Team USA gels, posts impressive win over Norway…
- Updated: February 18, 2010
On paper, Team USA is a much better team than Norway.
On Thursday afternoon, they proved it on the ice as well.
After disposing of Switzerland on Tuesday, the Americans blasted the Norwegians 6-1 in front of a sell out crowd at Canada Hockey Place. Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski scored twice and four other players netted a goal in the victory.
Toronto Maple Leafs phenom Phil Kessel didn’t waste any time setting the tone as he put a wrist shot behind Norway goaltender Pal Grotnes not even three minutes in. While the scoring cooled off in the early going, Grotnes (as many underdog teams’ goalies have to do) stood on his head. The Norwegian netminder faced an average of one shot per minute through the first half of the opening period, turning away nine of them.
By contrast, Norway managed just one shot on Miller in the opening 10 minutes.
St. Louis Blues’ winger David Backes had another strong game. Just like the game against the Swiss on Tuesday, Backes was an absolute force against Norway, finishing with an assist, two penalty minutes and a plus-1 rating. But his production wasn’t just on the scoresheet. Backes seemed to be everywhere on the ice, punishing everything that moves and doing all the little things right. Even the penalty he took in the second period was an unfortunate call that came out of hard work and determination on the forecheck.
The Americans, who looked to be working out the kinks against the Swiss two days ago, looked a lot more crisp and fluid in their game against Norway. The goal of any hockey team is to get better with each passing game and Team USA seems to be doing that. And, in a short tournament like this, that’s a good thing as there’s very little room for error.
This could’ve been considered a trap game for the US. The two weakest teams in their group were at the front of the schedule for Team USA so it would’ve easy to past them. Instead, they took care of business, a sign of a well coached team.
Marius Holtet scored the only Norway goal after Team USA captain Jamie Langenbrunner lost an edge after fanning on the puck down in the Norway end. A shorthanded odd-man rush ensued and Holtet put one past Miller, giving Norway their only goal of the Winter Games thus far.
Ryan Suter, the favorite son of Nashville Predators fans during the Olympics, chipped in with an assist on the final American goal, his second in as many games during the tournament.
As in the first game, the story wasn’t just with the offense. Once again, Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller stood tall when he needed to. During the second period alone, Miller turned away seven of the 11 Norway shots. For a netminder to see action that rarely can be a danger as most goalies can’t get in the zone without at least a moderate work load. Miller, just as he did against the Swiss, found a way to fight through the boredom and bring home the win.
Miller is slated to be the man between the pipes for Team USA for the entire tournament as back-up goalies Tim Thomas (Boston Bruins) and Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings) appear to be on-call in case of emergency.
The opposing goalie, Grotnes, was easily Norway’s star of the game. He finished with 33 saves, most of the “amazing” variety.
Team USA’s next game is the big showdown with arch-rival Canada on Sunday. It’ll be interesting to see how well the American’s play as they’ve only faced 26 shots on goal in their first two games. They might see 26 shots on goal in the first two periods against a potent Canadian squad who hung eight on the same Norwegian team just two days ago.
The marquee game of the preliminary round, which will have all of North America watching, is scheduled to be shown on MSNBC.
Not NBC… MSNBC.