Scrappy Unheard of Americans Slay Canadian Goliath on Ice

Andrew O'BrienContributor IFebruary 22, 2010

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 21:  Zach Parise #9 of the United States, Jamie Langenbrunner #15 of the United States and Ryan Kesler #17 of the United States celebrate after Kesler scored an empty net goal in the third period during the ice hockey men's preliminary game between Canada and USA on day 10 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at Canada Hockey Place on February 21, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada. Team USA won 5-3.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

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Who would have thought this group of scrappy millionaires born to be hockey players could take down Canada, the birthplace of hockey and gravy fries?

Sunday’s 5-3 victory over the Canadians on the final day of round-robin play in the 2010 Winter Olympics did not have medal consequence, but it was damn fun to watch, and it only helps to grow the team’s confidence heading into the medal round. The game was chock full of tension and suspense, perhaps evidenced best by the cathartic relief of the American players celebrating at game’s end.

No doubt Ryan Miller was the star for the Americans, holding the Canadians to three goals and withstanding an offensive onslaught in the final minutes before Ryan Kesler’s empty-net goal made it 5-3. Miller made 42 saves out of 25 Canadian shots, many of them spectacular. The American defense was strong in front of him as well, blocking shot after shot and defusing any scoring chances.

Brian Rafalski picked up where he left off in the win over Norway, scoring USA’s first two goals to give him an unbelievable four straight goals scored. He also assisted on the game-winner, a point shot that deflected off captain Jamie Langenbrunner. Chris Drury added the third goal, continuing to invalidate the pre-Olympic opinions of many (yours truly included) who believed he did not belong on the team.

On the Canadian side, Martin Brodeur was as shaky as Miller was strong. Rafalski’s second goal was a weak shot along the ice, and Brodeur made a foolish dive at a loose puck before Drury scored to make it 3-2. Heading into the medal round, it will be interesting to see if coach Mike Babcock tabs Roberto Luongo as his starter.

The most puzzling element of the tournament, and in his career in general, is the inability to find Sidney Crosby a linemate with which he can play for an extended period of time. Flyers center Mike “El Capitan” Richards was the latest wing on Canada’s first line, which has remained solid with Crosby and Rick Nash paired, but the line was soon broken up. Crosby produces no matter who is on his line, but one cannot help but wonder why there can be no long-term solution.

The Flyers' two representatives from Hockey Heaven, Richards and Chris Pronger have been nearly invisible for Canada in these Olympics. Pronger was not on the point for Canadian power plays late in the third, as Babcock opted for younger options Drew Doughty and Shea Weber.

This night was about the Americans, though. Brian Burke’s team won this game more than The Best Team Ever Assembled lost it, while the grit, determination, and unbridled enthusiasm shown on every American shift will enable this team to go far in the tournament. A win over Canada is just the beginning—it proves anything is possible for these scrappy millionaires, cast aside by the cynics, doubters, and the Canadian media. Parity on this level is rare in the Olympics; with that, the question in mind becomes clear: Why not us?