I know I watched something important on Sunday afternoon. I know for once, I actually became excited for these Winter Olympics. But what was it exactly? Was it a recognizable face such as 22-year old Stanley Cup Champion Sidney Crosby? Was it the United States playing an underdog role? A role which we don't play often. Was it the possibility that I'd witness one for the ages? Truth be told, whatever it was I wasn't just impressed, I was stunned.
* Patrick Kane & Zach Parise Just as our friends north of the border can celebrate their young superstars Crosby, Rick Nash, & Jonathan Toews, we have a few of our own and over the past two weeks in Vancouver they were on display for the world. In the gold medal game alone both Kane & and Parise showed up in a big way. Down 2-1 watching 'Kid Crosby breakaway toward Ryan Miller, it was 21-year old Patrick Kane who caught him from behind never allowing him to get a shot off. The Chicago Blackhawks star raised an eyebrow or two with comments like "I came here to score goals and produce points . . " and "Right now it seems bigger than the Stanley Cup, especially when you look at it. How many times has the U.S. hockey team won gold?" The former rookie of the year currently sits 8th in total points in the NHL, after these Olympics, I can't wait to see him come playoff time. As for Parise, let's just call this guy next. Parise exploded onto the scene for non-hockey fans during these Olympics. He played fast, he played smart, and it was his goal with little time remaining which pushed the gold medal game to overtime. As the U.S. out shot teams throughout the entire Olympics, it was the New Jersey Devils left winger who led the team in shots on goal keeping the pressure on stud NHL goalies like the Swiss' Jonas Hiller and Finland's Miikka Kiprusoff. Young and ready to run, these two American-born puck stars are giving U.S. hockey fans something to cheer for.
* * Team Canada The Canadians did what they had to do and sometimes that is the toughest task to accomplish. Post-getting slapped around by Team USA on February 21st (5-3), Team Canada would rebound outscoring Germany & Russia to a combined score of 15-5. Heading into the gold medal game, Team Canada had everything to lose. Playing on their soil, in front of thousands of their own, playing as a favorite with the absolute best of the best wearing their colors, anything short of gold would be a disappointment. Sure, it took them overtime to get it done but the Canadians got it done. Sidney Crosby rebounded from his earlier game woes to score the winning goal right through the toughest American born goalie there is. That line of the highly touted and previously mentioned Sidney Crosby, Rick Nash, and Jarome Iginla, delivered in overtime. As the nerves had to be building up once the American tied the game and overtime was on the horizon, Canada played very well. In one of the most anticipated games of the Olympics, against Russia, Canada peppered their goal tending scoring seven goals on 42 shots. With losing not being an option, the Canadians showed up when it counted most.
* * * Netminders, Bobby Lu & Ryan Miller. Just like it is in the NHL playoffs, goaltending plays the biggest part of winning in big time hockey. In the Vancouver Olympics, not much was different. The United States would immediately point to their goalie, Michigan born Ryan Miller. During the Olympics no hockey player broke out like Miller. Allowing just five goals in five games prior to the gold medal game, Miller was dominant. That is against THE BEST the world has to offer. As much as I want to say Ryan Miller was hands down the best, you have to give credit to Vancouver Canucks and Team Canada goalie, Roberto Luongo. Playing in relief of Martin Brodeur, a legend in his own right, in front of his own fans, Roberto Luongo turned in a great performance in these Olympic games. 5-0 in these games and pitching one shut out, Roberto Luongo took center stage in front of his fans. With a 92% save percentage, and allowing just two goals on 36 shots in the gold medal game, Roberto Luongo held Team Canada down. Good goaltending wins, no doubt Ryan Miller and Roberto Luongo are the reason 26.7 million tuned in.
At the end of these Olympics I won't remember some carrot top kid winning an X-Games event in Vancouver, I won't remember a couple overhyped American skiers, but I will remember this past Sunday as for the 26.7 million previously mentioned, you can bet they'll remember as well.
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