About Damn Time For Some Hockey: Canada-U.S.A.

 

Damn.

The following is a real-time log of Sunday’s gold medal game. I have not changed any notes – a fact that will become painfully obvious when my heart spills out all over your screen in about 1,500 words.

Not that you need a setup, but here it is. With a victory, Team Canada wins its first hockey gold since 2002 and salvages national pride by avenging a preliminary round loss to the Americans. Should the U.S. pull another upset, it will top the puck podium for the first time since the “Miracle on Ice” and Al Michaels will announce retirement Monday in the interest of symmetry.

Pregame notes: Don Cherry looks like a Christmas tree bulb with facial hair… If you need somebody to convince you of the stakes here, look no further than future NHL Hall of Famer/studio analyst Jeremy Roenick: “This is the biggest game in hockey history.”

First Period

Canada has 14 2009 NHL All-Stars on its team. Scary. Underrated part about this game: it’s live. Talked to my dad last night at about 9:30 p.m. as he was gearing up for the four-man bobsled. Didn’t have the heart to tell him that Team Seth Rogen landed gold six hours ago.

Just three minutes in and you can tell that these teams are still feeling each other out. Maybe it’s just nerves, but neither has really taken control offensively yet. Kind of like a heavyweight bout where both fighters jab their way through the first round.

Canadian Eric Staal of the Hurricanes hits Drew Doughty of the Kings on a 2-on-1 break but Doughty can’t find the handle and U.S. goalie Ryan “Ice Cold” Miller deflects a weak backhander. First real scoring chance for either team… Canada Hockey Place is eerily quiet. Many a coal will turn to diamond today if these people don’t loosen up.

Shots 2 to 1 in favor of Canada as we reach the 12:00 mark, but still few great scoring opps for either team. Both have been solid on defense… Since we haven’t heated up yet, let me pass this on: Also on the line today – a man’s bet between Jeremy Roenick and Barry Melrose. Loser shaves off his mullet.

I have a way of going off on stupid tangents right before something important happens. Dustin Brown (Kings) skates passed his defender and backhands a shot on Canadian goalie Roberto Luongo (Canucks) from a few feet out. The puck sits in the crease as Luongo pulls a Dominique Moceanu, and probably his groin, trying to straddle the net. Attempt successful. Still scoreless with 8 minutes left.

A Recurring Theme

So, uh, 50 seconds later, no longer scoreless. Jonathan Toews (Blackhawks) puts back a Mike Richards (Flyers) rebound on a shot that Miller can’t corral. Toews adds to his tournament leading point total (8). 1-0, Canada, as Hockey Place collectively exhales and 19,000 maple-leafed hockey fans regain color in their cheeks.

On an otherwise ho-hum Canadian power play, Staal squirts through to the goal on a broken rush. Miller makes a big save with about 4 minutes to play. Nothing else to report for the moment, so here’s reason number 1,174 why hockey rocks. Google the name of any NHL guy and the first term that comes up is “Player X girlfriend.”  Oh, and they’re all super hot.

As U.S. forward Ryan Kesler (Canucks) drills Richards on a cross-body check in the corner boards behind Luongo, I give you reason number 1,174 why NBC sucks: they hang the space-filling “Gold Medal” graphic under the clock in the upper right hand corner of the screen, you know, for all the people who were waiting for tomorrow’s post-Closing Ceremonies gold medal game between the U.S. and Canada.

“Angry players have been parted,” says play-by-play man Mike Emrick as time expires. U.S. defenseman Jack Johnson (Kings) is at the center of the scuffle. Oddly enough, this is how I’d rank famous Jack Johnsons: 1) Jack Johnson, boxer 2) Jack Johnson, hockey player… 1,174) Jack Johnson, Starbucks singer.

Second Period

American Ryan Malone (Lightning) cross-checks Corey Perry (Ducks) in the teeth. You can’t do that. Canada comes out on the 5 on 4 like a young Tyson looking for a first-found K.O. Miller makes a couple of acrobatic saves and a host of American defenders sprawl out their bruised bodies to take a puck in the leg, a puck in the sternum, a puck in the shin. Again, there’s “tough” and there’s “hockey player.”

Canadians cheat, too, but  the Americans let them get away with it like a mid-90s Mrs. Clinton. Total trainwreck of a power play, which then immediately turns into a vicious Canadian offensive. Perry – the guy who got checked in the face – capitalizes on a great cross-ice pass from NHL teammate Ryan Getzlaf, putting a wrister past goalie Miller. Hubie Brown says that missed layups in basketball always turn into quick scores on the other end. Same concept. 2-0, Canada, as the head of the Canadian Olympic Committee pats himself on the back for lighting a fire under his country’s ass.

"So... close."

Team U.S.A. finds itself with another 5 on 4 advantage with 11 minutes left. Too bad “finds itself” indicates passiveness. Again, brutal power play – 2 SOG – as the Canadians poke away several pucks in the first minute and change. With time running out, the Americans try to jam home a score amid a flurry of limbs in front of the Canadian net. No dice.

