss on the breakaway, but, by percentages, it was actually a good move not to use him.  He’s only 39%, but who’s a little higher is Zach Parise, who also didn’t get to shoot.  Parise is over 45%,, so it surprised many, myself included, that Joe Pavelski was picked over him.  TJ Oshie, who is second-best all time in shootouts among anyone with 20 attempts or more, was an easy choice.  James van Riemsdyk was a defensible one, but he’s only had 7 goals on 14 attempts.  I’d have rather taken Parise and Kane, but I would understand JVR and Parise.  The Pavelski pick was dumb, though.

The Russians went with Malkin, Datsyuk, and Kovalchuk.  Datsyuk is the easiest choice ever, and Kovalchuk and Malkin are smart choices.  Semin and Ovechkin were in play, but when you actually check the stats, their percentages are lower than you think.

Oshie started off… you know what, you just gotta watch. I can’t describe this shootout:

So how many T.J. Oshie jerseys are gonna be bought in the next 24 hours?

The Americans beat the Russians on their home turf with Vladamir Putin eagerly watching in the crowd.  That feels pretty good.

Now, because I just spent over 800 words on the Russia game, I can’t describe the Slovakia game too much.  Let’s just say that the US seemed to answer questions about their inability to score.  All the offensive firepower showed up, with big games from Kane, Kesler, Pavelski, van Riemsdyk, Kessel, and the fourth line. As well.  Brown also netted a goal while being the kind of edgy-in-a-bad way guy that annoyed Americans.  (Foreshadowing.)  The third line didn’t play that well, and Zach Parise hasn’t looked like the supposed best forward on the team.  Backes played better today though, as well as Callahan.  Parise just hasn’t looked like 2010.

So, going forward, it looks like the Power Play will be huge for the US.  They didn’t score two days ago, but only had two chances, and it still looked good.  Today, it was their savior.  Well, that and TJ Oshie.  Suter played almost a half hour, and McDonagh played almost 24.  I can dig that, but the fact that Brooks Orpik played about a minute more than Paul Martin is downright insane.  John Carlson barely played, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see Faulk play over him next game, considering his mistake gave Datsyuk the break on the first goal.

Also, Derek Stepan needs to play over Wheeler from here on in.  Wheeler took a terrible penalty and played a total of 38 seconds.  The US will need Stepan especially because Kesler is now playing with 1.5 hands.  What a block of a shot there. He’s the one Canuck that doesn’t deserve to get called a pussy.

Tomorrow, it’s on to thrashing Slovenia, and then the US should have a bye through the qualifyer round.  Go USA.