U.S. Men’s Hockey Squad Shines in Debut in 3-1 Win Over Switzerland

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U.S. Men's Hockey Squad Shines in Debut in 3-1 Win Over SwitzerlandFinal score: USA 3, Switzerland 1: That’s a pretty good start for the Americans, and really, that’s all you can really ask for.

They played well, with just a few lapses sticking out, and they showed patience — something that was no guarantee, given the youth on the roster.

The scoring was spread throughout the roster, with Bobby Ryan, David Backes and Ryan Malone getting the goals, and Ryan Suter grabbing an assist (Miller could have been credited with one on Backes’ goal, but wasn’t). The fact that there were no two-point scorers seems fitting, given the team style that the Americans showed all game. They blocked shots, played physically and for a team that has only had two days to work together, played a solid all-around game.

My three stars:

3. Bobby Ryan
Who needs experience? Bobby Ryan was banging the boards throughout the game and was rewarded by the hockey gods with a gift bounce in the slot. He fired a missile past his NHL teammate Jonas Hiller to put the Americans up 1-0 with 1:01 left in the first period. It was a huge momentum goal and it was well-deserved.

2. Ryan Miller
Might have been the No. 1 star if it weren’t for the third-period goal. He was huge in the first period, keeping the Swiss off the board and giving his team the opportunity to get a lead.

1. David Backes
His second-period goal was a thing of beauty, taking the puck from his own crease, up 190 feet of ice and across Hiller to score the team’s second goal early in the second period. It gave the U.S. a good cushion and took some wind out of the sails of the Swiss.

Still, the U.S. has plenty to work on, including a lack of discipline in the third period that helped lead to Switzerland’s power-play goal.

Team USA will be back on Thursday afternoon, facing off against Norway at 3 p.m. ET.

Third period, 6.9 seconds, USA 3, Switzerland 1: Offsides on the Swiss, as the win is sealed for the Americans.

Third period, 1:45, USA 3, Switzerland 1: Eyes are on Jonas Hiller, who’s staying put in his crease thus far.

Third period, 5:50, USA 3, Switzerland 1: Another exaggerated glove save from Hiller, this one on a Dustin Brown shot. Guy is feeling it right now.

Third period, 6:39, USA 3, Switzerland 1: Hiller makes a nifty glove save on a shot from Parise. Maybe it was going wide, but with this many eyeballs on you, you just gotta waive that glove through the air. Savor the moment, Jonas.

Third period, 10:15, USA 3, Switzerland 1: Do you believe in … jinxes? No sooner did the “Last Olympic Shutout” stat flash on the TV than the Swiss were sneaking one past Miller.

Hnat Domenechelli took a feed from Roman Wick, and with Domenechelli in his face, Miller crosses himself up and appears to knock it in on himself.

There’s time left, and Switzerland has life. Let’s see if the Americans can treat this like a must-score scenario and put this one away to avoid any drama.

Third period, 10:39, 3-0 USA: What a PK effort from Ryan Callahan, who pinched the puck along the boards before intercepting a pass and starting a 2-on-1 breakout. Hiller was up to the task though.

Third period, 11:28, 3-0 USA: Ryan Suter introduces some NHL physicality to the Olympic stage … and gets two minutes for roughing in exchange. That’s another opportunity for Switzerland to sniff a chance. There’s no reason for the U.S. to be offering any chances this period.

Third period, 13:00, 3-0 Team USA: Jack Johnson blocks a pair of Swiss shots. His efforts, combined with those of Kesler, may be what USA needs to wake up this period.

Meanwhile, the Swiss can’t get much going on the power play, and Pavelski’s out of the box.

Third period, 14:18, 3-0 Team USA: Ryan Kesler looked like a goalie out there, dropping down a two-pad stack (minus the pads) to block a slapper from the point. He limped to the bench.

Third period, 15:11, 3-0 Team USA: The lackluster American period continues, with Joe Pavelski heading to the box for the first Swiss power play of the game. A goal here would give the Swiss life.

Third period, 16:55, 3-0 Team USA: Switzerland just registered its fifth shot on net in the period — that’s more than it had in all of the second period.

Remember all that happy rainbows and sunshine stuff I said at the end of the second period? It’s fading. Fast.

Third period, 17:18, 3-0 Team USA: It looks like despite my best advice, Team USA didn’t come out with its best efforts in the third. The Swiss have had three quality opportunities, but the combination of a locked-in Ryan Miller and an unable-to-finish set of Swiss forwards keeps the score at 3-0.

Start of third period, 3-0 Team USA: With the third period now under way, you might think the Americans would let off the gas. To that I say au contraire.

This is the first game in a tournament that will only get tougher. OK, so maybe Thursday’s game against Norway won’t be tougher, but after that it’s Canada and — theoretically — the second round. The U.S. has looked good but not great through two periods here, and the following 20 minutes is a big opportunity for the lines to jell.

Second intermission: There’s one stat you need to know about the second period, and it’s shots: U.S. 14, Switzerland 4.

The Americans played nearly the entire period in the Swiss end, scoring a pair of goals and dominating the game. When the Swiss have gotten their opportunities, Miller has been up to the task. That’s the simple formula for this one.

