Canada, Russia, Sweden.
Those are the teams that everyone knows are the favorites. The elite of the elite.
Too bad no one told Team USA that they weren't supposed to be one of those teams.
Tonight's victory over Canada signals more than just a bye into the quarterfinals. It signifies that Team USA is to be recognized as a medal contender.
Team USA won the game because of three key areas:
Team USA was a team on a mission tonight. Faced with playing in front of a raucous pro-Canada crowd, the United States looked like the veteran team. They played loose and aggressive to start as they scored 41 seconds into the game.
Brian Rafalski had two goals and an assist, Jamie Langenbrunner had one goal and one assist, and Ryan Suter had two assists. Chris Drury also scored a goal in the game.
The set up for Team USA's goals were something to behold. As a team, the United States made plays when they needed them.
Keeping the lines changing throughout the game also played a major impact as Canada's onslaught of shots kept coming. The defense helped out in big ways, especially late in the third period.
Definitely the star of the game, Miller only allowed three of 45 shots between the pipes. The worst of the Canada attack came in the first period with 19 shots, and Miller had 18 saves in the first period.
Some of his saves were nothing short of spectacular, which really helped set the tone for the defense.
'Cleaning Up The Trash':
Rebounds off of Brodeur proved to be golden opportunities for the United States.
On the second goal for USA, Brodeur moved way out of the crease to slap the puck out of the air. Rafalski jumped on the situation, taking the puck and setting up the shot. Langenbrunner screened Brodeur, and Rafalski made the NHL's all-time leader in wins pay for his mistake.
The biggest question was Brodeur's insistence of playing the puck outside the crease. Granted, Brodeur has always done that, but tonight's game was the most he has played out in the back of the goal than usual.
This is coming from a Rangers fan who has watched Brodeur for a number of years.
Again, Team USA made Brodeur pay. Canada had nearly twice as many shots on goal as the United States, but the maple leafs weren't as efficient.
Here's the question: Does this change the make up of the tournament?
The answer is yes and no.
Yes because teams will no longer look at the United States generally as an inexperienced team.
No because the favorites will still be the favorites.
Nevertheless, the United States needs to realize this is only the beginning.
Much like with the Miracle on Ice, this victory over Canada will not mean much if the United States team does not medal.
The United States could very well meet Canada again to vie for a medal in the playoff rounds.
As sweet as this victory is, a possible meeting with Canada later on could prove even sweeter.
Even as sweet as gold.
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