Observations following the Preliminary Round:
--That epic U.S.-Russia game meant something.
That U.S.-Russia game meant everything.
No gold medal was awarded in the immediate aftermath, but the two teams couldn’t have competed any harder just for competition’s sake all the same.
And it was spectacular.
If you didn’t pick up on that while Ryan Kesler and Ryan McDonagh were diving in front of those guided missiles being launched by Alex Ovechkin, you weren’t paying close enough attention.
Edzo’s postgame assessment of the U.S. beating Russia in Russia captured the spirit of the thing: “Tremendously tremendous.”
Cris Collinsworth said the country would shut down if we see that matchup again.
I don’t know if it will or it won’t, but it ought to if we get a Sunday Rematch for the Gold.
--Pierre McGuire hit upon the most encouraging aspect of Team USA’s sometimes-dominating play through three games: “Everybody checks their ego at the door for the Americans.”
And McDonagh assessed Team USA as “detailed in our structure” to McGuire.
Those are never givens in a tournament such as this.
--Penalties are a concern through three games, particularly the five penalties Team USA took in the Russia game.
Russia went just 1-for-5 on the power play, but when you’re trying to defend against a No. 1 power-play unit that includes Ovechkin and Andrei Markov on the blueline and Ilya Kovalchuk, Alexander Radulov and Pavel Datsyuk up front you are playing with fire.
--Kesler, who injured a hand getting in the way of an Ovechkin laser, blocked another shot against Slovenia with 2:35 remaining and Team USA ahead, 5-0.
More evidence of Team USA’s “all in” mission.
--Canada was less than impressive through three games but Canada appeared to be experimenting more than anything else, which wouldn’t have necessarily been a bad way for Canada to play it given the circumstances if that’s in fact how Canada played it.
There should be no misconceptions regarding the threat level Canada still presents.
Team USA certainly won’t have any.
Team USA was and remains constructed to beat Canada, even though Team USA’s Preliminary Round dance card didn’t include Canada.
“If we’re going to get where we want to get to we’re going to have to go through Canada,” assistant coach Tony Granato observed before the tournament.
That remains the case.
--Patrick Kane hasn’t yet found the net yet but he’s been threatening.
He’ll still be a potential difference-making presence when it really matters.
Goals or no goals, Kane is able.
--Seeing the cohesion and chemistry quickly develop through three games confirmed what Bill Guerin suspected all along.
“We have just as good players as everybody else in the world,” Guerin maintained in advance of Sochi. “We have just as much grit, toughness, leadership and skill as anybody in the world.”
He’s not wrong so far.