Things get real at the Olympics Wednesday. One bad day is all it takes to end a team’s tournament and all of that excitement generated in the preliminary round is for nothing. The U.S. will meet the Czech Republic, a skilled and experienced team in the Quarterfinal.
You can check out a more in-depth preview here. The game airs at noon ET on USA Network and live streams on NBCOlympics.com.
The U.S. is going back to Jonathan Quick in net. He has been strong in his first two international experiences, but the pressure raises a bit in single-elimination. He should get challenged by the Czech forward group, but he has a very good defense in front of him and should get some goal support.
Here’s a look at the lineup for today’s game as confirmed by USA Hockey.
Don’t get caught up in the order, that’s just how they drew up the line chart.
Dustin Brown – David Backes – Ryan Callahan
Zach Parise – Ryan Kesler – Patrick Kane
James van Riemsdyk – Joe Pavelski – Phil Kessel
Max Pacioretty – Paul Stastny – T.J. Oshie
Cam Fowler – Kevin Shattenkirk
Brooks Orpik – Paul Martin
Ryan Suter – Ryan McDonagh
Scratched: Derek Stepan, Justin Faulk, Jimmy Howard
- As expected, Zach Parise and Dustin Brown have flipped lines. The U.S. really needs to get Parise going here as he hasn’t been much of a factor so far. Through three games he has zero points. In 2010, Parise was tied for the team’s scoring lead with seven points. They expected production out of him and with him going with one of the best playmakers in the game in Patrick Kane, it should help. They played the last half of the Slovenia game together and have been in practice to get more reps together.
- I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a lot of that David Backes line going up against Jaromir Jagr. The U.S. is going to want to play an aggressive physical game against the Czechs’ top forwards and try to wear them down early. Though Team USA has the last change as the home team today, I don’t think there will be a ton of line matching, but that’s one of the ones I see happening at least a little bit early on.
- The defense is lined up the same way it was against Russia. You’ve got two shutdown pairings and Bylsma can juggle the pairings as the game dictates. I think the U.S. transition game is going to be hugely important in this quarterfinal, so that Fowler-Shattenkirk duo could be a key one for the U.S. in getting the puck up ice quickly.
- I’ve been asked a lot about whether or not Justin Faulk, who has not dressed for a game, will get a medal if Team USA does since he hasn’t cracked the lineup. I had initially read that he would not, but wasn’t able to confirm. According to a USA Hockey spokesman, if the U.S. gets a medal, Faulk would indeed get one. It has to be tough sitting in the stands for these games, but Faulk is Team USA’s youngest player and with the way Team USA’s defense has played so far, it’s not a good idea to mess with the rhythm. The other thing about the Olympics, this is the first year they’ve had rosters of 25 players. It was 23 for Vancouver. Though he’s not playing, being there and practicing with the best the country has to offer should be a good thing for Faulk. It’s better than taking it easy during the Olympic break back home.
- The U.S. needs more scoring out of lines not including Joe Pavelski, James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel. I think that trio is going to be hard to stop, but in the event they go cold, someone else needs to step up. Stastny and Kesler’s lines have to be more consistently threatening.
- Winner meets Canada or Latvia (so probably Canada) in the semifinal Friday.
- The U.S. has the speed and depth to outplay the Czechs, but strange things can happen in the Olympics. Team USA can’t let up for a second in today’s quarterfinal. It should be a great game.