Team Canada able to beat the USA men at their own game: Speed
It's the morning after the two days before, and USA Hockey is left with the undeniable realization that the efforts were indeed valiant, but the goals weren't achieved.
The women's game in particular was a bitter pill because the lead was lost late in the game. But the men needed to find a way. That offense should never be shut down. The problem for too much of that game was puck possession. Yes, the U.S. poured over 30 shots on Carey Price, but it was the Canadians who dictated the pace of the game for long stretches.
Team USA was built on speed, and it was evident throughout the Olympics, just not evident enough against Canada Friday. The Canadians were the more ferocious forecheckers, the more explosive team through the neutral zone. It was prototypic Mike Babcock hockey: Own the puck, play with speed, and win tight, up-tempo games. The pace of Friday's game was often amazing, but it was Team Canada that pushed that pace harder most of the game.
The Americans ended up chasing too much of the contest against the neighbors to the north, and at times it seemed almost as if Team USA was being too careful. Maybe that was just perception, but it certainly wasn't the right time to be tentative at all, not in a one-and-done situation.
In the final analysis, both American teams and staff deserve accolades for determined, stirring efforts. The peak of the mountain is certainly in sight when it comes to this country and its place on the international hockey stage. It's just a little bittersweet that both teams came so agonizingly close to the top of that mountain in Sochi.
As devastating as the Team USA losses to Canada were on the ice, they pale in comparison to the catastrophic injuries suffered by Nashville Predators and Team USA GM David Poile when he was hit in the face by an errant puck at the Preds practice just before the Olympic Games began. Because of the freak accident, he was unable to travel to Sochi and complete the work he had spent so much time planning, at least not in person.
Mr. Poile met with the press in Nashville earlier this week and described his facial injuries, which have required three surgeries and have cost him -- at least temporarily -- the sight in his right eye. As usual, he was his most affable and respectful self at that conference.
When I first started working in pro hockey, at the AHL level with the Hershey Bears, David Poile was our NHL GM. All these years later, I have not met a more decent man in the game. As competent and successful as he has been as a manager, he is equally so in the way he treats other people. He is a shining example of what makes this sport so special, and I wish him a speedy and complete recovery.
Don't think the John Tavares injury suffered in Sochi isn't resonating around NHL ownership and management groups. It may well end up being the tipping point in whether or not NHL participation in the Olympics moves forward. It'll be very interesting over the next few months to find out how much traction the potential World Cup of Hockey will have and whether or not it will replace the NHL-Olympics era.