Monday, March 1, 2010

Olympic Cloud Has Silver Lining

Vancouver, BC - A mere two weeks ago things looked awfully murky on the international hockey front. Sweden entered the games as the reigning Olympic champion, having won the gold at the 2006 games in Italy. Canada was the heavily favored team entering these games, while Finland and Russia felt they deserved to be included in any conversations about medals this time around.

On the outside looking in for most people were two teams far apart geographically - the U.S. and Slovakia.

With a team stocked full of current and former Kings, team Slovakia might have accomplished the most in this year's Olympic tournament - yet, left town with the least. They beat perennial powerhouse Russia, the defending champs from Sweden - plus, gave Canada and Finland all they could handle...falling just short in each game. Ziggy Palffy will now retire without a medal.

The other afterthought played on Sunday for the gold medal. Brian Burke, architect of the Anaheim Ducks 2007 Stanley Cup championship and current GM in Toronto, was tasked with building Team USA's roster for the games and he utilized a team of fellow NHL GM's - including the Kings Dean Lombardi - to complete the task. In every interview he uttered his now famous 'nobody is betting a dollar on us' statement, usually followed with something like 'but, we're coming to win the whole thing.' If nothing else, his team gave it a valiant effort...coming into the final game undefeated and having never trailed in a game.

Team Canada seemed to be a mess from the start. First, they needed overtime and a shootout to beat Switzerland. Then, the Sunday prior to the gold medal game - a week that seemed like a lifetime in the hockey world - they lost to the U.S. in somewhat embarrassing fashion...getting outplayed on every inch of the ice.

Somehow, that woke them up. Canada came back and destroyed a German team that was sadly over matched talent wise. When it came time for their next game with Russia, in-arena host Marc Denis told fans this was the most anticipated game in Canada since 1974. Somebody forgot to tell the Russian defenseman though because it was basically over before it started. After a day of rest on Thursday, Canada survived a scare by Slovakia on Friday to advance to the game they desperately craved - a rematch with the U.S., this time with gold on the line.

On the other side of the tournament ladder, Team USA was a methodical, workman like group. Never rattling, continually pushing forward towards their unlikely goal of gold. After handily dispatching of the Finish team in the semi-finals they looked more than ready for a rematch with the host country.

Sunday was a tight contest from the very beginning. You had to think the U.S. needed to score first - as much for their own confidence as to keep the mental pressure on the Canadian players and fans packed into the arena temporarily known as Canada Hockey Place.

It didn't happen. Canada was up 2-0 before the U.S. began to claw their way back into the game. A goal in the second period by Vancouver Canuck Ryan Kesler served notice to all that the U.S. wasn't going to pack their bags and head home without a fight.

Team Canada kept the pressure on throughout the third, while Ryan Miller didn't let anything past him in the U.S. net either. Just when all hope seemed lost, as timed ticked away on the clock to less than a minute left in the game...and with Miller on the bench...Zach Parise tied the score with about 30 seconds left in regulation.

The reaction at that point would most definitely depend on which side of the rivalry you were sitting. For Americans, pandemonium ensued. We're alive! For Canada, instant panic and concern. We're about to lose the gold medal!

Wednesday's game between Russia and Canada was supposed to be the Crosby and Ovechkin show. It never happened, with both players non factors in the outcome.

Sid the Kid wouldn't let the same thing happen again on Sunday. He scored 5-hole on Miller seven minutes into overtime to end the drama. Canada got what they HAD TO HAVE for the entire psyche of their country - the gold medal.

For the U.S., it was a well deserved silver medal in a year few picked them to be among the top three teams in the tournament.

You'll rarely see a group of people look so sad while receiving their medals. Someday soon they'll appreciate their silver. However, they were so close to perfection. So close to running the table. So close to beating Canada twice and skating off with the gold.

But, you know what they say about being close.

Silver will have to do for now...Sochi is only four years away.


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  1. It was great to see Miller and Johnson in such good spirits just a few hours later during the closing ceremony. Miller was great and it was nice to see him enjoying the experience. Maybe the NHL should give all the teams 1 more day off to enjoy the experience. That is the least the NHL could do for the great press this Olympics gave them. USA hockey should be proud and what an instant classic game.

  2. I just heard that Jack Johnson said he would take time off in 2014, and go with no pay to go to play for team USA if the NHL does not take an Olympic break. Who says it is all about the money?

  3. Quick the quickest to 36 wins for the LA Kings. Oh and he leads the NHL in wins now too