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.