Before watching Team USA's victory over Finland Friday, I didn't think they had a shot in hell against the Canadians. Yes, they beat them in the preliminary round, but it felt more like an escape than a victory.
Then the Canadians wiped the floors with the Russians, who I thought were the second best team in the tournament. That sealed it. No way was Team USA going to beat Canada in a gold medal game...not in a million years.
Well, after scoring 6 goals against the consistently feisty and hard working Finns, my mind was changed. USA took it to them. NBC's Pierre McGuire said that yesterday was the first time he's seen the Finn's quit. They didn't quit...they were beaten into submission.
Part of my hesitance to give Team USA any of my faith stems from their early performances in the Olympics. They seemed to play down to their competition. In their early games they had against Norway and Switzerland, they looked sluggish...stuck in mud. They looked like a team that had never played together before. But once they saw Canada's red and white jerseys, they took their game to another level. They outworked and outhustled the Canadians throughout the entire game, despite being heavily outshot.
When the US faced Switzerland in the Quarterfinals, they only won 2-0. Yes, Duck's goalie Jonas Hiller played out of his mind, but it was still too cute...too touchy.
Well, just like the US played down to their opponents, they play UP to their elite opponents, just like they did against the Finns. Expect more of the same in Sunday's gold medal game.
I wrote in a previous blog that Team Canada was a victim of their home ice advantage. Too much pressure. Too many expectations. They seem to have overcome that. We'll find out for sure when they take the ice Sunday. Will the pressure of HAVING to win gold in front of the Canadian fans cripple them, or lift them to glory. Ryan Miller and Team USA can influence that outcome. If the US can score first, and Miller can make one or two more big saves than Roberto Luongo, the US can bring home the gold, 30 years after the 1980 team did the same in Lake Placid.
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