Wednesday, February 19, 2014

USA Up 3-1 After 1st Period

The Czechs are not showing many signs of fatigue, despite playing back-to-back games. Perhaps they'll tire by the 3rd period, particularly older players like Jaromir Jagr.

Speaking of Jagr, he was the focus of Team USA's matchups. The Americans wanted Ryan Suter and Ryan McDonagh on the ice as the same time as him, along with the David Backes line. This matchup paid off 14:38 into the period when Backes checked Jagr and gained possession of the puck just past the Czech blue-line. A few passes later, drawing the attention of the Czech defenders to one side of the ice, and Backes found Dustin Brown on the opposite wing. Brown scored to give the US a 2-1 lead.

And with only 8 seconds left in the period, this line scored again. Ryan Suter's shot was deflected and went wide. David Backes collected the rebound off the lively boards and jammed the puck through goalie Ondrej Pavelec.

Most of the first period was played evenly between the two teams. James van Riemsdyk scored from the goal-line to put the US up 1-0. Then Alex Hemsky was credited with a goal after a puck deflected off Suter's skate and past a sprawling Jonathan Quick. The attacking play of Hemsky, David Krejci, and Milan Michalek forced the own goal.

Up 3-1, the US couldn't be in a better position. They're up 2 goals, they found a favorable matchup, the Czechs never beat Quick, and now the Czechs have to play from behind the day after playing a close game against Slovakia.

However, the US can't ease up off the gas and play a conservative game like the Finns do when they get a lead. That's not the US's style. The Americans need to continue to attack, keep the Czechs skating after them, and keep winning battles along the boards.

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