2010 Winter Olympics: Team USA's Defensemen Running Wild, Need To Stay at Home

Mike SalernoCorrespondent IFebruary 19, 2010

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 18:  Jack Johnson of the United States during the ice hockey men's preliminary game between USA and Norway on day 7 of the 2010 Winter Olympics at Canada Hockey Place on February 18, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

I hate Pierre McGuire. Just plain hate the guy.

He's Don Cherry minus the flaming suits and great white receding hairline. He's simply a good ol' fashion Canuck homer, who'll do anything to put down the efforts of Canada's greatest rival, Team USA.

Not only that, but his unsightly little bald head is a terrible eyesore during stoppages of play when the NBC cameras go "Between the Glass" to hear his insight about what the players on the end of the bench are saying.

During yesterday's preliminary round matchup between the Americans and Norway, McGuire was in rare form. He constantly criticized the American defensemen for not only joining the rush, but carrying the play themselves into the offensive zone.

"Doc, Edzo (Ed Olczyk), someone explain to me what's going on! This is not the time in the game to be sending defensemen into the rush, you've got a 3-0 lead!"

Only problem is, he was right.

As I sat there and watched Team USA, whom I picked to win the gold medal prior to the tournament , try to stretch their lead over the Norwegians at all costs, I wondered what could possibly be going on behind that bench?

Then it hit me. Ron Wilson had let John Tortorella run the defense. I guess over the course of consuming countless Miller Lites during the opening game against the Swiss in honor of Ryan Miller,—take that IOC!— it must have gotten past me.

But there it was in the second game of the tournament, as clear as anything, the biggest flaw in the Americans' game. Time and time again, defensemen would carry the puck deep into the offensive zone, leaving their post at the blue line often vacated.

This had to be a staple of the "Run N' Gun" style of offense Tortorella loves to implement with the New York Rangers , right? Yeah, because outside of Marian Gaborik, it's been working so well for you, John.

It seemed as though yesterday the red, white and blueliners spent more time in front of the other teams' net than they did trying to clear the path from out in front of their own. It looked like a 30+ over mens' league exhibition where there was little-to-no systematic attack. Just a series of "Well, I have the puck. Let's see how far it takes me."

Maybe David Backes' end-to-end goal against the Swiss was ultimately a bad thing for the rest of this team to see. Now they all think they can do it.

Now granted, I understand that goal differential could potentially play a big role in deciding which teams will see each other in the quarterfinals. I appreciate that a squad like Team USA wasn't satisfied with just three goals halfway through a game against Norway.

But the only time Norway scored was on a defensive breakdown on the power play, in which Jamie Langenbrunner blew a tire and allowed a 2-on-1 break to go the other way.

Actually, "Captain America" looked like he got taken out by Lee Harvey Oswald while receiving a backhanded pass from Patrick Kane that would've all-but-surely put the US ahead 4-0.

The chance was there, and you can't be too angry about a play like that. If Langenbrunner scored, everyone would've called it brilliant. But when Ryan Suter chips the puck into the offensive corner, then goes and gets it and tries to score from behind the net, it's a different story.

Both McGuire and esteemed NBC analyst Mike Milbury made points to say that if the Americans brought a similar effort to the table Sunday against Team Canada, that they'd be burned.

I couldn't figure out what had me more heated. The fact that the Americans were playing so poorly, or that I found myself agreeing with the two hockey personalities I loathe as much as anyone.

Make no mistake—Canada's inability to secure three points against Switzerland last night will serve as a wake up call. To many uneducated spectators, they now seem vulnerable after surviving a four-round shootout against the Swiss. However, they will come out Sunday with something to prove to the 19,000 Canadian supporters in Canada Hockey Place, to the Americans on the other side of the ice, and most importantly, to themselves.

Part of me wants the Canadians to have their way with Team USA on Sunday. It's not a must-win game. Maybe the Americans would be better served losing to their rivals, and getting a similar wake up call the Canadians received last night.

I'm just worried that with Tortorella behind the bench, the call would go right to voicemail.