Everything you need to know to watch U.S. Olympic Hockey

first_imgFinally, the Winter Olympics are here — a time where we can all watch dedicated athletes we’ve never heard of compete in intriguing events we hardly ever see.We can turn on the TV and root for that woman who’s flying down gigantic moguls as fast as she can while at the same time preparing to land a switch-backside-triple-mctwist (or something like that) once she flies off a jump.Or, we can check out those Korean speed skaters whipping around a bend preparing to sweep the men’s 1500-meter event only to see the one athlete we’ve actually heard of — Apolo Anton Ohno — benefit from a tragic collision and take home the silver medal.And on Tuesday, the event with professional athletes we see on a somewhat regular basis finally arrived — Olympic men’s hockey.As a huge hockey fan myself, I’m about as excited as Bob Costas during an opening ceremony.In Canada no less.But fans must acclimate themselves with a completely revamped American squad, as this year’s team has a much younger look than the ones we’ve seen in years past (only three players have any previous Olympic experience).So who are these guys wearing the red, white and blue, and do they have a chance?Charlie Conway may not be leading the way, Coach Bombay may not be behind the bench and Wolf Stansson’s Iceland squad isn’t in this tournament, but the actual team USA — much like the team that performed in D2 ?– ?is absolutely worth watching.Here’s everything you need to know about the 2010 U.S. Olympic team:The young starsZach Parise. Patrick Kane. Bobby Ryan — the gifted forwards and new faces of USA hockey.Parise is relentless in the offensive zone, working along the boards to gain possession. He always seems to be in the right spot when the puck comes his way, and his non-stop motor and ability to find the back of the net has made him an elite talent.Kane, the NHL 10 video game cover boy, is another one of the league’s young phenoms. Kane doesn’t look too intimidating (5-foot-9 and 160 pounds), but his deadly-accurate wrist shot makes him a dynamic threat whenever he’s given space to get his shot off.The least well-known star of the bunch is Ryan (actually the second overall pick in 2005 behind Sidney Crosby), who possesses the most jaw-dropping athletic ability of any American. His stick handling ability and creativity with the puck are truly world-class.When one of these three is on the ice, pay attention, because Team USA could light the lamp in an instant.The weak linkInjuries have crippled the USA defense. Paul Martin and Mike Komisarek will not participate in the Olympics due to injury, meaning that an already underwhelming defensive corps is that much weaker.Tim Gleason and Ryan Whitney were added as replacements, and they’ll have to play mistake-free hockey to hang with the big boys.In Tuesday’s game against Switzerland, the Americans gave up a fury of odd-man rushes, but the Swiss just didn’t have the skill to finish.Against the likes of Canada and Russia, they wont be so lucky.The good at everything but not great at anything guysTeam USA can’t match the firepower that Canada and Russia bring to the rink — the depth just isn’t there. In an effort to counter that, guys like Jamie Langenbrunner (Team USA’s captain), Chris Drury, Ryan Kesler and Ryan Callahan were added to the roster.All of these guys are two-way forwards, meaning they are both defensively responsible and capable of chipping in with some goals.They aren’t going to wow with you with incredible skill, but they are willing to play a checking role.And against these loaded international powers, that will come in handy.If Team USA wants to reach the medal stand, these players will need to work tirelessly on the defensive end and chip in offensively whenever the opportunity presents itself.The all-important man between the pipesNothing is more important than a hot goaltender in a playoff or tournament setting.Ryan Miller has established himself as the top American goalie and his consistent play with the Buffalo Sabres has made him one of the NHL’s best, but he isn’t the only option.Tim Thomas and Jonathan Quick are also on the roster.Thomas is like that kid in Little League that dove for every single ball (even the ones hit right to him) to make himself look like a stud. He finds the need to sprawl around his crease and dive for the puck every time it’s within sight.Sometimes that leads to a highlight-reel save, and sometimes his lack of positioning leads to an easy goal.Quick doesn’t have much NHL experience, let alone international experience; so don’t expect him to play a large role in 2010.For Team USA, Miller isn’t the only choice, but he’s the best one.The final verdictSo I know you’re all wondering ‘Max, can Team USA win gold in Vancouver?’That’s not going to happen. Not this year. Not in Canada.The Americans, while extremely skilled on the top lines, are too young and inexperienced to take gold, and the lack of defensive depth is troubling.But on the plus side, USA Hockey is just oozing with potential. In the recent World Juniors Tournament, the Americans took home the gold medal, meaning there is that much more young talent on the way.USA will look to reach the medal stand here in 2010, but the gold is a little out of reach, unless of course you still believe in miracles.Max is a junior majoring in journalism and keeping it real. Who do you think will win the gold in Olympic hockey? Are you planning your schedule around that of the Olympic hockey competition? Let him know at mhenson@badgerherald.com.last_img

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