Luongo makes a spectacular save on a one-man Jack Johnson rush. The action is starting to open up, which doesn’t bode well for the Americans. You know when a high-powered football team decides to come out running the ball out of sheer stubbornness, and then turns its star receivers lose in the second quarter? Yeah, that’s what’s happening here. Canada is simply outclassing Team U.S.A.

The reverse jinx works every time… GOOOOOOOAAAAAAAL!!!! U.S. forward Brian Rafalski (Red Wings) skates past the blue line, throws a puck toward the net, and Kessler finishes the job. 2-1, Canada, as a rejuvenated America considers highjacking both this game and the Canadian formula for universal health care.

“You sense a surge has been coming from Team U.S.A.,” Emrick says with 4 minutes to go, as a shot skirts just wide of Luongo. “And now it’s become a shooting gallery around Luongo.” Speaking of shooting, if you haven’t heard Sports Casualties ideas to revamp cross-country skiing, please visits us at Twitter… unless you’re a fan of live animals.

A few notes from the 1:00 mark: 1) Emrick says Jamie Langenbrunner’s (Devils) name for the first time all day. Langenbrunner, aside from having 13 letters in his name, is also the U.S. team captain. This is not a good sign 2) Canadian Staal skates in all alone on goalie Miller, but nearly whiffs on a slapper from a yard out – puck shoots wide right. F.S.U. kickers would be proud 3) the American goal should not have counted. Team U.S.A. was offsides. I say now we’re even for the Kim Cattrall commercial. Or at least the first 37 re-airings. (note to college-aged males: do not leave your drink unattended)

That sound - it's a pin dropping.

Third Period

Twenty minutes to go; 33 million Canadians battling a phenomenon that rhymes with, um, “rhincter tightening.”

“Nothing much at stake here,” Emrick jokes a minute in, as the NBC graphic returns to tell us that, yes, this is indeed the “Gold Medal” game you are watching.

PING! I attempt spelling “onomatopoeia” to tell you that the Canadians hit the post twice in the first three minutes. Emrick jokes, “Do you believe in omens?” Damnit, Mike, don’t toy with me. American Miller (not the beer) makes another great save with 15:50 left. I have a pit in my stomach as I realize we’re three inches away from a 4-1 Canadian lead.

Color man Ed Olczyk tells us that it’s not a bad idea for the U.S. to shoot the puck toward the net. Every viewer who both has never seen a hockey game before and lacks common sense just had an epiphany.

With 10 minutes left, I feel it necessary to point out that both goalies have traded slinky-spined  saves all afternoon. Miller, in particular, has been a rock. What do you think of a “Stonewall” nickname for him? Good? Or are names associated with Confederate generals kind of off-limits?

You can hear a pin drop when the Americans have the puck. Everybody is tight, including the U.S. offense. The Canadians have been smothering potential rushes with solid forechecking all afternoon, but especially in the last 10 minutes. They remind me of how the ’96 Florida Panthers played against the Penguins and Flyers in the playoffs. Difference is, the Panthers were out-manned and needed the stifling defense. This is the equivalent of death-by-pillow: slow and suffocating.

At 3:13, Sidney Crosby (Penguins) finds himself mano a mano with Miller on a breakaway, but fails to put the Americans out of their misery. Still a one-goal game as we reach the two-minute warning.

The Americans pull their goalie and work up a flurry of action in the Canadian zone, but to no avail. Miller is on the bench and the U.S. coach just busted out his magic marker and a dry erase board… 1 minute left, and since you already know how this puppy ends, I’m not going to delay the inevitable any longer…

Emrick: “AND THE GAME IS TIED!!!” THE REVERSE JINX STRIKES AGAIN!!! ZACH PARISE… GOALLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!! 2-2, AS I MAINTAIN THAT MY USE OF CAPS LOCK AND EXCLAMATION POINTS IS FULLY JUSTIFIED!!!

Sports Casualties takes half credit for this one.

Overtime

Honest, I just got a little chill when I typed “overtime.” Text from my father after Parise’s (Devils) goal with 24 seconds to play: “Are you kidding me???” The Hilson family: fully invested in hockey for one day a year; fully invested in over-punctuation always.

Text from SC co-author Bryan Holt: “I’m naming my kid Parise.” Love it. Works for a boy or girl.

Oh yeah. Forgot to mention – the OT setup is an unmitigated atrocity. They play 4-on-4 instead of at full strength. This is like the NFL outlawing the strong safety and tight end positions after the second coin flip.

With 15:30 left, Canadian Jerome Iginla (Flames) pesters Miller with a spell of putbacks. Advantage: America.

And as I play up the battle, Team Canada wins the war. Who else? Sid the Kid. He skates free and beats Miller five hole. The U.S. goalie and tourney MVP crumbles in a pile of pads and tears. 3-2, Canada, as Sidney Crosby receives his gold medal and free Canadian beer for life.

Damn again.

– Robbie

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