It seems the experts are saying the reason they’re picking Canada to win the hockey gold medal Sunday is that the U.S. was terribly outplayed in the preliminary round game last Sunday night....even though they won 5-3. And if you just look at the shots-on-goal and the territorial edge in play of that game it would be hard to argue against that.
But what I think might be being overlooked is that the Americans took an early lead in the game…perhaps undeserved because of the shoddy netminding of someone thought to be the best, Martin Brodeur…but a lead nonetheless. If you watch enough hockey, surely you’ve seen teams play to protect a lead. I would say Ron Wilson and the American coaches were likely drumming “no stupid passes” and “no stupid penalties” into the heads of the U.S. players as soon as they went up 1-0 knowing that Ryan Miller, and keeping the Canadians off the scoresheet, offered the best chance to win. They likely had “keep it out of our own net” at the top of their minds. And the Canadians were in situations in which they needed to pour on the gas to attempt to pull even. A defense-first style by the Americans, no doubt, contributed to their ability to pour.