After watching the last few days of Olympic hockey, it has become clear that there are two players on the United States team who are the keys to an upset of Canada on Sunday: David Backes and Patrick Kane.
Backes has been the only skater for the United States who has clearly made a visual impact to the viewing audience in both of the USA's games. He's been the most consistent physical force on the ice for the United States, "politely" coming to the defense of teammates after questionable hits and also cleaning up the trash in corners when the puck needs to move.
He has also been a fantastic contributor on the offensive end of the ice. In the first game, he sparked the offense by taking a rebound from Ryan Miller coast-to-coast and scoring a pretty goal despite cotton hanging from his bloody nose.
On Thursday, Switzerland gave Canada all it could handle by playing a physical game. The Swiss played the United States the exact same way, and to the credit of the Americans, it didn't impact their style of play as much as it appeared to impact what Canada was trying to do.
A big part of the US being able to stay with its plan of attack was Backes taking care of the physical part of the game by forcing Switzerland, and then Norway, to deal with him on the ice.
The other player who will need to play well if the United States has any chance to upset Canada is Patrick Kane.
In the first game of the tournament, Kane appeared to be tentative. The chemistry between he and Zach Parise, something Team USA had sold fans as "lightning in a bottle," was nothing but thunder in the first game.
Thursday that changed.
Parise connected with a couple of one-timers and Kane attacked with the puck with more confidence, opening the ice for the other playmakers on the United States' roster to move around Kane.
Blackhawks fans can tell you Kane is an absolute magician with the puck, but because of his size, he has, at times, disappeared on the ice. This year, Kane has been a stronger, more confident player who is better with the puck in traffic and creates space to score for himself.
If the United States hopes to beat Canada, it'll have to score.
Norway allowed 14 goals in the two games against the United States and Canada, both games showing that these two teams have snipers all over the ice.
Switzerland, on the other hand, played much tighter defense against both the US and Canada. The coaching points for both teams from their respective games against Switzerland were likely very simple: spread the ice, get into space, and get the puck on net.
Canada is loaded with great scorers who can create their own shots. The United States has fantastic scorers as well, but will have to rely on puck movement in the offensive zone to get quality looks at the net.
Kane is the best passer, especially through traffic, on the USA's roster. He'll need to show up and create special opportunities for players like Parise and Bobby Ryan if the Americans have a chance to beat Canada.
For the USA, the game plan should be very similar to what Switzerland did on Thursday.
But for that plan to be effective, and for the US to win its group in the Olympic tournament by upsetting the host nation on Sunday, Backes and Kane will need to play their best.