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Americans stun Canadians, take #1 seed overall, earn bye…

In the battle for bragging rights between the Nashville Predators all-star defensemen, Ryan Suter leads Shea Weber 1-0.

Team USA stunned host country Canada 5-3 on Sunday night, giving the Americans a bye in the qualifying round. Canada, by contrast, is now in single-elimination mode the rest of the way out, including games on back-to-back days Tuesday and, assuming they win, Wednesday.

Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski picked up where he left off on Thursday night. He scored the final two goals against Norway and then the first two goals against Canada. The 749-game veteran of the NHL has only four 2-goal games in his career. Through three games in these Olympics alone, he has two.

Team Captain Jamie Langenbrunner of the New Jersey Devils and Chris Drury of the New York Rangers had goals and Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks bagged the empty netter.

Suter collected two assists in the victory, doubling his point production thus far in the tournament. He now leads all Predators Olympians with four points.

Weber also had an assist in the contest, giving him three points during the Winter Games, good for second among Preds players in Vancouver. The bad news for Weber is that he’ll have at least one extra game to overtake Suter for the Nashville lead in scoring.

With the loss, Canada will play in the qualifying round whereas Team USA earned a bye to the Quarterfinals with the win. The Canadian squad is slated to play 11th ranked Germany on Tuesday.

Germany and Nashville’s Marcel Goc appear to be nothing more than a speed bump for Team Canada but, if the Canadians overlook them, the Germans could pull an even bigger upset than Belarus did over Sweden in 2002.

German goaltender Thomas Greiss may not a household name but is no stranger to elite level talent. He has 15 games of NHL experience and he plays for the San Jose Sharks so he’s in net against guys like Danny Heatley, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle every day in practice.

Meanwhile, the Americans will play the winner of Tuesday’s Belarus/Switzerland game. It goes without saying, if they could choose, they’d pick Belarus. The Swiss boast NHL goalie Jonas Hiller and, as with any single-elimination format, a good goalie can spell the end of the road for a team that appears far superior on paper.

Speaking of hot goalies, Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller was unbelievable. So much so, that it prompted Puck Daddy blogger Greg Wyshynski to create the hashtag “#DoYouBelieveInMillercles” on Twitter.

In the first period alone, the Canadians peppered him with 19 shots. And if the nearly one shot per minute action wasn’t enough for Miller, Team Canada fired 12 and 14 shots on him each of the next two periods, respectively. The East Lansing, MI native finished with 42 saves, many of the difficult variety.

Through three games, Miller is now 3-0-0 with a 1.67 goals against average and an amazing .930 save percentage.

Even though Canadian goalie Martin Brodeur is considered by most to be the best of all-time, he struggled on the scoresheet against the Americans. He only faced 23 US shots yet allowed four goals.

Looking at this playoff bracket, it would appear that between the US and Canada, the Canadians have a much tougher road en route to the Gold Medal game. Assuming they beat Germany, they then have to get by the high-flying Russians. Even if they were to send Team Russia packing, they’d then probably have to face Sweden. All that before they even reach the championship. That’s three rough games for Canada.

The United States’ road to glory? Not only is it just two games, but those two games are against either Switzerland or Belarus and then Finland or the Czech Republic. While still a challenge, considerably easier on paper.

The puck drops on Canada’s qualifier game Tuesday at 6:30pm Central.