Monday, March 1, 2010

Silver.

One goal short.

The US Olympic hockey team battled back from a 2-0 deficit to force overtime in the most improbable of circumstances. With an extra attacker on the ice in the game's final minute, Zach Parise (U. of North Dakota, New Jersey Devils) knocked home a rebound past Roberto Luongo (Vancouver Canucks) to tie the game at two and send the gold medal game to overtime. In the extra session, Sidney Crosby's excellent individual effort led to the game-winning goal, and Canada captured its eighth gold medal - and its first on home soil - with a 3-2 victory.

Luongo and his US counterpart, Ryan Miller (Michigan State, Buffalo Sabres) were spectacular in the nets, with Luongo stopping 34 shots and Miller 36. Luongo, who moved into Canadian folklore after his replacement of legendary Martin Brodeur after last Sunday's 5-3 loss to the Americans, finished the tournament 5-0, while Miller had to settle for a 5-1 overall mark. Miller was especially brilliant in the third period when the US trailed 2-1. A goal by Canada would have meant curtains for the Americans, but Miller was spectacular in keeping his team in the game, never more so than stopping Crosby on a semi-breakaway with just over two minutes remaining in regulation play.

Also incredible was Parise's tying goal. With Canada playing a stifling defense in the game's final minutes, the US faced difficulty in getting the puck in the Canada zone. Still, Parise managed to bat home a rebound in front of Luongo to stun the Canadian faithful and force an extra session for the gold medal. However, Crosby's strong forecheck, creating a turnover in the US zone, set up the game-winning opportunity, and Crosby beat the US's Brian Rafalski (U. of Wisconsin, Detroit Red Wings) to the puck and slid it past Miller to launch the partisan crowd - and the dominion - into a frenzy.

Truth be told, I almost would have rather seen the US shut out of the medal podium than lose to the Canadians. A silver medal for a team which many expected to finish in the lower half of the bracket is definitely a tremendous accomplishment, but I wish it hadn't come at the expense of Canadian gold. After the US debacle in Torino in 2006 and the fact that this team was the tournament's youngest, many (including me) thought this would be a rebuilding Olympics for the Yanks, but the team assembled by Brian Burke and Don Waddell was perfectly suited to Olympic play. In the end, the Canadians won the gold many expected was nothing but a formality.

In a game which many have already considered one of the best of all-time, the US fell one goal short. The pace was torrid all game, the emotion showed on both sides was tremendous, and the game somehow managed to live up to its incredible hype. In the end, the team which was supposed to win did and the team of which little was expected came up just short.

1 comment:

  1. There is so much to say about the gold medal men’s ice hockey game at the 2010 Winter Olympics. First, as an American, I am disappointed with the outcome. However, I was impressed that the USA was able to force overtime. The game-tying goal was exciting to see, and I honestly didn’t expect the USA to score it. Luongo played very well in goal for Canada, but I am shocked Miller got the Olympic MVP Award. Giving the award to a player who lost the gold medal game is unusual, but he did keep the USA in the game and had a stellar tournament overall.

    I hope NHL players participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia. Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner, hasn’t said whether the league will shut down for the Olympics in 2014, but I hope it does. It was really great to see players representing their countries. The most interesting part about this tournament to me was that it pitted NHL teammates against each other in some games.

    Congratulations to Canada and I am at least glad the men did not celebrate in the same fashion that the Canadian women did when they won the gold medal. I am also happy that this game did not go to a shootout. That would have been an awful way to decide this game and the gold medal winner.

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