Olympic Hockey Game Was Great, but it was no Lake Placid

It was really exciting watching last night’s Olympic hockey game between the United States and Canada.

With all the players being in the National Hockey League, the talent on that ice was amazing, even if a viewer did not know all the names. But it was the big names for the U.S. who earned high marks.

Former New Jersey Devil Brian Rafalski blew two shots past his former teammate, Canadian goalie Martin Brodeur. Jamie Langenbrunner, current teammate to Brodeur, also scored, while Zach Parisi, another Devil, was all over the ice pestering the Canadians.

Think that Devil locker room in two weeks is going to have some trash talking going on?

I heard many people say that Brodeur choked in his biggest moment as a goalie. I couldn’t help but laugh at that. A goalie who has won multiple Stanley Cup titles has already achieved the ultimate thrill in hockey.

The game was won by U.S. goalie Ryan Miller, starter for the Buffalo Sabres in the NHL. The Canucks form north of the border are seemingly the more talented team, and they proved their capabilities by having a major shot advantage (45-23) over the Americans.

But Miller came up big time after time, the final time on a point blank shot from the slot with about two minutes left.

“It’s probably one of the biggest games I’ve ever played,” Miller said. “When things happened we responded. We didn’t get nervous or anxious. We kept playing.”

The Americans are younger, and less experienced, but were playing a more aggressive style of hockey than is normally seen in the Olympics. Not chippy, but feisty, string a few pushing contests and getting many bodies down low in front of the goal. That Phil Esposito style of  “low post” play got the Americans that Chris Drury go-ahead goal late in the second period.

When American Ryan Kesler swiped and got that empty net goal in the last minute, then and only then was the game really over. It is ironic that Kesler scored that goal on his home ice, and plays for the Vancouver Canucks, host city of these Olympic games.

That was the best empty net goal I have ever seen and is indicative of the style of play for the Americans, out hustling the opposition to every puck.

But the Americans can not think they have the easy road to the gold medal, even though their road is easier. With the one and done format from now on, any lapse in judgment or desire (the latter I do not see happening) could prove anti-climactic to the Americans.

Many people have also written that this game last night was reminiscent of the U.S.-Soviet Union 1980 Lake Placid game.

Not so fast, amigo. The Soviets at that time were the best hockey team EVER, probably still are. Their goalie, Vladislav Tretiak, was considered the best in the world (and maybe the best hockey goalie ever), and their players were really professionals playing in amateur tournaments.

Except for the 1960 Games in Squaw Valley, the Soviets won Olympic hockey gold in 1956, 1964, 1968, 1972 and 1976. They not only won, but they crushed the opposition.

Prior to the 1980 Games, the Soviets played NHL All-Star teams, and anybody else who got in their way. They beat them all. They were like a prize fighter taking on all comers, and knocking all of them out in the first  round.

The Americans at the time were college kids, with only one player, Buzz Schneider, having international experience. Only two players, Mike Eruzione and Schneider, was 25 years or older, while the Soviets had a dozen players were 25 or older, most in their athletic prime.

The Soviets were physically superior to those Americans in 1980.

Not so with the 2010 U.S./Canada version.

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