The United States men’s hockey team will return home from Sochi, Russia, with more than good memories. The Americans will capture the gold and etch 2014 in men’s U.S. hockey history.
Russia, Canada and Sweden were favorites coming into the Olympic tournament and each has a chance to take home hardware, but they will have to be of a silver or bronze tint.
The biggest question about the American team was, would it have enough offensive firepower to compete with the most elite scorers in the world? The answer is yes, but not for why you would think.
I’m not trying to say that the Americans are going to set scoring records, but they will be able to manage scoring a few goals a game. The U.S. team has scored at least three goals in each of its games thus far.
The first line for the U.S. team would most likely be the third or fourth line for the Russian or Canadian teams, but the Americans have something the others lack – heart and grit.
Players like Russia’s Alexander Ovechkin and Canada’s Sidney Crosby play hard, but they don’t have the same style of play as the Americans. Players like Dustin Brown, David Backes and Zach Parise are perfect combinations of speed, skill and tenacity.
These players embody the style the Americans have played in Sochi. Even undersized players like T.J. Oshie – who many believed should have been left off the roster for Bobby Ryan – play big.
The U.S. hockey roster is filled with grinders and accented by a few snipers. These types of players are willing to battle in the corners for the puck and do whatever it takes to keep the puck out of their net.
The American defensive unit isn’t filled with blue-liners who are going to light up the score sheet, but they will play solid in front of goaltender Jonathan Quick.
Quick is the main reason that the Americans will be recognized as the top team in the world. He will do what Ryan Miller, the backup goaltender for Team USA, failed to do in 2010 – lead his team to the gold medal.
Miller played phenomenally during his last Olympic campaign, earning the most valuable player of the tournament, and I originally thought it was unfair that he was not awarded the starting position in Sochi.
Quick showed Dan Bylsma and the world why he was named the starter in Sochi when he raised the Stanley Cup trophy over his head in 2012, and proved he was the top goalie in the world.
I would argue that Miller would have won the Cup if he were on the L.A. Kings during their run to the finals, but the fact is that Quick was crowned No. 1, making him the clear favorite.
When the Americans take on the NHL All-Star team – also known as the Canadian national team – in a rematch of the 2010 gold medal game, the U.S. will show that matchups on paper are just that. In a tournament where so many skaters are playing together for the first time, heart will win out over skill.
The image of Sidney Crosby tossing his gloves in the air in celebration will be wiped from your memory, and replaced by Patrick Kane repeating his 2010 Stanley Cup game-winning-goal performance.