It’s now or never for Team USA. ESPN’s Scott Burnside writes that Team USA is in an absolute must win today against Team Europe and can’t afford any sort of letdown. While he explains that every team is in the same boat, it’s the construction of the US team that makes a victory today imperative. Pundits and analysts have all sounded off about the hard nosed, tough style the United States wishes to play while wondering if it can stand up against the speedier, skilled teams like Team Canada, Team Sweden, and Team North America. Beating the Czech Republic and Team Europe then, is “imperative” with Canada looming over the Americans. Burnside reports that Team Europe came back strong against Sweden and will hardly be the pushover that many initially thought. Canada, meanwhile, outplayed the United States in both meetings, despite an American victory in the exhibition opener for both squads. Jonathan Quick will start in the net for the US today while forward Justin Abdelkader appears to be the extra forward.
- The New York Post’s Larry Brooks strikes a similar chord, saying that this may be the USA’s best chance to ease the pressure of the tournament with a win over Team Europe. Otherwise, Brooks writes, they make the contest with Canada a do-or-die affair, something the US can ill afford. Brooks also calls the US team one that is hardly the fastest or most skilled and echoing Burnside, notes that it’s all by design. Forward Max Pacioretty calls his American teammates a “lunch pail” group that will “make life difficult” for other teams. Pacioretty should know well, as Brooks writes that the Canadiens forward irritated coach John Tortorella with an early hesitation to play hard nosed hockey by skating around the perimeter. But changes were made and now Pacioretty is one of many American players altering their game to fit the “blue collar” hockey America was designed to play. Though they have snipers in Patrick Kane and Blake Wheeler, Team USA appears ready to live and die with the blueprint of toughness.