The Olympics are entering their final weekend, and only two hockey teams remain in contention for the gold medal. But, perhaps more importantly, two Red Wings are still in Vancouver – and won’t get much of a break before lacing up with the Wings on Monday.
Flip and the Finns are headed to the bronze medal game. After getting straight whooped by TFYA, they’ll try to rebound against Marian Hossa, Tomas Kopecky, and Team Slovakia on Saturday night. But the main attraction, for North American dominance will take place on Sunday afternoon…
Brian Rafalski and Team USA remain the only undefeated team in the tournament and will once again face Team Canada — this time for all the marbles. I’ve been receiving an awful lot of e-mails and Tweets from Canadian friends who apparently have forgotten six days ago, when — ya know — the Americans had their way with Canada. I’m not saying that it’ll definitely be the same, because Canada seems to have found another gear. But I tell ya what…. they certainly made it interesting squeaking by Slovakia. If it weren’t for uber-clutch Pavol Demitra, who jailsexed the HELL out of a wide open net, that gold medal game may have a lot less intrigue. Moral of the story: don’t count out Team USA in the rematch.
I’m aware that there is no nation on the planet as cocky as the United States is, but I’m hearing an awful lot of confidence coming from the north. An awful lot for a team that hasn’t won yet. But it’s not all bad. Our good friend Maria made me a promise via Twitter, and I intend to hold her to it. She said that if the USA wins, she’ll donate $10 to H2H for every Red, White, and Blue goal. I’d like to take this opportunity to make the same deal. The Production Line will send $10 to Children’s Hospital via Herm2Hockeytown for each Canadian goal, should the Canadians win the gold medal.
You may recall back in July, Rob and I had a TPL-hosted debate about whether or not NHLers should be in the Olympics. I asserted (and still believe) that the NHL doesn’t particularly belong (you can read why here — and see Rob’s thoughts here). Well, friends, this has been an incredible tournament. It hasn’t changed my opinion about who I’d like to see play, but I will not deny they have been entertaining and showcased the best talent the world has to offer. I have thoroughly enjoyed every game (except the frolicking ass-kickings like Canada/Norway and anything Latvia and Germany did).
Before the Games began, I told anyone that would listen (read: zero of you!) that I strongly felt Canada would win gold, Sweden would take the silver, and Finland would head home with bronze (“But, you’re crazy to think Russia won’t medal!” Oh really? Owned). I mentioned it on Twitter, but Russia failing to medal is actually a GREAT thing for the NHL. Russia, while building a very dangerous offensive team, insisted on making half of that team from players who play in the KHL. The KHL, as you should all know by now, is an insanely inferior league made up of has-beens and fringe Euro NHLers. Do you honestly think that Alexander Radulov would have been a member of that squad if he hadn’t made all the headlines for jumping ship? That’s not to say he’s not a talented guy, because of course he is. But any loss the KHL takes is an NHL win, even if no one else will admit it.
Getting back to my prediction… I didn’t think the USA stood a chance. I hoped they did, of course, but it didn’t seem to be in the cards for the young squad built by Brian Burke. Now that they’ve shown they are at least silver medalists, I want the whole thing. Perhaps it’s time for a little payback: the Canadians won the gold (and Americans silver) in Salt Lake City in 2002. It’s only fair.
I want to make something clear: I love Canada. I love Steve Yzerman. I want nothing but good things for him, and for Mike Babcock. But, this is my country. I grew up playing (albeit tangentially) for United States Development-affiliated programs. Winning the World Juniors and the Olympics in the same year would be an unbelievable boon for United States hockey: a program that, through all its past successes (did you know that the USA has more Olympic gold medals than Canada in the last 50 years?! Of course you didn’t…) simply does not have the world super power feel that a Team Canada has. And it’s time for that to change.
Guys like Zach Parise, Chris Drury, Dustin Brown, Ryan Callahan, Jamie Langenbrunner, Ryan Malone, David Backes, Joe Pavelski and Peter Stastny have gutted out incredible efforts.
Local guys like Ryan Miller, Jack Johnson, Tim Gleason, Ryan Kesler, Brian Rafalski, and Tim Thomas have proven – in a very rough time to do so – that it’s cool to be from Michigan, be proud of your home state, and show the world what you’ve got.
