When the puck drops this morning at around 11:30 a.m. ET the United States will face their arch rivals Canada in the Olympic hockey semi final game.
As you might expect the NBC hockey crew that will call the action have different idea’s on how things will play out. Yesterday from Sochi via conference call I spoke t0 analyst’s Eddie Olczyk, Jeremy Roenick and Pierre McGuire about what it would take for the USA to beat Canada.
JW: What will it take for the U.S. has to do to win?
Olczyk: I think the key for Team USA is they have to play a fast, transitional game against Team Canada. That’s how they’re built with speed, with their size, with their ability to go from defense to offense very quickly. I don’t know if they want to play a board game with Canada, they certainly have guys to be able to do that, but I think their transitional game is going to be a key to having success against the Canadians, especially through the middle of the ice…that will be a big key for Team USA. If they can get that transition game going, they’re going to generate some offense, I really believe that both of these teams have yet to see the type of team they’re going to face tomorrow. I don’t want to say they’re mirror images, but they have not seen a team in these Olympics that can score and generate like the other can. These games have been very low scoring…we’re averaging just over three goals a game when you take the U.S. out of this tournament…I expect tomorrow to be a high-scoring game. I expect both teams to get chances, and I could see a total of seven, eight, nine goals tomorrow.”
McGuire: “I agree with that, and that’s why David Backes, Dustin Brown and Ryan Callahan, who did such a good job in the game against the Czech Republic against Jaromir Jagr, Tomas Plekanec, and Roman Cervenka…for David Backes, Dustin Brown, and Ryan Callahan, whoever they play against, if they can neutralize one of Canadian lines, that will take a lot of the duress off of the United States. To Eddie’s point, and I think it’s a really valid one, the speed through the neutral zone that the Americans have shown in this tournament is the best we’ve seen for any team here. Of the four teams in the semifinal, nobody’s been able to touch the speed of the Americans yet.
Roenick: “For me, it’s going to come down the goaltenders. It’s going to be about how well Jonathan Quick plays, and to see if [Carey] Price can make the big saves. Both Price and Luongo have struggled this year, it will probably be Price [starting] in the game, it’s probably his biggest game of the year. It’ll be interesting to see how the goaltenders handle this situation.”