It is on. As the oracles have predicted, it is so on: USA vs. Canada.
The gold medal men’s hockey game will be this Sunday at 12:15 pm PST (live on NBC) featuring Team USA vs. hosting Canada. The game is a rematch from the 2002 gold-medal game in Salt Lake City, which Canada won. It’s also a rematch from last Sunday’s pool play game, which Team USA won.
The two semis matches could not have played out more differently. Team USA beat Finland so badly and so quickly that the game was over and mostly meaningless after the 13-minute mark in the first period. The third period of that game was boring like high-school history class. They even let backup goalie Tim Thomas get some ice (hence the one goal for Finland).
The Canada-Slovakia game, on the other hand, was a slow burner that seemed like both teams were reading off the same "Canada dominates" script until the second half of the third, when Slovakia scored two quick goals, coming within one goal of the lead and pulling their goalie for the last minute or so. There was a frantic barrage of shots, Canada’s defensemen were unable to clear, and the entire nation held its breath for that last minute.
Sunday’s game will be a classic. As I’ve mentioned before, every man on both rosters is an NHL player, many are captains. This is a real-deal all-star game for all the marbles. The intensity will be maximum, the skating will be fast, and the hits will be hard. I cannot wait.
I think the loss to Team USA last Sunday was a wake-up call for Team Canada. It was great for the US to win that game, but I fear that this could be the Olympic equivalent of beating a team during the regular season and losing to it in the play-offs. The younger Team USA played a near-perfect game with Ryan Miller making an insane 42 saves. USA got lucky scoring early off Martin Brodeur in a very atypical appearance for the NJ Devils Hall of Fame goalie.
Marty is gone now and filling that Hall of Fame crease is Roberto Luongo, the 30-year-old, 6’ 3” captain of the Vancouver Canucks (one of the least inspiring mascots in sports). Luongo is playing well. Scott Niedermayer is hitting hard. The Canadians have more experience and they will have the crowd on their side.
Yes, they’ve played one more game to get there, but I don’t think fitness will be a factor. There is a full day of rest in between the games and these are all NHL athletes in mid-season accustomed to playing many more minutes per game than they are getting with these stacked Olympic benches.
So prove me wrong, team USA. Miller, keep playing out of your mind. Patrick Kane and Zach Parise, keep shooting like snipers. Brain Rafalski, keep winning the race to the puck. Do all that and maybe team USA comes out ahead.
One thing we know for sure from watching over these past two weeks—both teams are all heart and will make this game a fight to the waning seconds. Do not miss it.