Olympic Hockey 2014: Biggest Takeaways from Day 2 of Men's Tournament
Day two of the Men's Olympic Hockey tournament came and went with a ton of fanfare. Some of the tournament's bigger names such as Team USA, Team Canada and Team Russia were in action, and all were victorious.
There were a number of blowouts, but there were also a couple of games which had glimpses of close and exciting hockey. With that in mind, here are the biggest takeaways from Day two.
Team Norway Is No Pushover
Everyone will talk about Team Canada's 3-1 win over Norway, but it is unlikely that Norway will get the credit it deserves. Heading into this matchup, it is safe to say that many assumed Canada would steamroll a Norwegian team that features Mats Zuccarello as its lone NHL player.
Canada came at Norway hard, pelting 38 shots at goaltender Lars Haugen. The Norwegian netminder had an admirable performance, and he made 35 saves. If Norway can continue to get strong goaltending and limit their turnovers, there is a chance they could make it to the medal round.
Hot goaltending can make a huge difference, and if Haugen was able to limit a star studded Canadian offense to three goals, odds are he can limit some of the lesser offensive teams to two goals or less.
Team Finland Has Young Star Power to Make Run for Medal
The big news out of Team Finland's camp was the announcement from Finnish coach Erkka Westerlund that Teemu Selanne suffered an upper-body injury, as reported by Mark Brehm of USA Today.
If you glance at the box score, you will see a bunch of young names listed. These names include Olli Maatta, Mikael Granlund and Sami Vatanen, and each had a pretty solid performance for their squad against a hungry Team Austria.
There was a lot of concern when it was announced that Team Finland would be without Valtteri Filppula and Mikko Koivu for this tournament, but Thursday's contest shows that the team has a number of players who can step up. It goes without saying that they put up a solid performance against one of the weaker teams in the tournament, but the youngsters really stepped up in a big way to help secure a victory.
Team USA Has More Offense Than Anyone Expected
One of the knocks on Team USA heading into Sochi was the lack of offensive depth. Critics could easily point to the strength of Team Canada and Russia in the offensive department, and it was assumed that in a one-on-one battle, the U.S. would wilt.
The Americans made a statement during their 7-1 win over Team Slovakia. Heading into the tournament it was assumed that Patrick Kane and Zach Parise would be the top stars, but it didn't look like that during Thursday's contest.
Paul Stastny scored two goals, and Ryan Kesler, David Backes, John Carlson, Phil Kessel and Dustin Brown each added a goal.
It should be noted that Team USA put up this offensive onslaught against one of the NHL's best goaltenders Jaroslav Halak, and this wasn't just a pummeling of a no-name netminder.
The biggest takeaway from this game is that Team USA has a ton of offensive weapons—more than most critics thought they had.
Team Russia's Defense Still Questionable
Team Russia had an explosive offensive day on Thursday, but they entered the third period with a one-goal lead. Ziga Jeglic scored early and late in the second period to get Slovenia within one goal of tying Russia, and it looked like the host nation was playing on its heels.
The Russian squad was very aggressive and tenacious throughout the first part of the game, and that is what ultimately led to some mistakes which gave Slovenia a chance to win.
Against a weaker team like Slovenia, mistakes won't usually cost Russia. However, if they play this way against a two-way powerhouse like Team USA or Sweden, Russia will pay for their mistakes.
Team Slovakia Needs to Be More Aggressive
We talked about Team USA's explosive onslaught two slides ago, but why were they able to accomplish it against a Slovakian team featuring Zdeno Chara, Marian Hossa and Jaroslav Halak? Dan Rosen of NHL.com spoke to the aforementioned Hossa after the game, and this is what he had to say.
"All of a sudden they were all over us," Slovakia forward Marian Hossa said.
It was very surprising to see, because the first period was tightly contested. Then Team USA stepped onto the ice during the second period, and they rolled over Slovakia like a runaway freight train.
The lesson for Slovakia going forward is that they need to be more aggressive. They may not have the strongest roster, but they need to attempt to set the tempo before a team completely dominates them.