I know this is a little late but after a game like the Canada-USA game, I had to compose myself before writing about it.
Going into the game one of biggest questions was "who can score first". Throughout the tournament leading up to the final game 26 or the 29 teams to score first won. In any hockey game the first goal is always important, but in this tournament it was a necessity. On top of scoring first Canada needed to play a totally different game then they did in the last meeting a week earlier. They had to be physical from the moment the puck dropped, and they did just that. They set the tempo pretty early, just like they did against Russia, Germany, and to a lesser degree Slovakia.
In order to beat Ryan Miller they had to do one thing, get bodies to the net. It seems simple enough, and every NHL team always says that getting bodies to the net is crucial...yet a lot of people never do it. In the gold medal game however, we did. Getting guys in front of the net to tap in the rebounds was the only chance of beaten Miller and that's exactly how we jumped out to a 2-0 start.
In a game of this magnitude keeping composure was something I questioned that the young Canadian team would be able to do. Yes they have a lot of playoff, Stanley cup, game 7 experience, but this is a totally different level. Scott Nierdermayer was vital in keeping emotions in check. The Captain has literally done everything you can do in a hockey career and definitely led by example when it came to be calm and collected with the puck, especially in the defensive zone. And it rubbed off on everyone else. In the 1st period Duncan Keith saved a goal right at the goal line. Luongo was down trying to hold up against the post but the puck JUST slid by him and stopped right on the red goal line. Keith came up, saw the puck and with a surprising amount of calmness simple puck his stick slowly on the ice and tucked the puck under Luongo just in time. Nobody is really talking about the composure by Keith on that play and it's a shame because it did ultimately prevent the USA from scoring 3 goals in regulation.
This was a game that had a lot of variables to it. One being "how would the US react if scored on first? They haven't trailed in the entire tournament". I thought it would get to them and they'd start making mistakes and sloppy passes with bad angle shots. It was quite the opposite actually. They continued to play smart hockey and even pushed back with a bit of sustained pressure for a while. And when they went down 2-0 the same thing happened. They kept it together and showed great team chemistry and confidence. And for that I give the players, Ron Wilson, and Brian Burke an enormous amount of credit.
When the 3rd period finally rolled around it was quite possibly the most nerve racking period of the entire Olympic Winter Games. Up 2-1 against a very good USA team who really badly wants to ruin the Canadian party for ruining theirs 8 years ago. When they dropped the puck Canada continued the pressure and in the first 2 minutes rang the puck off 2 posts. When that happened I definitely thought that at some point we'd get another one. But after 5 minutes of the 3rd went by without a goal it looked like Canada was starting to sit back...ultimately a bad idea. The dying minute and a half of the game rolled around and Ryan Miller was on the bench, the entire country on the edge of our seats and with just over 24 seconds left to gold medal victory, yet another defensive zone collapse allowed Zach Parise to notch the tying goal. I think I could hear the entire country simultaneously let out a big "NNOOO!!!!!!!". Heading into the dressing room for OT was unbearable.
At that point, I'll be honest, I didn't know if we had what it takes to win it. We go into the dressing room just giving up that goal and probably feeling down on ourselves while the USA is unbelievably happy. It wasn't the case though. The Canadians still had confidence, composure, and their heads up knowing that if they came out with a fury in the first few minutes that they could win this game. Before the puck dropped I was sitting in the control room of the radio station I work at and could not sit still for the life of me. Finally the puck dropped and I couldn't move. I kept forgetting to breath and blink.
It seemed like Iginla and Crosby were out there for the entire OT period, which had me more than a little worried since the 2 games prior Sid had been held off the scoreboard, and was still pointless through 60min of this game. But Sid the Kid would not disappoint and in a fashion that will forever be replayed on TV, won the gold medal. He took the puck into the left hand corner of the offensive zone. He was then joined by Iginla who took over the puck while Crosby mad his way to near the bottom of the circle, and with Iggy on his knees made a clean pass to an open Sid in front of the net. Ryan Miller went to poke check the puck away from Crosby but Sid got his head up JUST in the nick of time to see it coming and rip the shot past Ryan Miller and sending the entire country in one giant screaming, jumping, celebration.
Now I'll be honest when that puck when in the net I yelled incredibly loud and for the rest of the afternoon my voice sounded like it was starting to go on me...which isn't good being on the radio. But it's hard to think about that when Canada just won gold on home soil in the biggest event of the Games AND set an Olympic record in the process. It was Canada's 14th gold medal of the 2010 games eclipsing the record of 13 set by the Soviet Union in 1976 and matched by Norway in 2002. After yelling as loud as possible I sat back down and had a tear roll down my face. And I know I wasn't alone in that. The Canadian Pride that was evident through the entire tournament was brought out ten fold when the flags were raised and the anthem was sung. It was possibly the LOUDEST rendition of Oh! Canada I've EVER heard.
All in all there's nothing more you could have asked for in these games. I'm sad it's over but obviously couldn't be happier with the result. Now it's back to the NHL with a game actually happening tonight (March 1st) between Detroit and Colorado. The first game back for the Toronto Maple Leafs is tomorrow night against the Carolina Hurricanes.
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