It was gold or bust for Team USA

It was gold or bust for Team USA
February 22, 2014, 3:15 pm
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Four years ago in Vancouver, Team USA suffered a tough blow, coming up just short in overtime against Team Canada and bringing home silver medals. It was crushing, but it was also motivation heading into 2014.

It’s gold or bust for us this time around,” Patrick Kane said heading into the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Looking at this Team USA roster, it had as good a chance as any to come through on that plan. Several games in, with goals for piling up along with victories and another showdown against Team Canada, Team USA looked poised to pull the upset.

Then it all came to a screeching, goal-less and rather punch-less halt, culminating with a 5-0 loss to Team Finland in the bronze-medal game on Saturday. This was one day after Team Canada dominated the Americans in a 1-0 semifinal triumph. The squad that led all others in goal production heading into the semifinals couldn’t manage one in the final two games. Their defense was questionable. Their body language bared all. This was a team that came in with high medal expectations and left with nothing around its players’ individual necks.

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On Saturday, Team USA didn’t get enough from everyone on its roster. Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane had a stellar game. He also had frustration in the form of two missed penalty shots, including one that rang off the post in the second period. Ryan Kesler continued his shot-blocking tirade, including preventing an early Finland goal. But there wasn’t enough of a team effort on both sides of the puck, especially on the defensive side. When Finland scored twice in 11 seconds, Team USA was barely in position to defend that second goal.

Yes, Team USA had to play in a back-to-back. Guess what: so did Team Finland. So let’s throw that argument out the window right now. Goaltender Jonathan Quick did.

“We’re professionals. We play back-to-backs all year long. There’s no reason we show up and not p*** a drop,” said Quick to Pro Hockey Talk’s Jason Brough. Quick, by the way, wasn’t letting himself off the hook.

“My job is to stop the puck and I didn’t do that very well,” he told Brough. “Team effort. We weren’t good.”

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Meanwhile, Finland was playing as if it were a gold-medal game. The ageless Teemu Selanne, playing in his sixth and final Olympics (we think), was stellar, scoring two of Finland’s five goals on Saturday. The rest of Finland’s squad seemed to feed off the fountain-of-youth-finding Selanne, bringing an unrelenting attack against a beleaguered U.S. team.

Now the criticism will begin for Team USA. It should’ve put Bobby Ryan on the team to boost scoring. It should’ve grabbed another high-scoring guy. Check the box scores, though: prior to the semifinals, Team USA didn’t have a problem scoring goals. It had at least two in each game, five in several. In the final two games, however, the Americans’ opponents applied the full-ice press, leaving them frustrated and unable to put any pucks behind Carey Price or Tuukka Rask.

Team USA had its mantra: Gold or bust. Unfortunately, they achieved the latter.