USA Hockey wasted no time making a statement at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
The Americans rolled to a 7-1 victory over an inferior Slovakia team Thursday in Sochi, setting the tone for the rest of the tournament with an impressive debut.
Here’s a deeper look at how they did in their first game.
Just a few teams in the tournament can say they have as much forward depth as the Americans. That depth was on display Thursday against the Slovaks. Team USA got solid production from three of its four lines. James van Riemsdyk, Joe Pavelski and Phil Kessel were probably the most effective trio. That was thanks in large part to the fact that they had the puck a ton, a result of Pavelski winning 11 of 12 faceoffs. That line combined for 10 of the Americans’ 33 shots. But just about all of the U.S. lines were effective. The Americans’ speed up front was evident from the opening faceoff, and they showed their depth down the middle with strong two-way play from the centers. The U.S. won 37 of 55 faceoffs.
Questions about the young and inexperienced defense corps were answered in part just 14:27 in, when John Carlson scored on a one-timer from Kessel. The American D-men did a nice job of getting the puck out of their own zone, sending it to the speedy forwards and letting them go from there. The defensemen also jumped into the play on several occasions, which is what helped lead to the Carlson goal. The unit combined for seven shots on goal. Defensively, they were fine. The Slovaks’ offensive chances were limited, but that also has to do with a less talented Slovakian forward group. The Russians will provide a much tougher test Saturday.
Jonathan Quick was as good as advertised in his Olympic debut. The Los Angeles Kings goalie stopped 21 of the 22 shots he faced on his way to picking up the win. Quick wasn’t tested a ton with high-end scoring chances, but he was sharp throughout. He might have actually been at his best in the second period, when he made 13 saves as the Americans hung a six-spot on the Slovaks. The only goal Quick allowed was a great shot from Tomas Tatar that Quick didn’t have much of a chance to stop. That also came after a failed Ryan Suter clearing attempt and a missed offside call at the blue line. Head coach Dan Bylsma wouldn’t say who would start against Russia.
The Americans were 0-for-2 on the power play. They also killed off their lone penalty. The power play has plenty of weapons, but the players on those two units are obviously unfamiliar with each other. Expect the power play to improve as the tournament goes on and there’s more familiarity. The PK wasn’t tested much on the one Slovakia power play.
Next test: Team USA continues preliminary-round play on Saturday against Russia.
Photo via Twitter/@NHL