The United States pulled off what many are considering its biggest Olympic hockey upset since the Miracle on Ice, stunning gold medal favorite Canada 5-3 on Sunday, advancing to the quarterfinals.
Goaltender Ryan Miller had a performance of the ages making 42 saves, including a number of exceptional saves late in the game to preserve Team USA’s lead.
Defenseman Brian Rafalski had two goals and an assist and the Americans got production up and down their lineup as Chris Drury, Jamie Lagenbruner and Ryan Kesler also scored.
Canada out-shot the Americans 45-22, including a 19-6 advantage in the first period but it was the Americans who held a 2-1 lead after the first period. The Americans took advantage of early turnovers by the Canadians and Team USA never trailed in the game.
When the United States had to make a play they did. The Americans who are the youngest team in the tournament played with heart and desire.
The Canadians who were stunned on their home-ice did not go down without a fight. Trailing 4-2 late in the third period, Sidney Crosby’s power play goal with 3:09 remaining started a late surge for the Canadians but Ryan Miller closed the door and Ryan Kesler iced the game with a diving empty net goal with 45 seconds remaining.
For the Canadians, they now face a much tougher road to winning a gold medal as they must win a play-in game Tuesday against Germany and could very well play Russia in the quarterfinals due to the current seeds.
However, there are bigger concerns with Canada’s inconsistent play and personnel issues up and down their lineup.
A major issue has been the coaching of Mike Babcock. Babcock did not shorten the bench until it was too late in the third period and Babock deserves criticism for not sticking with Jarome Iginla on Sidney Crosby’s line.
The Nash-Crosby-Iginla was put back together mid-way through the third period and created a number of chances late in the game and Babock has to stick with Iginla on that line or split up the Thronton unit and use Dany Heatley on Crosby’s line.
Jonathan Toews, Mike Richards or Patrice Bergeron are not getting it done with Crosby/Nash.
Speculation surrounding Canada’s goaltending situation will now center around the team leading up to Tuesday’s game. Is it time for Canada to go to Roberto Luongo who is more than capable to carry this team?
Canada in no way can be written off but something just appears to be missing. To me they are missing a Marty St. Louis and a Jordan Staal on their 3rd and 4th lines.
Depending on the Finland-Sweden game tonight, the United States could go into Wednesday’s quarterfinals as the top-seeded team, which is something almost no one predicted when the tournament began.
In the third period, especially late in the game, head coach Ron Wilson leaned heavily on the physical pairing of Jack Johnson-Brooks Orpik. Wilson shortened his pairings in the final five minutes going with Sutter-Rafalski and Johnson-Orpik at even strength.