The Americans are playing a team game and working the puck well in the offensive end, while Jonas Hiller has been peppered with 22 shots in two periods.

You also can’t say enough about Backes’ goal, which he skated about 190 feet with the puck on his stick before scoring.

In just 40 minutes, the 2010 Olympic hockey team already has been more impressive than its 2006 counterpart was in five games.

End of second period, 3-0 Team USA: Mark Streit leads the Swiss on a 3-on-2 but shows no interest in passing the puck, instead launching a bomb at Miller. The goaltender turned the puck aside as the final seconds ticked off the clock.

Second period, 3:44, 3-0 Team USA: For all the flash that this American team promises, the players have done an excellent job of battling all over the ice. Brooks Orpik most recently gets the note for dirty work as he dropped to a knee to stop a slap shot from maybe eight feet away. The Americans are not short on desire.

Second period, 5:21, 3-0 Team USA: Nothing doing on the man advantage for the U.S., but shortly after the man advantage expired, David Backes nearly picks up his second score of the game. His tip-in attempt, though, missed wide.

Second period, 8:55, 3-0 Team USA: Erik Johnson feels some pain as he (seemingly) accidentally lands an elbow to the head of Andres Ambuhl. Johnson may have also taken Ambuhl’s stick to his face. It was hard to tell. He took a minute to gather himself, but he looked OK.

Team USA is about to go up a man again, after Yannick Weber flips a puck untouched over the boards in his own end. That’s obviously not the kind of mistake a team like Switzerland can afford to make against the U.S. if it wants a chance to win.

The U.S. is 1-for-2 thus far on the power play.

Second period, 9:37, 3-0 Team USA: Julien Sprunger had a chance to give his team some hope, but the 24-year-old fired high over a wide-open net.

Second period, 11:35, 3-0 Team USA: The Americans get a power-play goal from Ryan Malone, as once again a guy does some dirty work and instantly gets rewarded.

Malone laid a heavy hit on the sideboards as Ryan Suter kept the puck in at the blue line. Suter fired a shot on net, and with Brian Rafalski holding his own in the crease, Suter stuffed in the rebound.

It’s early, yes, but 3-0 seems safe, given the fact that the puck has barely spent 60 seconds in the Americans’ zone this period.

Second period, 13:07, 2-0 Team USA: The Americans go on the power play for the second time of the afternoon.

Second period, 14:08, 2-0 Team USA: That’s the kind of end-to-end action that you expect to see in the Olympics as the Americans jump out to a two-goal lead.

Ryan Miller squeezes a shot between his legs, and the Americans clear the rebound out quickly. David Backes picked it up and flew into the Swiss zone, carrying the puck on his backhand before shooting across the crease and putting the puck past Hiller on the forehand.

It was a pretty goal, and a big one at that. The Americans had been dominating the period but had nothing to show for it.

Second period, 16:36, 1-0 Team USA: Commenter “adam jankelowitz asked for the lines that American coach Ron Wilson is rolling out. Here you go:

Forwards
Zach Parise–Paul Stastny–Patrick Kane
Ryan Malone–Joe Pavelski–Phil Kessel
Jamie Langenbrunner-Ryan Kesler-Dustin Brown
Bobby Ryan-David Backes-Ryan Callahan

Defensemen
Jack Johnson–Brooks Orpik
Brian Rafalski–Ryan Suter
Erik Johnson–Tim Gleason

That’s four Ryans and a Bobby Ryan. Plus Ryan Miller. Heavy Ryan influence on this one.

Second period, 18:21, 1-0 Team USA: Ah, the first automatic icing of the afternoon. Perhaps the lamest rule in sports. Though the two-line pass gave it a good run for its money for a while.

Start of second period, 1-0 Team USA: The puck is ready to drop for the second 20 minutes. The Swiss have to feel good coming out of the break, even after giving up that late goal.

End of first period, Team USA 1, Switzerland 0: Well, maybe we all expected a bit more scoring from the Americans right out of the gate, but after watching them for 20 minutes, it makes sense why they just have one goal.

While it’s obviously never a bad thing to have Patrick Kane and Zach Parise on the ice together, it’s clear that the forwards have a lot of work to do in getting on the same page.

On the back end, Ryan Miller’s looked good, stopping all five shots he faced. Though it was only five shots, they were huge, keeping Team USA from falling into a hole against a lesser opponent.

On the other side of the ice, the Swiss have looked surprisingly fast and even more surprisingly strong. They’ve not hesitated to lay a shoulder into anyone, and they’ve proven to be solid skaters. They looked like they’re capable of hanging with the Americans in this one. Jonas Hiller looked good too, but he looked like he was playing net for a street hockey team with all the action he’s been facing.

First period, 1:01, 1-0 Team USA: The Americans get on the board first.

Bobby Ryan’s been doing the dirty work all period, and he was rewarded with a loose puck between the faceoff dots. The 22-year-old fired a shot over the glove of his NHL teammate, and the Americans get a huge goal before intermission.

No assists were credited on the goal, as the puck bounced free to an open area.

