How did this happen? How did this Olympic rematch between the USA and Russia 34 years after the Miracle on Ice manage to stir our imagination and passion the way it did? This was the impossible sequel. There was no way to recapture that magic from 1980, right? No way?
First of all, let’s be a little selfish here from the Columbus Blue Jackets perspective and revel in the reaffirmed knowledge that this franchise counts as a roster player one of the best goaltenders on the planet. The fact Sergei Bobrovsky earned the start for the Saturday pre-medal round game against the USA speaks volumes, and he didn’t disappoint. He was steady, composed, athletic, and often spectacular. He was Bob.
And Fedor Tyutin, arguably the Blue Jackets steadiest force on the blue line, nearly won the game in regulation for Russia, only to have his blast from the point waved off because one post of the USA net was partially off its support. In the NHL, the goal would likely have stood. By international rules, it could not.
Now, let’s talk about the game, and some of the singular moments that, together, created this instant classic. That goal by Pavel Datsyuk to open the scoring was magnificent. The Russian maestro collected a stretch pass, skated through the American defense as if it were stationary, then surprised Jonathan Quick with a quick snap shot. It was vintage Datsyuk, which is saying a lot, since he seems to keep reinventing the meaning of the word.
It was the power play that kick started Team USA, as the Americans fought their way back. How much confidence did Cam Fowler show on that power-play pinch that ended with a jam job of a shot from in tight? In his first Olympics, the young Fowler wasn’t tentative at all. Impressive.
Then it was the surgical precision of Patrick Kane, threading an almost impossible pass to the left doorstep, where Joe Pavelski was able to bat in another power play goal for Team USA. It was a world-class play by Kane, and hardly routine, even though Blackhawks fans have seen that movie so many times in the past.
Back to Datsyuk, who used NHL fugitive Alexander Radulov as a screen to rip a right-wing shot past Quick for a Russian power play tally that tied things at two. Quick never had a chance, and Datsyuk further solidified himself as one of the greatest ever to lace on the blades. As if we needed any more proof.
Tyutin’s shot should have won it for Russia, and it was unfortunate for him and his teammates that the IIHF rulebook intervened. But it could have been worse for the Russians, if not for that breakaway save Bobrovsky made on Patrick Kane in overtime to keep things tied. Kane tried to go five-hole on the clean breakway, but Bob just said nyet.
After 65 minutes, nothing was settled, but it soon would be. By IIHF rules, teams can use the same shooter in the shootout as often as they please, after the initial three rounds. That meant the T.J. Oshie show. The kid from Warroad, MN, by way of the University of North Dakota and the St. Louis Blues became — at least on this wondrous Saturday morning — the USA’s modern-day Mike Eruzione.
Ultimately battling the Russian tandem of Ilya Kovalchuk and Datsyuk, Oshie ended up taking six shots in the shootout for Team USA. He scored four times, including the snap shot through Bobrovsky’s five-hole that ended this epic game in the 8th round of the shootout.
Miracle on Ice? Maybe not. But it is pretty miraculous that this impossible sequel has already managed to resonate the way it has. It was a hockey masterpiece in its own right, one that has instantly drawn casual fans into the family of hockey fanatics. And it served as a reminder to those who love the game so much why it is they do.
Imagine if this had been the Gold Medal game. Wow.