Final, 7-1 USA: And that’s it — the U.S. takes a comfortable 7-1 win in its 2014 Olympic debut.
Paul Stastny scored two goals, and Ryan Kesler, Dustin Brown, David Backes, Phil Kessel and John Carlson all had one apiece. Jonathan Quick stopped 22 of 23 shots, looking sharp between the pipes.
The overall takeaway is that when the U.S. turns it on, they can really turn it on, to the tune of a six-goal period. Granted, this wasn’t against a medal contender, but Slovakia is a strong team with NHL talent, and that’s including in the crease.
The U.S. will really get to show what is has on Saturday against Russia.
Third period, 2:57, 7-1 USA: It’s really been an uneventful third period, and both teams now look content to watch the clock tick down to zero. Not the most exciting of endings, but given the fireworks of the second period, it makes sense.
Third period, 8:30, 7-1 USA: My prediction for a few more U.S. goals doesn’t look good right now, as the game’s slowed down quite a bit in the third. The Slovaks aren’t quite as into it as they once were, and the Americans aren’t exactly stomping on the gas pedal.
Stastny had a chance at finishing off the hat trick, but Budaj was able to turn away his bid.
Third period, 12:20, 7-1 USA: Slovakia actually has a 3-1 edge in shots in the third period, as the U.S. has tried to create some fancy chances. That’s not really how they tallied their seven goals, but perhaps that six-goal cushion allows for some room for creativity.
Third period, 16:15, 7-1 USA: With some back-and-forth action resulting in few scoring chances early, the NBC Olympics’ feed has taken a light jab at Zdeno Chara.
The #PicsWithZdeno hashtag has become quite popular in Sochi, as some of the shorter athletes have been posting pictures with the 6-foot-9 defenseman. Well…
Third period, 20:00, 7-1 USA: The third period begins with a U.S. faceoff win.
Second intermission, 7-1 USA: The ice time leader so far is Ryan Suter, who’s been out there for 14:31. Ryan Kesler leads all forwards with 12:37 of ice time.
Surprisingly, Zdeno Chara is not the ice team leader among Slovakian defensemen, as he’s at 11:43 while Andrej Sekera is at 12:17.
End of second period, 7-1 USA: In a shocking turn of events, the Americans haven’t scored in multiple minutes. Multiple. Minutes. Do you believe in miracles?
The U.S. ended the period killing off 1:49 of a Phil Kessel slashing penalty, and they’ll start the third short-handed for 11 seconds.
It’s just a thorough beatdown from the American squad right now, and there’s not much else to say. They are flying around the ice and they’re finishing their chances. Their D has gotten back to stifle any potential Slovakian chances, and Quick has been solid.
I forecast at least two more U.S. goals before this one wraps up.
Second period, 4:43, 7-1 USA: Does Slovakia have anyone else who can play goalie? Perhaps they can just put the net down or force the U.S. to play posts, because this is too easy right now.
John Carlson fed Dustin Brown in the slot, and he had enough room to fire a wrister past Budaj for the American’s seventh goal.
It’s hard to blame the goalie, as the U.S. is just operating at a special level right now.
Second period, 5:40, 6-1 USA: Are you kidding me? Another goal.
This looked like the easiest of all, as James van Riemsdyk saw Phil Kessel camped out at the goal mouth, sneaking behind Milan Jurcina. JVR sent a hard pass toward Kessel’s stick, and he deflected into the open net.
Tough start for Peter Budaj, eh?
Second period, 6:30, 5-1 USA: My goodness, we have a rout on our hands.
Slovakia missed an opportunity when the puck was loose on the U.S. goal mouth and Quick had his back to the play. But the U.S. cleared the puck out of the zone, and off went Kevin Shattenkirk flying up the right wing. He sent a cross-ice pass to Stastny, who was able to bury his chance.
That gave the U.S. a 5-1 lead and forced Slovakia to make a change in net. Peter Budaj now comes in to replace Jaroslav Halak, who stopped 20 of 25 shots.
The U.S. has incentive to pile on here, too, as goal differential could play a factor later on.
Second period, 11:35, 4-1 USA: The U.S. didn’t score on the power play, actually giving up a quality short-handed scoring chance, but just as the penalty time expired, Phil Kessel put a snap shot on net and a mad scramble ensued. With a handfull of white and navy jerseys whacking at the puck, and with Kessel backhanding the puck back toward the mess of bodies, David Backes was able to get enough of his blade on the puck to bury it past Halak. It might have been James van Riemsdyk that did the scoring, but it was hard to tell.
It’s now 4-1, and the U.S. team continues to look good. Real good.
Second period, 13:50, 3-1 USA: The effort is relentless from the U.S., as they’re just dominating this matchup now. Rene Vydareny goes off for tripping Ryan Kesler in front of the Slovak net, an indication of the U.S. just having the stronger skating legs right now.
If you wanted a reason to be excited about this team, the speed and effort level right now should give you enough.
