Before I begin this blog...Team USA played a great game last night. They outworked and outhustled Team Canada from puck drop until final horn, but they are NOT a better team than the Canadians.
That being said, as these Vancouver Olympic Games unfold, it's becoming clear that the pressure is mounting for Team Canada. Anything less than Olympic ice hockey gold equals a complete and utter failure for the Vancouver games. Hyperbole? Hardly. Ask any Canadian sports fan what is most important. 99.9% of the fans will tell you they would trade every Canadian medal won so far in Vancouver for a single gold in men's hockey.
The players know this, and it's showing. After Switzerland (!) gave Team Canada all they could handle (it took a shootout for the Canucks to beat the Swiss), you saw the Canadians tighten up.
Last night, Sidney Crosby was making mistakes. Martin Brodeur looked like Crisotbal Huet, and Joe Thornton...was he on the ice? When the best players on the planet look ordinary, you know something isn't right. Duncan Keith acknowledged the pressure after last night's loss. "We realize that we've lost a game and there's no pressure now." Keith said. "What the heck, let's go have fun and play the game." He's feeling the pressure...just like his teammates.
Can Canada turn it around? Yes they can. They are an absolute powerhouse from top to bottom. I mean, when Canada's coach Mike Babcock decides to shorten his bench at the end of the game, he chooses to BENCH Brent freakin' Seabrook! THAT is unequaled depth. Seabrook would be the top or 2nd best defenseman on every other roster in the games.
Be that as it may...Team USA presented the formula for downing Team Canada. Play hard, play physical, and score first to build pressure. They may not meet again in the games, but if they do, prepare for another classic.
Fortunately, Canada can rebound and get to the gold medal game, but the path isn't as easy as it should be for a team this good.