SOCHI, RUSSIA - The Americans have been the highest scoring team in the Olympic men’s hockey tournament.
But on Friday, they ran into a red-and-white wall and the colour of their best-case scenario changed from gold to bronze.
The USA will play Finland on Saturday for the bronze medal and the teams of both countries will have to try and shake off the disappointment of losing a shot at gold and regroup.
So how about it, Patrick Kane?
“It’s better than nothing,” said the American forward, who had three shots on in the USA’s 1-0 loss against Canada, but only one in the final two periods and wound up with no goals at these Olympics.
The U.S. was stifled by a hard-working Canadian defence that took away the Americans’ ability to build up their speed in the neutral zone.
“We didn’t really create much offence. On the chances we did have, their goalie made some good saves,” Kane said. “It’s a little disappointing. We knew it was going to be a tough game. No one said it was going to be easy.”
“I think everyone expected a tight-checking game, but to say we would have gotten shut out, I don’t think anyone would have thought that.”
While most were doling out praise for the Canadian work ethic, USA defenceman Ryan Suter wasn’t buying much of that.
When asked how he thought the U.S. played, he snapped: “Terrible.”
Care to expand on that?
“We didn’t have any energy, we didn’t have a forecheck, we weren’t very good,” Suter said.”
The Americans wound up with 31 shots on Canadian goaltender Carey Price and did force him to make a half-dozen good saves, but Canada did a good job of limiting the second chances.
After the game, American coach Dan Bylsma raved about the pace of the game and the Canadian commitment to have all 20 guys in sync.
James van Riemsdyk agreed about the speed.
“Yeah, that was a fast game,” said the Maple Leafs forward. “Any time you play against that team, it’s a fun rivalry game to be a part of and we didn’t come out on the good end of it, which definitely hurts. That’s the way it happens sometimes.
“That game was decided by one bounce. They got a good break on the goal, but you can’t expect to win if you don’t score for three periods. Aside from not scoring, I think we battled hard, played a pretty strong game. One bounce in the right direction and we obviously could have tied it.”
With all due respect to Suter, this wasn’t so much about what the U.S. didn’t do. The story was what the Canadians did in limiting the Americans’ ability to move around the ice.
“We didn’t change our game plan at all. We wanted to push the pace,” said U.S. defenceman Brooks Orpik. “I think you’ve just got to credit them. They’ve got great players and their game plan was really good. They clogged up the neutral zone really well. A lot of teams sit back on the big ice. They didn’t sit back, that’s for sure.”
The Americans at least have a shot at bronze and can add to the two silvers they have won since the NHL began participating in the Olympics in 1998 — in losses in gold-medal games to Canada in 2002 in Salt Lake City and in Vancouver four years ago.
American defenceman Cam Fowler promised his team would shake off the disappointment of the loss to Canada.
“It’s not easy, but you’re certainly going to see our best (Saturday) night. We’re not a team that’s going to be knocked down and not respond the next day,” he said. “So going up against a good Finland team, we still have something to play for. It’s not obviously what we wanted, but there’s a still a medal we can go home with.
“We’re going to play it just as if it’s the gold-medal game.”