Monday, February 22, 2010

Thoughts from Last Night (2/21)

Yesterday was fairly epic in terms of Olympic hockey.

First in the day was the Russia/Czech game in which former and current Penguin greats Jaromir Jagr and Evgeni Malkin facing each other. Oh, some guy named Ovechkin was involved as well. And he was involved with Jagr. Pretty intensely.

Jagr's all right. His mullet is concussed. ESPN shared it's thoughts on the situation:

Russia beat the Czech team 5-3 at the end of the day.

Read the corner. It's still accurate. Hat tip to The Pens Blog for bringing that to our attention.

Then there was the most anticipated game of the tournament to date:

The American's got a great start with an early goal from Brian Rafalski on Martin Brodeur less than a minute in.

While the puck was tipped by Canadian forward Sidney Crosby, it was not enough to effect the angle that Brodeur was seeing. Especially for an elite goaltender.

Eric Staal would go on to tie the game after another deflection, beating Ryan Miller on one of the few pucks to get by him.

After an innocent enough dump in by the US, Brodeur bats the traveling puck out of the air and out into the zone where, once again, Rafalski is waiting to collect the puck and put it home for the 2-1 lead.

The 1st Period ended with a 2-1 lead for the US but a 19-6 edge in shots for Team Canada. Ryan Miller was playing the game of his life at one of the moments when he most needed to play stellar.

To start the second, Dany Heatley puts away a rebound from in close tying the game at 2-2, but the tie would not last long. Chris Drury takes a puck and bangs it home on a chaotic rebound match around the front of the net after Brodeur inexplicably goes bounding for a poke check when his defense is in front of him to clear any puck.

A much more even period of play, the US actually out shoots Canada 13-12 during the round of hockey. Ryan Miller continued to be phenomenal in net, and the US squad was doing a great job of keeping 80% of the Canadian chances from being down the middle, giving Canada a lot of low percentage chances. The few that did eek out in front were cleared away or blocked constantly by a very game US squad.

The third comes around and the US pounces again. Rafalski rips a low shot from the left point, tipped on the way in by Jamie Langenbunner to give the US a 4-2 lead and a stunned silence fell upon the Canadian fans.

While Canada went on to take three consecutive penalties, they still poured on the shots. US tender Ryan Miller continued to stand on his head, being just what the US team needed to put them over the edge.

Time ticked and ticked and ticked away, leaving the fans closer and closer to an amazing disappointment on the Canadian side of the ice. With less than 4 mins remaining Sidney Crosby strikes, putting a deflection in front of the net past Miller.

With Brodeur pulled and an extra attacker on for the Canadians, Ryan Miller continued to stand tall, withstanding shot after shot after shot. After an offsides call, the US got a break to catch their wind and get a new set of skaters out there. Among them, Ryan Kesler.

After a bad pass to the blue line, Corey Perry skated back to collect the puck and a hell bent Kesler skated even harder, reaching the puck, reaching around a Perry who had shielded the puck from Kesler with his body, somehow got a stick on it and pushed it ahead to the empty net.

That was game. 5-3 Finals. Though a few moments had to ellipse, 30 seconds or so, the game was for all intents and purposes over. The USA had pulled off a minor miracle, beating the heavily favored and more talented Canadian team on home ice, and having beaten them for the first time in 50 years.

At the heart of the win was Ryan Miller, the goaltender who had played out of his mind throughout the game. Not one goal allowed could really be blamed on him. While the team in front of him did all they could to block shots, not allow passing lanes, keep shots to the outside, when the odd shots did come through Miller made the big time stops, saving 42 total throughout the game.

While Miller played the game of his life, his Canadian counter part Martin Brodeur played a far from stellar game and looks to have played his last for Team Canada. Though his legacy is well known already, having back stopped Canada to Gold in 2002 and that whole being the NHL's all time wins and shut out leader, his was the weak link. Without his gaffes Canada wins that game despite Miller's fantastic game.

Looking ahead, the elimination rounds are completely set up. The US gets a bye week as the #1 overall seed. Canada gets the Germany tomorrow. For the full list, click here.

Biggest shocker? Should Canada beat Germany tomorrow (which they should), they will then face Russia in the Quarter Finals. What was expected to be the Gold Medal Game will mean one of these teams isn't in a medal game.

Man, aren't the Olympics fun?

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