It wasn’t 1980′s “Miracle on Ice,” but Sunday night’s game between Canada and the United States felt like rivals from opposite sides of the tracks meeting for a grudge match with everything on the line. The game didn’t determine a medal, but the only two rosters in the Olympics filled exclusively with NHL players put on a show that was on par with the best Stanley Cup matches in recent history.
Ryan Miller was absolutely incredible between the pipes for the United States. He stopped 42 of 45 shots, most of which were in traffic. The Canadians had more, and better, opportunities than the US, but Miller was the difference. If there was ever a supreme example to define the term “standing on his head,” it was Miller on Sunday. Time after time, Canada threw the puck at the net and Miller conquered the challenge.
When Canada did score, the Blackhawks fingerprints were all over the goals. In the first period, with Canada trailing 1-0, Eric Staal finished an impressive passing display from Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook to tie the game. In the second period, with Canada again trailing, Toews spun in traffic and threw the puck at Miller. The redirect found Dany Heatley, all alone, for an easy score. The score was tied at two, and Toews had assists on both goals.
Even Seabrook, who’s minutes have been limited by Canada (and Detroit) head coach Mike Babcock, was a force in the first two periods. Seabrook ended the night +1 with his early assist. In the closing moments of the thrilling win for the United States, Duncan Keith made a crisp pass to Rick Nash, who sent the puck towards the net. Sidney Crosby redirected the puck into the net, giving all three Canadian Blackhawks an assist in the game.
Throughout an intense game played at an epic level, the Blackhawks representatives performed as well, if not better, than many of the other superstars in the game. Patrick Kane dazzled with his puck handling through traffic in the second and third period as the United States played with a lead, and his handling through traffic in the third period had national analysts raving on Twitter. He wasn’t credited with an assist in the game, but Kane stood out for the United States.
Yes, Canada lost the game, but their effort was superb. Sidney Crosby and Rick Nash, the stars that anchor the top line for Canada, ended the night -3, and Nash pointed out between the second and third periods that mental lapses were what killed the Canadians. Martin Brodeur wasn’t his usually dominant self, allowing four goals on just 22 shots.
Where the Olympic tournament goes from here is a book waiting to be written, but this game was played above any playoff intensity any of the Blackhawks have ever felt and the youngsters all performed incredibly well. The United States, who defeated Canada for the first time since 1960, earned a bye through the first round of the Olympic playoffs with their victory.
Speaking of 1960, the US team was wearing throwback jersey modelled after the ones worn the last time they defeated their neighbors to the north.