By Jay Zawaski-
(CBS) — Say what you will about NHL players participating in the Olympics. It is impossible to argue that Team USA’s 3-2 shootout win over Russia wasn’t a fantastic sporting event, let alone hockey game.
The hockey powers traded blows in regulation. 1-0 Russia. 2-1 USA. 2-2 Russia. Then, almost 3-2 Russia until our familiar friend, the marsh peg, saved the Americans’ bacon. The Russians thought they had taken the lead in the 3rd period, until Fedor Tyutin’s point shot was waved off. At first, it looked like a high stick was the reason for the goal being erased, but upon further review, Jonathan Quick’s net was just so slightly off the moorings, and the goal was waved off.
When the smoke cleared, Quick and TJ Oshie got the better of Sergei Bobrovsky, Pavel Datsyuk and former NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk in the 8th round of the shootout.
Here are a few random thoughts from the game :
– Patrick Kane is the most feared player on Team USA. Sunday morning’s game was tight checking from start to finish. Even players like Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin had trouble creating space. Patrick Kane was the exception to that rule. Whenever he had the puck, Russian checkers would back up or back off, fearful of what might happen if they attacked. This was especially apparent on the power play, where Kane really showed his puck dominance. Look no further than his amazing pass to Joe Pavelski for Team USA’s 2nd power play goal of the game.
– As metrics have made their way in to the major sports, some of the focus on “the little things” tends to go away. While so many things have become mathematical, the observational things have fallen back a bit. What I saw, above anything, was Team USA selling out, blocking shots and putting themselves in danger to remain in the game. Ryan Kesler blocked an Ovechkin shot from point blank range. His hand looked broken as he headed to the locker room. He missed one shift.
I love what metrics have done for the game, and I believe in them, and use them on a regular basis…but there are elements in sports that can’t be measured.
– I forgot about the greatness of Ilya Kovalchuk. When one of the game’s most electrifying scorers decided to take his talents to the KHL this summer, the NHL lost a tremendous star. His shootout change up shot was absolutely nasty. He’s a guy that many of us had forgotten would play a big role in these games. We done been reminded.
– If the NHL must utilize the shootout to decide a game, please, please, please adopt the Olympic format. If you missed it, here’s how it works. After the 1st three, unique shooters from each team compete in the shootout, anything goes. Russia used a rotation of Kovalchuk and Datsyuk, while Team USA relied only on TJ Oshie, who delivered. Imagine a long shootout between the Blackhawks and Penguins, where Kane and Jonathan Toews trade blows with Sidney Crosby and Malkin. NHL fans wouldn’t be forced to watch the Sheldon Brookbanks of the world make their best attempt to not trip on the blue line.
Today’s shootout was exhilarating. I haven’t said that about an NHL shootout in a long, long time.
– A second line center in Chicago would look nice. It’s amazing what Kane can do when he’s not carrying an old man on his back, huh?
– Alex Radulov is still a nut bar.
Team USA wraps up the preliminary rounds against Slovenia tomorrow morning. While this may seem like a cake walk, Slovenia defeated Slovakia today, and gave the Russians a pretty good run in their game. USA should win handily, but you never know.