2010 Vancouver Olympics: USA vs Canada (Men's Hockey)

Will you now do the Mark Messier thing and guarantee to our readers that the United States will medal?

[Laughs] Yeah, OK: I think the United States will medal. I'll guarantee that.

Awesome. And beyond that, will you also guarantee that we'll beat the Canadians?

I guarantee that we'll beat the Canadians.

-Ryan Kesler in August 2009, Puck Daddy chats with Ryan Kesler about video games, future in Vancouver and guaranteeing Olympic medal for U.S.

The United States beat Canada in Olympic men’s ice hockey 5-3. The US gets a bye for the first round for winning Group A. They will play the winner of Belarus-Switzerland. You can find the men's Olympic hockey bracket HERE.

Technically, the game itself wasn’t that great. The US played very sloppily. They had problems breaking into Canada’s zone, the passing was pretty awful, and they weren’t able to get off many shots. By all rights, they shouldn’t have won this game.

How they did win it, though, was by wanting it more than the Canadians did. The only member of Team Canada that obviously wanted to win this game as badly as the Americans was Sidney Crosby. While the rest of the Canadians were trying to figure out what was going wrong, Crosby was trying to single-handedly out-play the US. Gone was the ultra-bland, over-trained captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins that many people complain about. Crosby was burning to win when no one else off of Team Canada could be bothered to work up any kind of passion for this game.

Martin Brodeur did not have a strong game. And, to be honest, it’s a bit puzzling why he played. His poor showing against the Swiss should’ve convinced Mike Babcock that Roberto Luongo would have been a much better bet. Sure, Brodeur did well during the shootout against Switzerland, but during the game he was not his normal stellar self.

Canada coach Mike Babcock said ..., "Tonight was a night where we'd have to like to have been better in that area."

Brodeur’s off-night was a big reason why the US won, but so was his lack of defense. Canada’s defense was able to stand the US forwards up at the blue line, but if they made it into the zone, then the defensemen weren’t very good. Oh, they could move players to the outside, but it was the forwards that were intercepting passes and clearing pucks.

As for the rest of the Canadians, they were almost a faceless mass. There were no distinguishing moments for those players. Ryan Getzlaf had a moment now and then, but otherwise none of the players besides Crosby did anything really noteworthy. Add to that that the Canadians got a bit sloppy and frustrated themselves in the third period, taking some penalties which gave the US some power play time, and it was not a good night for the pride of Canada.

The Americans, on the other hand, came out ready to play. As could be seen by them scoring their first goal less than 41 seconds into the game. Canada never led in this game; they mostly trailed, but did manage to tie it up a couple of times.

Which isn’t to say that the US dominated play. For long stretches they did, but there were times that they were sitting back on their heels. They played with enthusiasm and passion. They wanted to win this game, and it showed.

As with the Canadians, there wasn’t really any one American that stood out about the crowd other than Ryan Miller. Brian Rafalski did score a couple of goals, and Chris Drury had his clutch moment, but not any single player – other than Miller – really dominated and took control of this game.

And in their case, that was a good thing. The US played as a team, for once. Perhaps they took the lesson of the US junior team to heart. Or, perhaps it was their involvement with the US military that got them through. Regardless, they managed to upset a team that many people agreed would probably contend for a gold medal.

Miller was a wall. Nothing was going to get past him. He was easily the best player on the ice for the entire game. His focus, his passion, was just amazing. If the US medals, it will mostly be because of him.

[Miller]’s heard from Canadians his whole life about how the players are better [in Canada], how the fans more passionate here, how the sport is simply superior here.

The bottom line here, however, isn’t how the teams played. It was the fact that the US finally beat Canada. The last US team to have done that was in the Olympics was the 1960 Squaw Valley (California), and that team went on to win the gold medal that year. So it’s been 50 years since the US has beaten Canada in Olympic competition. And they did it in Canada. And they did it in front of a crowd that was over 90% Canadian.
For many Americans who follow hockey, while we love the sport and admire many Canadian players, we honestly cannot stand the attitude of possessive self-entitlement that many Canadians have in regards to the sport of hockey. So to prove to Canada in such a decisive fashion that they do not own the sport we all love was very satisfying.

Yes, Canada has the better team. Yes, Canada played better than the US overall. Yes, Brodeur had an off night. And yes, Canadians will blow it off saying that it was a preliminary game and that it didn’t really mean very much. But that doesn’t change the fact that they still lost.

"We know we can beat anybody now," [Brian] Rafalski said.

-US jolts Canada 5-3 as Rafalski scores twice

For one shining and glorious moment, against the best team that Canada could possible put together, the United States of America was finally better than Canada at hockey in recent memory. American hockey is relevant again. And that was why this game was great. Let’s hope that this American team will follow in the steps of the 1960 team and win the gold. In Canada.

To use a phrase that was coined - or at least found - on Twitter: Do you believe in Millercles?