Second period, 17:27, 3-1 USA: The goals are coming in buckets now. T.J. Oshie had some strong work to keep a puck in the offensive end, and he made a cross-ice pass to Pacioretty. His bid was turned away by Halak, but Paul Stastny was in perfect position to bury the rebound, and it’s now 3-1.
Can you keep up?
Second period, 18:34, 2-1 USA: The Slovakians tied the game up … for a matter of seconds.
Patrick Kane wheeled through the offensive end and fed Kesler at the top of the circle, and Kesler unloaded another one-time bomb that beat Halak.
The goal came just over a minute after Slovakia got on the board when Tomas Tatar capitalized on a bad turnover by Ryan Suter in the U.S. end, skating to create some room for himself and firing a laser over the shoulder of Quick to tie the game.
Replays showed that the play should have been whistled dead, as Marian Hossa touched the puck offside before Tatar had cleared the zone. Alas, it was a close play and the whistle wasn’t blown. Regardless of that, it was a beauty of a shot.
So a pair of quick ones get this second period started in a big way.
Second period, 20:00, 1-0 USA: Second period under way in Sochi.
End of first period, 1-0 USA: Through 20 minutes, the Americans lead 1-0. It was a solid effort from the Americans, who controlled the play for the most part. Slovakia had a small handful of scoring chances, and it’s clear they’re not a pushover. But the U.S. team speed came as advertised, as they were first to the loose pucks and seemed to enjoy the extra space in the offensive end. Shots were 11-4 in favor of the U.S. in the opening 20 minutes.
Still, the U.S. is going to need stellar goaltending, and so far so good in that department as well.
First period, 3:53, 1-0 USA: Slovakia gets its first great scoring opportunity when Richard Panik takes a pass in the slot and carries it toward net. He had an open net if he could have gotten a backhand on the puck. But he couldn’t get a handle and the puck trickled wide.
Quick’s been sharp thus far, but he got a bit of puck luck on that one.
First period, 5:33, 1-0 USA: Team USA takes a lead on an absolute missile of a one-time slap shot by John Carlson.
Phil Kessel carried into the offensive zone on a 2-on-2 and decided to drop a pass back to Carlson, who fired a bomb over the right shoulder of Halak.
The puck deflected off the inside corner of the net and bounced right out, and with it came a 1-0 American lead.
First period,8:00, 0-0: USA controlled the puck for the majority of the two minutes, but they didn’t get a shot on net during the man advantage until just six seconds remained on the power play. Even that was a long range shot into Halak’s chest.
They play on, tied 0-0, in the first.
First period, 10:01, 0-0: The Slovakians are asking a lot from Halak early on, as he’s had to make five saves in the earlygoing. That includes his turning away of a tricky Max Pacioretty shot from the half wall and doing the same on a long Ryan McDonagh wrister through traffic.
And now, Halak will have to keep it up, as Tomas Marcinko heads to the penalty box for interference, called after he hit T.J. Oshie in front of the benches.
First period, 16:20: 0-0: The game got off to a fast start, with the first whistle waiting more than three and a half minutes to be blown.
Both teams have shown some extra energy coming out of the gates, resembling two teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Both goalies have been asked to make a couple of saves thus far, but nothing too difficult.
First period, 20:00: The game is under way!
7:33 a.m.: The teams have taken the ice, with the Americans in their white sweaters. Puck drop is just minutes away.
7 a.m.: The calendar says February 13th, but for hockey fans in the U.S., it might as well be Christmas Day.
That’s because today the U.S. men’s hockey team begins its quest for Olympic gold, opening its schedule with a game against Zdeno Chara, Marian Hossa and Slovakia.
The U.S. has hopes for gold after coming up one goal short of that prize four years ago in Vancouver, and though this year’s team may not have the same top-to-bottom talent, there remains the chance that the Americans wind up there.
And though we’re still a ways from knowing the final result of that quest, today’s match against Slovakia should be a good test. Somewhat lost to history is the fact that Slovakia pushed Canada to the brink in the semifinals in 2010, ultimately losing 3-2 in a hard-fought contest. With Chara on the blue line, any team will be tough to play against, and with Jaroslav Halak (and Peter Budaj backing up) in net, the Slovaks could make a run themselves.
It’ll be Jon Quick between the pipes for the Americans, and he’ll have to be excellent. The major reason the U.S. made it to the gold medal game in 2010 was the outstanding play of Ryan Miller in net, and Quick is going to have to be just as good this time around for the U.S. to compete with the best the world has to offer.
As far as the big picture, today is not a must-win for the U.S. Every team advances to the next round. What is at stake is the chance for a bye in the next round. Most likely, the U.S. is going to need two wins to earn that bye, and forcing themselves to beat Russia (as well as Slovenia) would be a tough way to start that endeavor.
So follow along right here in the live blog as the Americans make their 2014 Olympic debut against Slovakia. We’ll have updates and analysis right through the final horn.