Thirty years minus a day from the anniversary of the US's Miracle on Ice, the 2010 edition of Team USA did their country proud and honored that memory with a 5-3 win over the hometown Canadians.
With three spectacular games on "Super Sunday" the crown jewel of the day was the Canada-USA match scheduled in the 7:30 PM EST primetime slot. With Russia already having defeated the Czech Republic 4-2, and with Sweden-Finland waiting in the wings, the hometown fans excitement for Canada-US was palpable.
Unfortunately for Canadian fans, things did not work out as they had hoped.
While for large stretches of the game, Team USA wasn't even in the same rink as Team Canada, they were ultimately able to capitalize on their limited scoring chances and vanquish the hometown heroes in the process.
The story of the game and the man of the night was Ryan Miller of the United States. Miller was simply spectacular from the opening faceoff to the closing buzzer, making save after miraculous save as Team Canada's considerable skill was on display.
Without Miller, this game would have been a blowout for Canada and it would have been over early.
How dominant was Canada? They outshot the US 19-6 in the first, 14-4 in the third and 45-23 overall. Canada still came out on the short end of things, however, because the US's goaltending was simply better than the Canadians'.
If you haven't done the math yet, those shot totals mean that Brodeur let in four goals on 22 shots—the last shot was an empty net goal—for a .818 save percentage. Hardly hall of fame numbers and very uncharacteristic of Brodeur.
Also uncharacteristic for Brodeur were his numerous missteps while handling the puck—at least two of which lead directly to goals. Brodeur was not the tower of strength that we have all gotten used to. No, on this night, Brodeur looked every bit of out his league as he flopped around on the ice, had difficulty tracking the puck, made horrible plays and giveaways by mishandling the puck and looked, overall, very average.
And that, ladies and gentleman, was the story of the night. Miller was simply better than Brodeur, and the US took advantage of their chances while Canada had trouble burying theirs.
A few other interesting storylines took shape last night as both Chris Pronger and Dan Boyle looked slow and old, out there. Canada's coach, Mike Babcock, clearly noticed this as he limited their ice time to 3:46 and 4:00, respectively, in the third period.
By the same token, the younger defensemen looked great for Team Canada and were rewarded as Drew Doughty and Duncan Keith played 9:41 and 8:44 in the third period.
Despite being outplayed for most of the game last night, we have to give Team USA their dues in that they did win the game. Winning is not about outplaying the other team but about scoring more goals, and they certainly did last night.
With young players like Patrick Kane and Zack Parise zipping all over the ice, the US team also showed that they are no slouches.
Aside from Miller, the biggest player on the night for Team USA has got to be defenseman Brian Rafalski. Rafalski scored the first two goals for the US, both on Brodeur turnovers, and finished the night with two goals, one assist, three shots on goal and a +2 rating.
At 36 years of age and the runaway "Grey Beard" of the team, Rafalski's considerable experience was on display as he, along with Miller, were the backbone of the Team USA upset.
The US coaching staff did a tremendous job of recognizing and taking away Martin Brodeur's stickhandling ability. They clearly saw that he has a penchant for playing the puck on his forehand to the left side of the ice and loaded that side up with attackers to block his passing lanes. The results were that Brodeur was made to look bad on several occasions as he turned the puck over, ultimately resulting in goals.
Interesting note: Sidney Crosby was a -3 on the night and scored his first goal of the tournament.
Standings and Next Game
With the win, the United States finishes as the number one seed with nine points, and gets a bye to the quarterfinal round.
The loss leaves Team Canada with five points, good enough for the sixth seed overall. Canada now has to play a qualifying game against Germany, tomorrow, and the winner of that match will play Russia—who also got a bye—on Wednesday in a quarterfinal matchup.
While a lot of people are already writing Germany off, and likely for good reason, I think that Team Canada needs to be careful about looking too far ahead. While Germany is not in the same league as Canada, if Canada does not focus on the task at hand an upset is always possible.
While Canadians around the world are likely depressed this morning, one thing to keep in mind is that the extra game for Canada might not be the end of the world. In fact, it might be another opportunity for them to work out a few more kinks.
The biggest question for Canada, however, is after Brodeur's decidedly weak performance last night, who gets the start in the next game? Is Luongo a foregone conclusion?
Tune in tomorrow night to find out.
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