It’s obvious now. Team USA is built for gold.
With this afternoon’s 2-0 quarterfinal victory over perrenial hockey superpower Switzerland, the United States will be playing for a medal this weekend.
Backed by Sabres star and all-around superhunk Ryan Miller, the US has soundly defeated their opponents in all four outings thus far in Vancouver.
And surprisingly, to many in the hockey world at least, the United States is in great position to win the gold medal in this tournament. One of the two favorites coming in, Canada or Russia, won’t even make it past the quarters. Except for maybe Sweden, every team other than the US has looked suspect at some point since the games began. But the US has looked underwhelmingly solid so far, and the results seem to back up the notion that it could be their tournament to lose.
While some have poked holes in USA’s game, whether it be their inability to get through Swiss goalie Jonas Hiller for the first two periods of this afternoon’s effort, or getting outshot by Canada, the team has found a way to win with gritty performances and near-perfect goaltending.
The boys in red, white and blue aren’t the kind of team that can dangle around everyone and wow with skill. They have enough skill to get by, but more than make up for it with effort and grit.
In games against Switzerland and Norway, they were able to match their opponents’ effort and beat them with their skill. In the Canada game, it was the other way around, using their skill to match the Canadians, but using their hard work to grind out a win. None of the top teams in this tournament seem to be laying down and selling out their bodies like the US.
The special teams has been solid, with the powerplay unit finding ways to score, and the penalty kill unit doing everything needed to keep the puck away from the net. The Chris Drury-Ryan Callahan combo up front on the PK, as well as guys like Jamie Langenbrunner and Ryan Kesler, have been spectacular in limiting scoring opportunities. Even when they make a mistake, the defense has stepped up.
It’s a very strong team, and they’re playing well enough that Ryan Miller doesn’t have to steal games himself. It’s a team that’s built to win this tournament. And at this moment, they’ve got to be the front runner.
So suck on that, Canada!