First period, 2:10: Dustin Brown makes an awful turnover from his knees in the Swiss zone, and the Swiss break out on a 3-on-2. Fortunately for the U.S., a pass slipped harmlessly through the crease and play continued. There aren’t a lot of stoppages in this period, and neither team has shown any signs of slowing down.

First period, 3:24: No word on whether or not Hiller had any propaganda on his mask, but he just took a missile from Patrick Kane off his grill protector. The Americans are starting to get something together in the offensive end.

First period, 5:10: Still no score, but the Swiss nearly sneak one past Miller. Julien Sprunger hopped on a puck behind the U.S. net and wrapped it around, but Miller had his stick on the ice and covered it up. It was the best chance for either side through the first 15 minutes.

First period, 7:37: This no TV timeout thing is truly beautiful. Players get about 75 seconds to catch their breath every few minutes, and then play continues. If only money didn’t make the world go ’round …

First period, 8:04: Nothing doing for the Americans on their initial power play of the tournament, though Phil Kessel showed he’s still allergic to the corners. Just an observation.

First period, 10:19: First impression is that it looks like the Americans have not had a lot of time to work together. It almost looks like an all-star game in that sense.

USA is going on the power play though, so let’s see how they do on the man advantage.

First period, 10:39: Bobby Ryan just got flattened by Mark Streit in the corner. Ouch.

As Ryan pulled up to find the puck, Streit had a green-light opportunity to introduce himself. The Swiss then got the puck down the ice and got themselves another faceoff in the American zone.

First period, 14:19: Bobby Ryan made a great play to keep a bounding puck from skipping out of the offensive zone, but he couldn’t connect with Ryan Callahan. Still scoreless in this one as both teams are flying all over this giant sheet of ice. Switzerland certainly isn’t afraid to lay some hits on the Americans.

First period, 17:51: Team USA turns the tables and unleashes four shots on Jonas Hiller. We know Hiller’s good, but he’s going to have to be nothing short of phenomenal to keep Switzerland in this one.

First period, 19:16: The game is under way, and Switzerland has some control very early on. The Swiss have already forced Ryan Miller to squeeze a couple shots, resulting in a pair of faceoffs in the American’s end.

3:07 p.m.: hearing Doc Emerick say “Brian Rafalski” and “Jamie Langenbrunner” is like an ear massage for hockey fans.

3:02 p.m.: The game is about to begin, and it’s hard not to feel a sense of anticipation. After how thoroughly disappointing the 2006 showing was, this young roster has a chance to rejuvenate American hockey fans.

On the converse side of that, they have an even bigger window for disappointment. But let’s not focus on any negatives before the puck is even dropped.

2:40 p.m.: What a bummer of a way to head into this game, as it looks like the American men will fall to the Germans in curling. That’s obviously a devastating blow to country in which 90 percent of the population has no clue what curling is.

2:13 p.m.: Hey Bruins fans, ready to cheer for Phil Kessel again? Chances are, if he finds some space in the slot and fires one past Jonas Hiller, all will be forgiven … at least for a day.

1:35 p.m.: It was nice of the television networks to recognize the fact that we’re all waiting to see hockey. That has to be why they’re airing this epic curling match between the U.S. and Germany, right?

Curling is basically just like hockey, only without the hitting, skating, shooting … athleticism, intensity … real equipment. No offense to any curlers out there, it’s just hard to take a couple guys shuffling with their Swiffer sweepers seriously.

1:22 p.m.: The puck is scheduled to drop at 3 p.m. in the East, which is noon in Vancouver.

1:02 p.m.: The biggest news of the day regarding USA Hockey is the order from the IOC to cover up parts of the American goaltenders’ masks.

Ryan Miller had “Miller Time” on the back of his mask, which the IOC deemed to be too close to Miller Lite’s slogan … which is Miller Time.

Miller has also been asked to cover up his tribute to his cousin, who died of cancer at the age of 18. Tim Thomas was apparently also asked to cover up the initials of his children, and Jonathan Quick was told to cover “Support Our Troops,” as it was deemed to be political propaganda.

What a fun way to start the day!

10:07 a.m.: For American hockey fans, it’s time to get excited. Team USA is set to get the men’s hockey schedule started Tuesday afternoon, and NESN.com will have all the action covered.

The Americans will face off against the team from Switzerland in what looks on paper to be a lopsided matchup. Team USA boasts a list of superstars, with Patrick Kane, Ryan Miller, Zach Parise and Bobby Ryan among them, while the Swiss have just two established NHL players in defenseman Mark Streit and goaltender Jonas Hiller. NHL fans will also recognize goaltender Martin Gerber, who played in parts of seven seasons for the Ducks, Hurricanes, Senators and Maple Leafs.

But the big unknown surrounding the American roster is experience. Only three players — Brian Rafalski, Chris Drury and captain Jamie Langenbrunner — have Olympic experience, so there will be some nerves that need to be kept under control, especially early on.

It’s expected that Miller will get the call between the pipes for the U.S., with Tim Thomas and Jonathan Quick serving as his backups, but we’ll have an update as soon as anything official is known.

We do know one thing — it’s time to get this tournament started.

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