Even relative enemies Bobby Ryan, Patrick Kane, Ryan Suter, Ryan Whitney, Brooks Orpik, and Erik Johnson deserve a hat tip today.
If they climb atop that podium as silver medalists, I’ll salute these boys. They worked their asses off. They showed us all a side of them we may not have known was there. They demand your respect (even yours, Canada). This is as good a time as any to assert yourself, and be proud to be an American. And a hockey fan.
I'm not saying I'd be disappointed with silver, considering before the tournament, I said the USA doesn't have a realistic expectation of a medal, but it's so close I want gold so badly.
Moreso, I want the Americans to win because they've had the right workmanlike attitude since the start of the tournament. They came together as a team and, even in the first two games when they didn't look particularly in synch, they haven't forgotten that it's a team sport and none of them are bigger than the whole.
I'm sorry and I know this is at least partially a reflection on Babcock, but when things weren't going well for the Canadians, at any given time they'd have a group of five individuals out there all trying to carry his team at once. Last night was a much better team game for them, but there was a fair bit of energy missing. If the Canadians come out against the Americans like they did against the Slovaks, they're going to get killed.
I had no clue what to expect from this team at the start, but I thought that Brian Burke – as blustery and annoying as he is – made the right decision in going with so many young players. It's one thing to transition a team that plays every year, because each season a few players can be replaced; but when the team only plays every four years, the changes have to be dramatic.
I just hoped they would do well and gain experience for the future, but they came together quicker than I thought they could and I became more emotionally invested than I thought I'd be at the beginning of the tournament.
On the CTV broadcast of the game the announcers were talking about the incredible history and experience of the Finnish team and how in the future they would look very different, with younger players like Filppula and Mikko Koivu leading, and their assessment was that the Finns waited too long to make the transition while the Americans did not.
It can't have been an easy choice for the US staff to make, but it turned out to be the correct one.
I love how this team has been charging ahead like crazy every game – several of the Finnish players said after the game they knew the US team would come out hard, but they never thought they would come out THAT fast and were overwhelmed early. A couple of US players afterwards when asked about relaxing with a big lead claimed that they didn't think about that for long, because they wanted to be sure to keep playing well and keep getting better so they wouldn't have a drop off for the next game.
As soon as the Slovaks scored, I thought that the Canadians did not do a smart thing in letting up – because if anyone knows about blowing two and three goal leads, it's the Red Wings management. 😀
And go Finland for the bronze – but beware the offensive power of Kopecky, striking when least expected.
To gear down for tomorrow, I am listening to the following songs on a continuous loop:
1. "Theme from Dukes of Hazzard" by Waylon Jennings (just because)
2. "God Bless the USA" by Lee Greenwood ('cause there ain't no doubt I love this land)
3. "Bodies" by Drowning Pool (just because there's NOTHING wrong with me)
4. "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue" by Toby Keith (because putting a metaphorical boot in Canada's ass IS the American way)
I'll be happy with US silver but ecstatic with US gold. Team USA has looked helluva much better on ice than on the roster, and that game v. Canada in the preliminaries was simply one of the best games I've seen in a while. The WJC gold quickly disappeared from this nation that doesn't quite appreciate hockey as they should, but an Olympic gold would certainly stay in the headlines longer. We need more hockey love here.
Okay I should probably make myself clear to. I was born in the USA by accident you could say. I was born in Ann Arbor, MI. I've never lived in the USA and the land that has shaped me and given my family an opportunity to succeed is Canada. I love Americans and you guys have the best country in the world but honestly you guys win EVERYTHING. Why not leave us humble canadians that gold medal, I mean you guys will be happy with silver.. CTV polled some people in Vancouver and asked them if they would switch every medal Canada has earned in this olympics for the men hockey gold and they all said yes. I know we get over protective about OUR hockey but honestly that is ALL people do up here. When Calgary lost that cup to Tampa this city was depressed and off and it was simply horrible, I can't imagine what losing that gold medal to the BIG brother is going to do to this country. So let's all be happy and let the Canada win. Either way I'm sick of this, I feel like a pens fan so I really want NHL to get going again. So good luck my friend and if it's anything like the Russia game get the wallet ready 😉
Split – Canada got the gold for the women, US gets the gold for the men. 😉
And… Canada won ice dancing and men's curling… it's our turn now.