In honor of Valentine’s Day, seven things I loved about the U.S. absolutely crushing Slovakia, 7-1, other than the U.S. absolutely crushing Slovakia, 7-1:
1. We’re up to speed: The U.S. adjusted quickly to the bigger ice surface and the 1-4 forecheck Slovakia employed. Prior to the tournament Dan Bylsma anticipated seeing the same thing from Russia and Slovenia this weekend.
2. We responded to adversity: Slovakia’s lone goal was offside and shouldn’t have counted but it did and it wound up tying the game at 1-1. America’s Team answered with six consecutive goals.
3. We scored goals: Firepower was perceived as a potential question mark entering the tournament. Perhaps there’s more magic in those U.S. sticks than initially anticipated.
4. We have balance and depth: Six players scored goals and 11 players produced points. The “fourth line” of Paul Stastny (2-0-2), Max Pacioretty (0-1-1) and T.J. Oshie (0-2-2) might have been the best of the four against Slovakia.
5. We made Slovakia look bad: Jaroslav Halak is an accomplished NHL tender, not some KHL reject, and he was lit up prior to being yanked. The Slovak roster included other recognizable and respected names such as Marian Hossa, Zdeno Chara, Michael Handzus, Tomas Tatar and Tomas Kopecky. There are worse teams in this tournament than Slovakia. But that was easy to forget given the U.S. level of domination.
6. We blew out our first opponent: The celebratory nature of the game will help foster team unity and the acceptance of roles, critical elements along the way to the gold. Brooks Orpik isn’t a seventh defenseman and Ryan Miller isn’t a backup goalie. But on this Armada of Athletic Ability such roles must be accepted and embraced.
7. We’re serious about this: Bill Guerin said before the tournament that Team USA was on a “mission” and that we’d win because of our “will.” I’m anticipating victory because of what I like to call our “American-ness,” and our “American-ness” was on full display in the opener.