With the Olympic break officially on as of Saturday night and players beginning their flights to Sochi this weekend, it’s time to take a look at how the players that will make up the U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team fared in the lead-up to the games.
First off, the U.S. had a bit of scare on the last night of NHL action before the break as Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty left Saturday night’s game in Carolina early and did not return. After the game, however, he declared he was ready to go to Sochi still.
Team USA’s GM, however, David Poile, is unlikely to make it to Sochi until at least the medal round, if at all, after undergoing two surgeries after being hit in the face with a puck at Nashville’s morning skate Thursday. That’s an awfully unfortunate situation for the GM who definitely poured a lot into building this roster. Hopefully he’ll have a chance to make it, but I’m sure he’ll remain in close contact with the staff.
Coming up after the jump, a look at Team USA’s statistical leaders from this season to date, as well as a look at how they’ve fared since being named to the team with a few thoughts on some of the takeaways from the stats heading into Sochi.
Team USA’s NHL Stats — Season
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– Eight different players have already scored 20 goals this season on Team USA’s roster. That’s pretty impressive, especially considering there are other Americans in the league not on the roster with 20 or more. Led by Phil Kessel’s 31, this is a group that should be able to score some goals on the big ice.
– Having linemates Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk going so well right now has to be exciting for head coach Dan Bylsma. Imagine if Joe Pavelski ends up between them. That could be a high-powered scoring line.
– Kessel and Patrick Kane are among the top five scorers in the league. Kessel is third with 65 points including 31 goals, which put him second only to Alex Ovechkin for the league high. Kane is fifth with 63 points.
– Team USA has four defensemen already over 30 points this year and they’ll need the D to move the puck well. Transition is going to be a big key to Team USA’s success and they have guys that can really dish. Ryan Suter, Kevin Shattenkirk, Cam Fowler and Ryan McDonagh are big point guys this year, but John Carlson and Justin Faulk also have good offensive tools from the back end and are over 20 points. It’s going to be interesting to see how the young guys fare.
– The goalie numbers aren’t the most inspiring, but Quick and Howard have both been better of late. Miller has been pretty consistent all year, but his last few starts have seen his numbers dip. Still, a .923 mark on a struggling team is rather impressive for the veteran.
Team USA’s NHL Stats Since Jan. 1
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– Kessel has been one of the hottest scorers in the league since he was named to the Olympic team. He’s average 1.44 points per game since Jan. 1, which is pretty much insane. Can he carry that over into Sochi? His speed on the big ice and that shot? I’d say it’s probable.
– Patrick Kane endured a bit of sluggish start to the new year, but he has started to pick it up the last few weeks.
– Joe Pavelski’s torrid scoring pace has started to cool, but those 13 goals over just over a month’s time is extremely impressive. Part of it is due to Joe Thornton playing on his line, but you still have to finish your chances and Pavelski did a lot. He will have high-end linemates once again in Sochi, which could help him continue his hot streak on the world’s stage.
– I was a tad critical of the addition of Blake Wheeler over Bobby Ryan, but the Winnipeg Jets forward has been excellent since being named to this team. Wheeler is starting to put everything together and seizing his role as one of the top offensive players on his team. The size and speed have always been there, but consistent production lagged. He got hot in December and has stayed mostly hot through the last month-plus.\
– It’s worth noting that since Zach Parise came back from his foot injury, he’s over a point-per game in seven contests. It proves he’s either 100 percent or close in terms of his health and shows the long layoff didn’t hurt him.
– Both Jonathan Quick and Ryan Miller’s numbers aren’t earth-shattering over the last month, but neither have been getting a lot of help. It’s making the decision on who to start seem a little more complicated. As good as it is to see Jimmy Howard putting up better numbers after a disappointing start, he’s probably not the guy you want with the best recent numbers heading into tournament action. I don’t think the goaltending is going to be a real issue in this tournament, but it’s interesting to see how they’re playing coming into Sochi.
– Dustin Brown’s yearlong numbers and more recent ones even are not good in terms of offensive production. However, he’s not going to be in a production role at this point. He is one of the alternate captains and should be in the lineup to provide energy and throw his body around. In a semi-limited role, his lack of production isn’t all that concerning. Conversely, seeing Ryan Callahan starting to pick up his production is encouraging. He and Brown could end up as part of Team USA’s crash and bang line, but they also need to be able to contribute at least a little.
– In general, the U.S. is coming into the tournament with some really encouraging numbers and should be one of the deepest teams offensively when the games go live.
More coverage coming in the build-up to Thursday’s opening game against Slovakia. You can stay on top of all of United States of Hockey’s Olympics coverage by clicking here.