We’re now just hours away from the highly-anticipated matchup between the U.S. and Canada at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Team USA will take on their North American rivals at noon ET on NBC Sports Network with live streaming on NBCOlympics.com. The full United States of Hockey preview of the game is here.
The big news out of the U.S. delegation today is that defenseman Paul Martin, who has been the third most utilized on Team USA’s blue line, will not be available for today’s game. There are conflicting reports as to why, as NBC’s Dave Strader said it was illness, while other reporters said Martin was in a cast yesterday.
Justin Faulk will slot into the lineup for the first time at the Olympics in his place. That really jumbles things up for Team USA on the back end.
Martin was expected to be paired with Penguins teammate Brooks Orpik and that unit likely would have been Team USA’s second shutdown pairing. Now Orpik slots in with John Carlson, which could be an interesting duo. Both guys see top matchups all the time in the NHL, as does Faulk, so it will be interesting to see how their utilization progresses in this game.
Jonathan Quick gets the start, as announced Thursday. Carey Price is going in net for Canada. Team USA’s full confirmed lineup after the jump with some notes.
U.S. is in their new white jerseys today. Here’s a look at their locker room. Those pictures above appear to be from the 1980 and 1960 gold-medal teams. One of the common themes U.S. players have been talking about is a desire to write their own chapter in USA Hockey history. Can’t do it without a win against Canada today.
— USA Hockey (@usahockey) February 21, 2014
Team USA Lineup vs. Canada
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 – John Carlson
Ryan Suter – Ryan McDonagh
Scratched: Paul Martin, Derek Stepan, Jimmy Howard
– As always, pay no mind to the order, though I would expect Backes’ line matching up with Canada’s top unit in more of a checking-line style.
– With Martin out, that puts more strain on Ryan Suter and Ryan McDonagh. They have been USA’s most utilized defensemen already, but Martin was eating an average of 18 minutes per game, third most among blueliners. I believed Suter and McDonagh would play a lot in this game anyway, but Martin was a capable defender in key minutes.
– What a time for Justin Faulk to come in. The 21-year-old defenseman is rather unheralded, but he is a fantastic young defender. He is good at both ends of the ice, a smart, responsible player who has good physical strength and defensive sense. He draws top competition on a nightly basis in Carolina and is a good guy to come in out of the bullpen. That said, he hasn’t played in this tournament and comes into Team USA’s biggest game yet. I don’t know if he’ll get a ton of minutes, but Bylsma shouldn’t be afraid to play him. They may need him.
– The pairing of Brooks Orpik and John Carlson is not ideal for Team USA. Both are solid enough, but they’ve each had some scary moments in this tournament defensively. Both were on the ice and parted like the red sea for a Pavel Datsyuk goal in the game against Russia. That’s only one example, but it came at a key moment in a big game. They have to play an exceptional game when out together to keep Canadian forwards at bay. The good news is, this is a big pair of defensemen that should be able to handle Canada’s aggressive forecheck.
– The Backes line is going to probably be Team USA’s most important. If they are successful in shutting down Canada’s top line and keeping Sidney Crosby from getting rolling, the U.S. is in a much better spot.
– Canada will do everything in its power to not let the JVR-Pavelski-Kessel line get rolling and if they are able to shut that group down, Team USA needs a lot more from the Parise-Kesler-Kane line. With all the skill and speed those two lines have, if both are going well against Canada, Team USA is a slow team to hold off.
– Jonathan Quick is going to need a big game. Canada is going to get chances. They just plain will. He needs to be sharp and make several key saves. I think he needs about 5-7 big stops in the game, while making all the ones he’s supposed to. He doesn’t have to be perfect, but if he has the form he’s had for much of the Olympics and what he’s shown in postseason play, the U.S. has a really good shot to pull this one out.
– The U.S. needs to have its best game yet at the Olympics. If they play up to their ability, they can skate with Canada and can win this game. I don’t think we’ve seen USA’s top gear yet. There’s no better time for that to show up than this game. It should be a real fun hockey game to watch and hopefully the hockey internet doesn’t meltdown in the process.
Enjoy the game, everyone.