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U.S. and Russia made me re-think some things



When all was said and done and the United States earned a shootout win over Russia in Olympic hockey last Saturday, I realized I was wrong about three key components to that game.

First there was the game itself.  All week long I couldn't wait for that match up.  In fact, while watching the U.S. cruise during its opening game against Slovakia, I kept thinking "I can't wait till Saturday".

Now don't get me wrong, it was an exciting game but it didn't live up to my personal hype.  I can always tell how much a game means to me, based on my stress levels and whether or not I'm yelling at the television.  I was pretty calm during the game and my outbursts were few and far between. 

I blame this on the fact that it was a preliminary round game and the U.S. was basically playing for a bye into the quarterfinals rather than play a qualification round game.  No one was getting eliminated from the tournament. In fact, all 12 teams would advance beyond the preliminary round.

Not only was I not on the edge of my seat, I also think there were too many people making the game out to be one of the all time greats, which it wasn't.  There were even some who dared to compare it to the "Miracle on Ice" game which is laughable.  It isn't in the same universe as that game, which I'm certain will go down as the greatest game I will ever see.

The only time I was truly nervous was during the shootout, which gets me to my second observation.

I enjoy the shootout during NHL games.  I find it exciting and dramatic, unless it goes to ten rounds and coaches are plucking fourth liners or defensemen off the bench.

But I wanted no part of the shootout in this game.  As the clock ran out on overtime play, I found myself thinking I'd much rather see more overtime with all of the great players from each team involved, rather than a one on one competition. 

It was all about the talent on the rosters assembled for the Olympics.  With the various countries basically icing an All Star team, it didn't seem right to have the game decided by the skills competition.  You might think I've got it backwards.  A shootout in the Olympics means we get to see that great talent on display one on one and that brings me to point number three.

I thought I'd enjoy the international rule where teams are allowed to bring back a given shooter if the game is still tied after the first three rounds.  If Thomas Vanek was still a Buffalo Sabre, I would have loved to see him get chance after chance after chance in the NHL shootout.
But as I watched it turn into T.J. Oshie versus Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsuyk, I found myself wishing I could see some of the other incredibly talented players on both rosters.

Granted what Oshie did was amazing as he handled the pressure of having to score twice just to keep the Americans alive before winning the game on his fourth shootout goal in six attempts. 

Even though I'm a shootout proponent, I don't want it used to decide the gold medal game so let's hope it doesn't come down to that.

On a side note, I made sure to keep a close eye on the play of Ryan Callahan.  The New York Rangers captain will be an unrestricted free agent after the season and there are reports the Rangers will try and trade him by the March 5th deadline if they're convinced he'll be going into the open market.

I would absolutely love it if the Sabres acquired Callahan in part because of his overall game.  He's not a prolific goal scorer but Callahan brings so many things to the table and many were on display in the game against Russia.  The Rochester native plays physical and was consistently finishing off checks against the Russians.  He had a very strong defensive game which featured blocked shots, breaking up plays while Russia was headed up ice and winning one on one battles for the puck in the U.S. end.  Callahan saved a goal when he knocked a puck away from Andrei Markov who had a wide open net to shoot at.  The Sabres could use his leadership, toughness, commitment and ability.

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Locations : Rochester
People : Andrei MarkovIlya KovalchukPavel DatsuykRyan CallahanThomas Vanek
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