Article written by /u/HopefulWisdom - Community Contributor from Reddit
Usually, I like to start off blog entries with a short story or an anecdote to ease into the article, but I’ll get straight to the point. The United States Men’s Hockey Team is no joke.
Today’s performance against Slovakia was no accident. Last Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver Canada, the Americans were bested in overtime of the Gold Medal game by their neighbors and rivals from the north. The pain and anguish endured by every American on the ice that day, remained fresh in the minds of every previous player that watched as Sidney Crosby slipped a lazy shot on goal through Ryan Miller’s legs to seal their fate. Though many speculated with a new head coach, questionable player selections, and a battle-tested preliminary group the Americans may find it difficult to medal in Russia.
To players like Patrick Kane, Zach Parise, David Backes, Ryan Kesler, and other veterans of this team who bled together in Vancouver, such doubt was never even considered. Their experience and dedication to success is what sparked an offensive clinic in the first game against Slovakia. Even with the overwhelming amount of charisma and leadership up and down the roster, new comers to the US squad had their day in the sun.
John Calrson of the Washington Capitals opened up scoring after receiving a smooth drop pass from Phil Kessel at the top of the right circle before blasting the puck past Jaroslav Halak of the St. Louis Blues in the first period. The Slovaks would answer the following period after a nifty move led to a wrist shot goal from the Red Wings’ Tomas Tatar. Unfortunately for the Slovakians, the American juggernaut had unleashed its full furry. Minutes later, Ryan Kesler finished a quick pass from Patrick Kane from almost the identical position from where John Carlson scored to make the game a 2-1 lead for his team.
The Americans wouldn’t look back, going on to score 5 more goals from Paul Stastny (who notched two for the evening), David Backes, Phil Kessel, and Dustin Brown. The vets put the puck in the net, while the new guys like T.J. Oshie, Max Pacioretty, Kevin Shattenkirk, and James van Riemsdyk worked the rubber to their respective sticks to pick up the assists.
If there is a single word to describe the American’s first game it would, without question, be “domination.” Every single facet of the game was controlled by the USA, down to possession, shot total, face-off wins, and penalty minutes. While the first three matches are listed as preliminary games, wins add up in the end. Other perennial powers such as Sweden, Canada, and Russia now know that the USA is not only a legitimate opponent with depth and power, but also that the Americans have sent a message early that anything less than the gold will be seen as a failure.
If the US team can replicate this result against Russia on Saturday, few will stand between the United States and the ultimate Olympic prize.