Next up is Norway and a good thing too for Team USA.
Really, the Americans could use what amounts to another tune-up before things get serious. These preliminary rounds count in the standings of course, but they are mainly about gearing up for the one-loss playoff eliminations next week. And while Team USA didn’t look particularly out of sync beating Switzerland 3-1 in the Olympic opener, there are a few kinks to work out.
The bright side is the Americans get to do it with something in the win column. And they actually did a nice job meshing despite skating together only once before the tournament began, although they’ll need more from the top line of Zach Parise, Patrick Kane and Paul Stastny. But there were flaws, the kind that you can sometimes get away with against second-tier teams like Switzerland or Norway, just not against NHL-stacked powerhouses standing in the way of a medal.
So even though Team USA showed some positive signs in the opener, it wasn’t good enough. The Americans did move the puck well in the early going and forced an overmatched opponent to spend much of the time back on its heels. But Switzerland is a team with the goaltending to pull off an upset as Canada found out in 2006, and Team USA gave them too many chances to do it again.
Truth is this one should have been wrapped up as soon as David Backes blew past Swiss defenseman Yannick Weber to give Team USA a 2-0 lead early in the second period. Team USA even added another goal before the final period began, but then mailed it in and essentially had to hang on against a team without any real offensive threat.
Ryan Miller was as good as he had to be in goal for Team USA, although he faced only 15 shots and benefitted a great deal by the fact the Swiss couldn’t hit the net with any regularity. Still Switzerland was able to create enough chances to put a scare into the Americans, who developed a disconcerting habit of allowing repeated odd-man rushes.
As American captain Jamie Langenbrunner told a television interviewer after the game, the team has to smarten up and fast.
“We’ve got to realize the situation of the game, and if we have a lead, play smarter and not take chances,” he said. “We gave up too many two-on-ones and three-on-twos in the third period, and we can’t do that. The further you go in the tournament, the more talent you’ll see and they’ll make us pay.”