Archive for Monday, February 22, 2010

Olympics Blog, Day 9: USA beats Canada! But what does it really mean?

Hockey victory was thrilling, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet

February 22, 2010

Plenty has been made about the youth of the United States hockey team, as well as the historical significance of the victory.

In fact, some have looked to find similarities between this year’s Olympic squad and the one from the 1980 Miracle on Ice.

It’s fun to get caught up in the excitement, especially in the wake of the Americans’ thrilling 5-3 victory against Canada Sunday night in group play. Still, analogies between 2010 and 1980 simply don’t fit, even though this victory happened on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the Miracle.

Sure, the Canadians were considered the favorite to win the gold medal by most, and the young Americans were more of a long shot.

The Canadians have a roster loaded with future hall-of-famers — many of them older and slower, with the exception of Sidney Crosby.

The talent and experience factor tilted heavily to the Canadians, but the Americans seized the momentum with a first-minute goal by Brian Rafalski and never eased up from there. The Americans delivered harder hits and were faster to the puck for much of the game. They also punished the Canadians for allowing too many power play situations and then received a super-human effort from goalkeeper Ryan Miller to bail them out against Canada’s massive shots advantage.

In the end, it was an uplifting victory for the Americans, but maybe we’re making too much out of its greatness — at least when comparing it to the Miracle on Ice.

For one thing, this wasn’t a medal round. It didn’t eliminate Canada from contention, although it did make the road to the medal stand tougher for the Canadians. Canada faces a possible quarterfinal match-up with Russia in a game that essentially will knock one of the medal favorites out of the tournament.

Also, we’re not giving the Americans enough credit for the talent they do have. This isn’t just a lineup of college kids we sent out there. There are NHL players representing the United States who are teammates with, or regular competitors against, the Canadian players. There’s a major familiarity with how they play. The opponents weren’t a total mystery to each other.

Finally, what happens if Canada comes back and beats the United States in the medal rounds? Will we then reevaluate the meaning of this victory?

I’m not trying to take away from the accomplishment in any way — I bothered my neighbors by cheering and yelling so loud at the TV during the game, just like everybody else — I’m just saying we shouldn’t get too far ahead of ourselves when Team USA’s road to the medal stand still has a long way to go.

Confidence can be a boost to a team’s chances, but overconfidence can be a killer. We will know the true value of Sunday’s victory a week from now.


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