Michael Frazier’s “Not-so-Live” Blog
I missed the first minute and a half of the game because I was held up at the Taco Bell drive-thru. Apparently, I didn’t miss much. If you didn’t tune in until the second period, though, you did miss a bit. Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan scores on teammate Jonas Hiller. David Backes didn’t get an assist on the goal, but definitely helped out in the corner and created some traffic in front. The Americans get out of the first unscathed at the other end as Ryan Miller was tested a time or two. The Swiss almost found the back of the net a couple times. Despite their inability to put one on the board, Doc Emerick made an astute observation about the Swiss. If you’re an avid NHL fan, you’ll recognize two, maybe three names with goalie Jonas Hiller and defenseman Mark Streit. Outside of them, there aren’t any big names, but they are coached well and believe in the system. They’re generating a few chances against a team that is far and away more talented. Miller looked solid between the pipes, though as mentioned above, the Swiss haven’t exactly peppered him with shots either with just five. The Swiss team did a fine job in keeping the USA Power Play in check.
I noticed in the first period that the Swiss had difficulties clearing the puck from the defensive zone. More of the same early in period number two. They’ll need to finish these plays off and not allow the US any more second chances than they’ve already given them. So far this period, the Swiss are playing about as bland a game as their jerseys. Seriously, a little more effort and originality would be nice. I’ve heard Joe Pavelski’s name quite a bit, along with Erik Johnson and David Backes. Very physical play from E.J. and Backes while Pavs continues an aggressive fore-check. I think it’s safe to say Johnson has been the most effective defenseman so far. Just as I mention Mr. Backes, he finishes a beautiful play similar to one he scored on in this same building earlier in the season against the Canucks. Backes pulled a power move right in front of Hiller from backhand to forehand to make it 2-0 in favor of the United States. The play developed following a scramble in front of Miller at the other end that nearly resulted in a Swiss goal. Mark Streit is busy on special teams for the Swiss as he’s out killing another penalty. His efforts prove to be futile as Ryan Malone hammers it home. Joe Pavelski camped out in front of Hiller creating a screen and also created confusion for Hiller as he couldn’t find the puck in front of him. Malone picks up the garbage and the first U.S. power play goal.
I was about to make the point that Mark Streit has been truly effective with his Swiss colleagues killing penalties up to now. The Swiss have taken a couple of bad penalties and rendered the U.S. special teams useless until the Malone power play goal. I suppose Streit can’t be expected to do it all on his own. He’ll try again as the U.S. has another power play with about eight and a half minutes left in the period. I’m a bit surprised at Hiller’s play through a period and a half. Here’s a guy that indirectly sent J.S. Giguere packing for Toronto by taking his starting job in Anaheim and has proven to be a solid NHL net minder. In all fairness to the Swiss and the slow start for the U.S., it’s only the first game of the Olympic tournament. The U.S. has found their sea legs finally and, they’re moving the puck rather well, although the Swiss are still throwing out a decent effort on the penalty kill. The Swiss kill off the penalty, but once again are having problems clearing the zone.
With three minutes left in the second, Roman Wick for the Swiss has arguably their best scoring opportunity against Miller, but the Buffalo goaltender fends off the chance. Pierre Maguire mentioned that Tim Gleason isn’t getting consistent shifts in this game and he’s right. I had forgotten Gleason made the team as a replacement until now. That’s the first I’ve heard his name this game.
Kane and Stastny get a late scoring chance, but perhaps one too many passes with about 45 seconds to go. Mark Streit led a 2-on-1 with about 10 seconds left and decided to take the shot rather than pass. A last rush by Kane ends the second period with the Americans on top 3-0. Quick thought as the period ends: David Backes should consider endorsements for Puffs tissue, as I’m pretty sure he has about two boxes of tissue lodged in his nostril. Also, the best player not on the score sheet in this game is definitely Joe Pavelski. Pavs has helped generate traffic in front of the net, he’s firing shots and is solid on the forecheck. Pierre Maguire called him a “poor man’s Joe Sakic.” Interesting analogy.
Let’s hope David Backes and Erik Johnson don’t bring their three goal misfortunes to Vancouver. The Blues have blown many a three goal lead this year, but they also didn’t have an Olympic roster around them. However, the Swiss will get their first power play at 4:50 of the third. Solid PK for the Americans so far. Roman Wick and Gnat Dominchelli quarterback the Swiss power play. Dominchelli is a former NHL who enjoyed some success in the NHL long ago. No harm, no foul on the penalty as Miller continues to turn the Swiss team away. Ryan Suter will now go off for a hit up high. There is little to no tolerance for high hits in international play and this call was a no-brainer. The Swiss would love nothing more than to save a little face and steal a goal from Miller. Streit is now manning the point for the Swiss power play. Miller’s shutout bid is gone. Roman Wick throws a harmless looking backhand at the net that Miller appeared to have stopped, but it trickled past him into the back of the net. Dominichelli appeared to have gotten a piece of it in front of Miller. The Swiss have picked up their game a bit since the goal trying to generate some more chances. The U.S. may have been caught sitting back a bit, but would find it useful to grab an insurance marker here in the last 6:39.
Hiller makes a solid save with five and a half left to keep the Swiss alive. Drury misses on a quick 2 on 1 in the zone shooting wide with 2:46 left. Hiller has allowed three goals, but in turn has made some solid saves to give the Swiss a fighting chance late. They continue a late surge with under two minutes to go. Pierre Mcguire insists you don’t pull the goalie with two minutes left down by two unless it’s a gold medal game. I’m sure many of us would disagree as each game is important from prelims all the way through. One minute to go and no signs of Hiller heading to the bench. The Swiss may have conceded the fact it’s too much at this point. 6.9 seconds to go and Jack Johnson has some words for the Swiss. The final seconds tick off and the Americans have a slightly less than impressive 3-1 win over the Swiss team. Miller was probably the most impressive player for the U.S. overall making a couple big saves. Miller had been struggling the past few weeks with the Sabres, but for an opening round game he still stepped up and played well. Pavelski had a solid game, as did Ryan Malone. David Backes now gets the game-winner. Switzerland’s lone goal on the power play is officially credited to Roman Wick and NOT Gnat Dominichelli. I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t credit the Swiss team. The talent level was far from even in this match-up. The entire U.S. roster is in the NHL. All of three NHL players star for the Swiss, Dominichelli notwithstanding. They both looked slow in the first period, but the Swiss held it together to give themselves a great chance to at least contend in this game, but if nothing else, they gave the U.S. more than they wanted in this game. Streit and Wick played very well for them and might help the Swiss raise a few eyebrows before we’re done in Vancouver.
Look, it wasn’t a bad effort by team U.S.A. today. However, it could’ve been better. It was the first game, so the jitters, the nerves and all the nerves are to be expected. I don’t think anyone had a “BAD” game, but there are a few issues to work on. Team Switzerland played about as well as anyone could have expected, but the Americans were applying consistent offensive pressure – and Hiller couldn’t hold them off all game.
They’re playing in Vancouver, where the Canadians are the heavy favorite for gold, so that makes for added pressure. Ron Wilson said he knows his team is the “villain” heading into these games. It won’t be easy for this team to medal, but they will have another chance to come together against Norway on Thursday. Many of these guys are playing together for the first time ever so maybe there are a few early chemistry issues. But overall, these guys look like they’re having fun playing with each other out there. The excitement and emotion were evident in Bobby Ryan’s first goal celebration as he greeted his teammates (all from other NHL cities) with open arms. I won’t be surprised if these guys find themselves on the podium in two weeks.