I decided to drop in a quick post before I go back to celebrating Team USA's 5-3 victory over mighty Team Canada in the preliminary round today. The victory will surely go down as the biggest ultimately meaningless upset of all time because nobody won anything, but still it is worth enjoying. Team USA was not supposed to win against the Canadians today. They hadn't beaten them in the Olympics since 1960, yet they won in impressive fashion and here we are on top of the world for at least a day or two.
Many kudos have to go out to Ryan Miller for putting up the force field and stopping 42 of 45 shots in the victory. As many people have said before, if the US wins it will be because of Miller. But there is something else that gets me excited about Team USA. They are gritty, and fast, and they are having fun. The composition of the team seems to be more out of necessity than anything. They are an assemblage of the best parts USA hockey had available.
Team USA isn't a bunch of chubs, mind you. They are professionals who are tough and fast because they have no other option. America doesn't end up putting as many 6'-4" lumberjacks on skates as Canada does. But they do have one thing that Canada doesn't have: they are loose.
It is times like this when the average American's complete disregard for the sport of hockey actually works to our advantage. We aren't heaping a ton of pressure on our team to bring home a gold every four years. A medal would be nice, but mostly people seem to be expending more energy trying to figure out the sport of curling.
I have this feeling that something is up with Canada, and it isn't because Mike Babcock decided to play a 38 year old keeper on the backside of his career over the best goalie in their country (Luongo).
On paper there is no way Canada should ever lose a hockey game, except they are lacking the one element that wins hockey games that the United States pumps out in quantity: mediocre checking forwards who do everything they can to keep the locker room from becoming tense.
I swear Canada lost simply because they didn't add enough David Backes or Ryan Kesler types to their roster, going instead with established world class talent.
You know the types of players I'm talking about. Guys who probably shouldn't be on an olympic team, but get on because they are good at hitting and grinding and drinking. People who are genuinely happy to there. They might end up sleeping on a couch on a sidewalk in Vancouver, or peeing in the team captain's skates, who knows? But it's all for the good of the team and it keeps everyone from having a collective aneurism.
Simply, Canada might not win the gold medal because they don't have enough Shjon Podeins.
When I look at Canada's roster I see some skilled grinding types like Mike Richards and Brendan Morrow. I also see a whole lot of admittedly terrifying offensive and defensive talent. Yet I also see a whole lot of pretty (Patrice Bergeron), pretty old (Neidermayer and Pronger), and pretty tense (Joe Thornton).
Canada is begging for a guy with the kind of carefree attitude to pants Sidney Crosby during an interview.
In Team USA you have a squad with a pretty big chip on their shoulders but they are loose because they weren't supposed to get this far in the first place. While at the same time Team Canada is more wound up than a pair of garage door springs.
The world hasn't ended for the Canadians, even though it would be nice if Team USA didn't have to face them again. But until Team Canada realizes that they need to loosen up they aren't going to go anywhere.
Strangely enough this might be a time when Canadian hockey could learn a thing or two from their brothers to the south.