USA vs. Russia: Breaking Down What This Game Means for Both Teams

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USA vs. Russia: Breaking Down What This Game Means for Both Teams
Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

As soon as the 2014 Olympic hockey schedule was released, the United States-Russia tilt was the one game that immediately stood out as the most intriguing of the round-robin stage.

And it certainly lived up to the billing.

Not surprisingly, with arguably two of the tournament favorites on the ice, it was a see-saw affair that felt like a Stanley Cup Final game and featured no shortage of drama.

In the end, the two teams went eight rounds deep into a shootout, before T.J. Oshie buried his fourth out of five attempts to put the U.S in the driver's seat within the group.

After what may prove to be a pivotal game in the tournament, here's a look at what this game and the result mean to each team going forward. 

 

Russia

As the host team, the Russians were bound to come out flying, and overall, they controlled the pace of the play for long stretches.

But Alexander Radulov's pair of costly penalties were ultimately the difference in this one, because while Russia's as dynamic as any team up front, there's a lot left to be desired on the blue line.

Sergei Bobrovsky getting the start came as a bit of a surprise given that Semyon Varlamov looked good against Slovenia in Russia's opening game.

That being said, Bobrovsky was superb against the U.S., and his breakaway stop on Patrick Kane in overtime showed what kind of mettle the reigning Vezina Trophy winner has.

Julio Cortez/Associated Press

Going forward, Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk have to be more consistent threats, because they're the two guys on the roster that are relied upon most to score, and neither managed many dangerous shots from in close.

Despite the lack of production from those two, Pavel Datsyuk picked up the slack offensively with a pair of pretty goals and showed why he was named team captain.

For now, Russia needs to focus on beating Slovakia in order to put itself in a position to claim the fourth seed, which would put it through to the quarterfinals.

Slovakia will be looking to bounce back from an embarrassing 3-0 loss to heavy underdog Slovenia, but expect Russia to come out with fire after a heartbreaking defeat.

 

United States

Right now, the United States must be coming close to being viewed as a co-favorite to win this tournament, because Dan Bylsma's squad has put together two very impressive victories to start the games. 

After demolishing Slovakia by a score of 7-1, the Americans' tough style helped them keep pace with the speedy Russian attack. Though the Russians may have had the advantage in possession, the defense did a fantastic job at eliminating shots from the interior.

Al Bello/Getty Images

And, of course, there's the shootout prowess of T.J. Oshie, who has quickly established himself as the best clutch international shootout man not named Jonathan Toews. At an event in which a team's fate can ultimately be decided by a shootout, having guys like Oshie is a true luxury.

The final round-robin game for the U.S. will be against Slovenia. Assuming this team doesn't fall apart overnight, this win over Russia basically stamps its ticket to the quarterfinals.

Perhaps most importantly, Jonathan Quick has cemented himself as the No. 1 guy in net, because he was clutch when he had to be against the Russians, and as we learned in 2012, this is a goaltender who can elevate his play as the stakes get higher.

If the U.S. goes on to win the gold, this will have been the game that propelled it to get there.

 

 

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