To Russia with Love


Chicago, IL — Cheering for Patrick Kane is nothing new for Blackhawks fans but cheering for St. Louis Blues’ T. J. Oshie and David Backes is. For the next two weeks however every American will be cheering for the same team, Team USA whether you are a hockey fan or not.

What we are cheering them on for is a medal preferably gold since the last Olympics in Vancouver, BC in 2010 they came oh so close but lost in overtime to team Canada but brought home the silver medal. Who is Team USA? Well let’s take a look.

On big ice the most important position will be the goalies. The angles and bounces are different than NHL arenas and could come into play. If the goaltending is solid it gives a team that may not be as fast or talented a chance.

Goaltenders

No. Name Birthdate Hometown Current Team
35 Jimmy Howard 3/26/1984 Ogdensburg, N.Y. Detroit Red Wings
39 Ryan Miller 7/17/1980 East Lansing, Mich. Buffalo Sabres
32 Jonathan Quick 1/21/1986 Milford, Conn. Los Angeles Kings

In 2010 Buffalo Sabres’ goalie Ryan Miller got Team USA so close and figures to start in goal for America again. Goaltending is the strength of Team USA. Don’t be surprised even with how good Miller is if LA Kings’ netminder Jonathan Quick does not end up ultimately being Team USA’s net minder. Unconventional, quirky, solid, lightening quick and just plain brilliant is Jonathan Quick.

Both he and Miller backstop teams in the NHL that are not known for their offensive prowess which makes them very used to having to stand on their heads and defend til the end and will make it very difficult for other teams to score on them. Jimmy Howard is no slouch either so Team USA will be in good gloves and blockers in their nets.

The most telling position for how Team USA will go might just be the back line. If the USA has a weak  link you would have to say that it is on the blue line. The USA defense is very young but if there is any country that can pull off putting pressure on it’s youth it is Team USA. With only one player over age 30 this is a very inexperienced group. How they will respond on the biggest international stage and on big ice will be key to how Team USA goes.

Minnesota Wild’s Ryan Suter who is an alternate captain will be the anchor and leader on the USA backend. Suter and Orpik are the only returning defensemen from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Like Miller and Quick, Ryan Suter is used to logging a lot of minutes for his NHL team and very used to having a tremendous amount of pressure put on him so this will be nothing new. Look for Suter to be paired with Kevin Shattenkirk from the defensive minded St. Louis Blues. Look for this pair to carry the load on penalty kill and against opposing teams number one lines. The defense of Team USA will have pressure sure but with the stingy goalies they have behind them that should ease the pressure somewhat.

Defensemen

No. Name Birthdate Hometown Current Team
4 John Carlson 1/10/1990 Colonia, N.J. Washington Capitals
72 Justin Faulk 3/20/1992 South St. Paul, Minn. Carolina Hurricanes
3 Cam Fowler 12/5/1991 Farmington Hills, Mich. Anaheim Ducks
7 Paul Martin 3/5/1981 Elk River, Minn. Pittsburgh Penguins
27 Ryan McDonagh 6/13/1989 St. Paul, Minn. New York Rangers
44 Brooks Orpik 9/26/1980 Amherst, N.Y. Pittsburgh Penguins
22 Kevin Shattenkirk 1/29/1989 New Rochelle, N.Y. St. Louis Blues
20 Ryan Suter 1/21/1985 Madison, Wis. Minnesota Wild

Team USA is a good mix up front of skill, speed and physicality. Dustin Brown, David Backes & T. J. Oshie should provide the grit on this team. Phil Kessel, Patrick Kane and Zach Parise world class skill that can keep up with anyone. Both Kessel and Kane are currently three and four respectively in point in the NHL. If a team pays too much attention to these players however San Jose Sharks’ Joe Pavelski or Vancouver Canucks Ryan Kessler or Toronto Maple Leafs JVR will burn you. Make no mistake these players are physical but with skill as well.

