When Team USA's management team was debating between the last few forwards to add to Team USA's roster, T.J. Oshie was on the bubble. They went through his skills and attributes and weighed them against other players as is the process. There were a lot of similarities between him and a few others. So when the U.S. management team started looking at tie-breakers, general manager David Poile had a thought.
From Scott Burnside's behind-the-scenes look at Team USA at ESPN.com:
Poile, meanwhile, knows Oshie and likes his personality.
"Oshie's got that shootout move," he adds.
And it just won them a game.
Oshie was sent out as Team USA's first shooter in the shootout and then five more times after it remained tied after the first three rounds. With the game on his stick with his sixth attempt, Oshie's quick release gave Sergei Bobrovsky no chance. In the best game of the 2014 Olympics to date, the U.S. defeated their hosts 3-2. Four goals on six attempts, five of which came in game-deciding situations.
Not to be out-done, Jonathan Quick put in an incredible effort, confirming Dan Bylsma had chosen wisely when picking his starting netminder, leaving 2010 MVP Ryan Miller on the bench. Quick made 29 saves in regulation and then made four saves in the shootout to give Oshie the chance to seal it.
It was an incredible game from start to finish, with Russia dominating the play through much of the first 40 minutes. Pavel Datsyuk's second period goal off a U.S. defensive breakdown put the U.S. on its heels until defenseman Cam Fowler snuck through on the power play.
From Fowler's goal on, the U.S. and Russia were as evenly matched as you could hope for in a best-on-best game. When Patrick Kane threaded a pass through to Joe Pavelski for a power-play goal and a 2-1 lead, the Americans looked at their most comfortable.
A costly penalty from Dustin Brown however, gave the Russians a power play and Datsyuk all the space he needed to tie the game.
Then came the controversy. Russia appeared to have taken the lead after Fedor Tyutin's blast from the point found the top corner. Quick went right to the refs to point out that the net had come off its moorings.
After video review showed that Quick had slid into his post and knocked the net just barely off its position, the goal was disallowed and things started to click for the U.S. again.
A five minute overtime period included two golden scoring chances for Patrick Kane, who had a breakaway by about 10 feet on the nearest skater and failed to put the puck through Bobrovsky's legs as he intended. Another chance later in extra time from in tight was also thwarted by Bobrovsky.
You would figure Kane would get a chance at redemption in the shootout, but Bylsma chose Oshie, James van Riemsdyk and Joe Pavelski. Only Oshie scored for the U.S. and then Ilya Kovalchuk tied the shootout on Russia's final attempt. IIHF rules allow any player to take an attempt after the first three shooters go.
That's when it became the T.J. Oshie show.
Oshie, who has 25 shootout goals in his NHL career and a 54.3 percent success rate in 55 attempts kept getting tapped on the shoulder.
After Quick stopped Kovalchuk, Oshie had a chance to win it. He beat Bobrovsky with his signature shootout move but skied the shot from point-blank range, in an incredible miss. It could have shaken his confidence, but Oshie had Bobrovsky beat and Bylsma apparently was willing to go with that as opposed to the miss.
Datsyuk was next and he chipped one past Quick, forcing Oshie into a must-score situation to extend the shootout. With the demeanor of a man who was settling in for his afternoon nap, Oshie coolly skated down, faked Bobrovksy to open up the five hole and with the quickest release slid it through.
Kovalchuk. Goal. Oshie again in a must-score situation. He sleepily skated in and again extended the shootout, but barely. The puck bounced off the crossbar, off Bobrovsky and over the line.
Datsyuk came in again and this time Quick was on it. He stuffed Datsyuk's shot attempt from the low slot and Oshie had another game-winning chance. This time he went to his backhand and this time Bobrovsky got just enough with his stick.
Kovalchuk again. He had Quick beat up high, but couldn't elevate the shot as the LA Kings netminder slid side to side and got his glove on it.
One more time it was Oshie and once again the puck was in the net, this time ending the game and giving the U.S. the thrilling 3-2 win.
The thing about international hockey and when you go to pick a best-on-best team, there are only going to be small differences between players. If Oshie's shootout skills were the small factor that got him picked over the likes of Brandon Saad or Bobby Ryan, Poile looks almost prophetic in retrospect.
They needed T.J. Oshie's shootout skills and in the biggest moment of his young career, the baby-faced St. Louis Blues forward looked the part of a cold-blooded killer just looking for that slightest of openings to end it.
And for Quick, his closing save on Kovalchuk may get overshadowed by Oshie's heroics, but his play throughout the game showed that the U.S. has its No. 1 goalie. Even as Quick's NHL save percentage this season hovers a little too close to .900, he showed up once again in a big game, like has has done in each of the last two trips to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Miller may get the start against Slovenia, but the American net belongs to Quick and it has never been so clear.
The win also proves that the U.S. is on a level with the tournament's best. Russia played a pretty fantastic game throughout. They successfully slowed down the U.S. speed and transition game and didn't allow many quality chances. Both of Team USA's goals came on the power play.
Sometimes in international hockey, you only get chances based on what the other team gives you in terms of mistakes and penalties. The U.S. took advantage when they had their chances and it helped them win the game.
For the U.S., the win means a win of any kind over Slovenia Sunday puts the Americans atop Group A and secures them a bye to the quarterfinal. Since the U.S. only collected two points for a shootout win in this game, however, they will most likely finish as the third seed heading into the medal round with Sweden and Canada most likely to finish first and second among all teams after the preliminary round.
Either way, they'll be happy about the position they're in heading into the medal round.
Some closing notes:
- When Dan Bylsma goes to review the tape, he'll be able to look at special teams as the reason his team was even in the game to begin with. Shot blocks from Ryan McDonagh and Ryan Kesler on a second period penalty kill were key plays against a Russian power play that was moving the puck incredibly well. Both U.S. goals came on the man advantage. It was an area where they had to be the better team to have success and they were.
- Ryan Suter played a ton in this game. He was on the ice for 29:56 including 3:12 in the five-minute overtime period. He plays a lot in the NHL, but big minutes on big ice are a fair amount tougher than what he's doing in the NHL. There more skating on the big sheet and the fact he never once looked out of the game in nearly a half hour of playing is incredibly impressive.
- Ryan Kesler won 15 of 24 draws in the game including several key offensive zone faceoffs to set up some offense. He was even winning draws after blocking a shot with his hand. He seemed pretty sore and even left the bench for a while after getting hit, but he showed no signs of trouble in the game.