It is the first time team USA has hit the ice since the 2010 Winter Olympics when they brought home the silver medal from Vancouver. It was a devastating overtime loss at the time, but ever since that moment expectations for this Olympic season are high for the US squad.
Team USA is a well-built roster that has good team speed, which is a strength when playing on the bigger ice surfaces overseas. The squad consists of seven 20+ goal scorers in the NHL this season, a young corps of defensemen and great goaltenders. Ryan Miller was the man in 2010, but coach Bylsma decided to go with Jonathan Quick.
The biggest question with the American team is the defense and how they would play throughout the winter games. In their first game, it was a defensemen who struck first. After Slovakia turned the puck over in the neutral zone by the boards, Phil Kessel got into the offensive zone. Kessel then dropped the puck off to defensemen John Carlson, who joined the rush and blasted it past Jaroslav Halak for the only tally of the first period.
Slovakia was quick to respond in the second frame as Tomas Tatar evened the score at 1. It was a controversial goal, as it should never have counted. Hossa went to hold the puck onsides for Tatar, but it was an offside that the refs missed.It did not take long for the Americans to respond.
Patrick Kane found Ryan Kesler for the open slap shot to extend the lead. From then on, it was all team USA. The American squad scored six goals in the second period. They had six different goal scorers out of the seven goals; Stastny was the only multi-goal scorer on the day.
Backes, Kessel and Brown were the other goal scorers during the second period. The US squad did a nice job of being disciplined today in not taking any stupid penalties, only giving Slovakia one power play opportunity.
One thing the team is going to need to improve on going forward when playing the better teams is the power play. The larger ice surface presents a challenge during the power play and the US needs to figure out how to consistently attack toward the center of the oppositions diamond or box, rather than playing out wide by the boards.
Quick had a nice debut in net stopping 22 out of the 23 shots he faced. He nearly had a shut out if it was not for the missed call by the referees. Quick was not as battle tested today, but he will have his work cut out for him Saturday.
Team USA faces its toughest challenge next as they take on team Russia on their own home ice. Russia has an arsenal of offensive weapons, which will be sure to test Quick and the young defensemen early and often. It will be quite the game to watch and interesting to see how this team responds to one of the Olympic heavyweights.