All that being said up front I think will be determined by how good a tournament Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane has. Yes I am a fan but this year Kane has elevated his game and it will be interesting to see how that translates on big ice where he is very, very comfortable having played during the lockout last year in Switzerland. His game is well suited for this type of venue and game. Even though he does not wear a letter don’t let that fool you this guy is highly competitive and having won two Stanley Cups in four years hates to lose and knows what it takes to win. He may just be the most exciting player on the ice of all the countries teams.

Zach Parise will be captaining this group and look for him to lead the charges with a lot of support. This maybe the most diverse forward group of all the Olympic teams in that they can play a skill game or a physical grind game which should serve Team USA good and keep other teams guessing. Nine of Team USA’s forwards are returning from 2010 and when you hear them talk whether it’s Parise, Kane, Brown, Kessler or Backes there is a determination and a hunger in their eyes that should provide the fire to drive this team.

Forwards

No. Name Birthdate Hometown Current Team
42 David Backes 5/1/1984 Minneapolis, Minn. St. Louis Blues
23 Dustin Brown 11/04/1984 Ithaca, N.Y. Los Angeles Kings
24 Ryan Callahan 3/21/1985 Rochester, N.Y. New York Rangers
88 Patrick Kane 11/19/1988 Buffalo, N.Y. Chicago Blackhawks
17 Ryan Kesler 8/31/1984 Livonia, Mich. Vancouver Canucks
81 Phil Kessel 10/2/1987 Madison, Wis. Toronto Maple Leafs
74 T.J. Oshie 12/23/1986 Warroad, Minn. St. Louis Blues
67 Max Pacioretty 11/20/1988 New Canaan, Conn. Montreal Canadiens
9 Zach Parise 7/28/1984 Minneapolis, Minn. Minnesota Wild
8 Joe Pavelski 7/11/1984 Plover, Wis. San Jose Sharks
26 Paul Stastny 12/27/1985 St. Louis, Mo. Colorado Avalanche
12 Derek Stepan 6/18/1990 Hastings, Minn. New York Rangers
21 James van Riemsdyk 5/4/1989 Middletown, N.J. Toronto Maple Leafs
28 Blake Wheeler 8/31/1986 Robbinsdale, Minn. Winnipeg Jets

Team USA is in the highly competitive group A with host country Team Russia and the very competitive Team Slovakia which most Chicago Blackhawks and Bruins fans know will be load to play against. Being in such a competitive group could wear your team down or could be just the competitive tune up that will be needed to medal. Only time will tell which it is.

The Women’s Team USA already defeated a very good Finnish team and looked rock solid. Their main competition will be Team Canada as these two teams will battle for the gold. Team USA had incredible speed in their game against Finland. Their team speed looked faster than some AHL teams. I would consider Team USA the favorite for gold in women’s hockey.

Also don’t think these ladies play a nice little game of hockey some of these girls have wicked shots that some men would envy. These women can skate too make no mistakes about it. Plus what is not to like ponytails, lipstick and hockey sticks.

As a side note one of the women’s Team USA players Kendall Coyne,an Illinois native, after the Olympics will join the Chicago Blackhawks team. No not on the ice we don’t have a co-gendered league yet although the Blackhawks I’m sure would love to use her at times on the ice, instead she will be interning and helping with stats and imparting her hockey experiences to help with press conferences and I’m sure other things. Applauds to the Chicago Blackhawks for recognizing the wisdom this girl can bring and a fresh look to the game. Maybe one day we will see a women behind an NHL bench in some capacity.

For the next couple of weeks though my team may look a lot different than my usual team in the Indianhead sweater. There is one thing I hope my new team has that carries over from my NHL team a never say die attitude and just keep skating and grinding even if things don’t always go your way in games.

My neighbors won’t be hearing me say Let’s go Hawks for a couple of weeks but they will hear me say GO USA for both the men’s and women’s hockey teams. I have a feeling gold will be coming home with at least one of these teams maybe two.  Good Luck to Team USA, know that you have an entire nation wanting only the best for you.

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