Don’t count out Team USA in Vancouver

The Winter Olympics are just a few short weeks away. It’s now time to dream about Team USA winning a gold medal.

Imagine how satisfying it would be to beat those annoying Canadians at their own game, on their own soil, twice in less than two months.

Now, from an outsider’s perspective, it would seem as if the Americans are a long shot to even medal at the upcoming games in Vancouver. Under the guidance of general manager Brian Burke and head coach Ron Wilson, who put together a new younger roster, I feel there’s plenty of reason to believe there’s chance for a medal, and yes, even gold.

So, the Americans don’t have a star-studded lineup like the Canadians, Swedes or Russians, but they do have plenty of guys with skill and that work hard to give it all on every shift of every game. It’s not to say guys like Mike Modano, Keith Tkachuk and Doug Weight didn’t care, but it was time to get younger and add some new faces on the squad.

We’ll start with the goalies. Ryan Miller appears to be the guy for the Americans, with Boston’s Tim Thomas, last year’s Vezina trophy winner, and LA’s Jonathon Quick as his backups. As Sabres fans, we all know what Ryan Miller is capable of. When he’s on his game, he’s nearly impossible to beat with a clean shot. In a tournament like this, if he can get hot, he could carry the team by himself. Thomas has struggled this year compared to last year, but he’s also proven capable of getting hot and carrying a team as well. Quick is a young up-and-coming goalie from the Los Angeles Kings who isn’t likely to see much game action.

On defense, the US will have a nice combination of puck moving players that can skate and some nasty, clear-the-crease type guys. However, one of USA’s top defenders, Paul Martin of the New Jersey Devils, is hurt and may not be able to play. Brian Rafalski, Ryan Suter, and Erik Johnson are guys that can skate the puck out of trouble and bring a little something to the score sheet. Amherst-native Brooks Orpik, Jack Johnson and Mike Komisarek bring the nastiness and will be making sure nobody is in the blue paint of Ryan Miller.

At forward, the Americans are built much like the Burke-led Anaheim Ducks, who won  the Stanley Cup in 2007, and that’s with skill, grit and heart.  The skill comes in the form of guys like Zach Parise of the Devils, Buffalo-native Patrick Kane, Phil Kessel, Paul Stastny, Bobby Ryan and Joe Pavelski. After that comes the guys that will go in and do the “dirty work” as Brian Burke would say. Leading the way will be captain Jamie Langenbrunner, Chris Drury, Ryan Callahan, Ryan Malone, Ryan Kesler, Dustin Brown and David Backes, who since being named to Team USA has fought three members of team Canada.

Again, as I said earlier, they don’t have a Crosby, Nash, Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, or even a Zetterberg, like the favorites in the tournament, but that doesn’t mean they have no chance. They come equipped with a good goalie, a group of forwards that can score, forecheck hard, and do the little things that are needed to win. The defense is wiling to skate and lead the rush and battle in front of the net to make sure there’s no loose puck around the net.

Give this team a chance, because you and the rest of the hockey world may be very surprised.

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Posted on January 28, 2010, in Sabres/NHL and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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