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Rave reviews for Super Sunday

Monday, 02.22.2010 / 12:00 PM / All-Access Vancouver

By Greg Inglis - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Rave reviews for Super Sunday
Thanks to some incredible hockey, led by Team USA's upset of Team Canada, Olympic hockey found itself in the spotlight.
Here is what is being said after a rockin' Super Sunday at Canada Hockey Place that saw the United States defeat Canada, Russia beat the Czech Republic and Sweden blank Finland. 

* "This must be what hockey heaven is like," writes Michael Russo in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, echoing the thoughts of millions who marveled at Sunday's thrilling action from Vancouver. "In what was being billed as the biggest day in international hockey history, Super Sunday included a three-course meal of the last three Olympic finalists. The appetizer was a Russia win over the Czech Republic, the dessert a late game between Sweden and Finland. But the entree was a classic matchup between bitter rivals Canada and the United States in what had been hyped and analyzed for days."

* "When you wind up on an elevator before the game with actor Donald Sutherland -- not to name-drop or anything -- you know that you're at the hot-ticket event," wrote Mark Purdy in the San Jose Mercury News. "And once it began, with flags from both countries creating virtual wallpaper in the arena's lower bowl, the noise could be heard all the way to Alaska."

* "When the Canadian team appeared during pregame, it sounded like a 747 touched down on center ice," wrote Paola Boivin in the Arizona Republic. "Fans waved flags, pennants and 'Sidney, will you marry me' signs. Scalpers attracted several thousand dollars a ticket."

And when the smoke cleared, Team USA had registered an historic victory.

* "Wearing uniforms that honored the Olympic champion 1960 U.S. hockey team and deploying a lineup that included the son of a player from the 1980 'Miracle on Ice' squad, the current U.S. Olympic team made some history of its own Sunday," wrote Helene Elliott in the Los Angeles Times.

"In an exhilarating game that often went end to end without giving fans a moment's pause to do more than gasp, the Americans punished Canada goalie Martin Brodeur for his puck-handling mistakes and rode a two-goal, one-assist performance by Brian Rafalski to a 5-3 win at a jam-packed Canada Hockey Place."

* "In Canada, this has probably been the most-talked about hockey tournament in the country's history and the arena was a sea of loud, boisterous fans attired in Team Canada sweaters," wrote Kevin Allen in the most-read article at the USA Today website Monday morning. "Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller made 42 saves to lead the USA to its most important victory on Canadian soil since it defeated Canada in Montreal to win the 1996 World Cup of Hockey."

* "This game was an instant classic, one that should be replayed for years," wrote Charles McGrath in the New York Times. "It was fast and intense, full of inventive playmaking, gutsy defense, one-on-one head banging and outstanding goaltending, especially by the United States’ Ryan Miller. Just as he had done for Buffalo all season, Miller threw himself around the crease like a rag doll, making one point-blank stop after another."

* According to Sports Illustrated's Michael Farber, "Miller was almost bulletproof, more athletic and even more unflappable than [Canada's Martin] Brodeur, who has spent his life majoring in sangfroid. The Buffalo Sabres goaltender flashed a glove to foil Jarome Iginla on a power-play wrist shot with less than four minutes left. And after Team Canada closed to one goal about 40 seconds later, Miller withstood a furious stretch of 80 seconds during which the Americans couldn't clear the zone.

"If you have a one-goal lead with two or three minutes to play, that's a matter of will," U.S. defenseman Jack Johnson said. "So you give me a one-goal lead, and we have Ryan Miller? Well, I'll take my chances against any team. Ryan? He's the best goalie in the world. He was absolutely phenomenal."

* "No, this was not a Miracle," reminded Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Dejan Kovacevic.

"Nothing will match what those college kids achieved at Lake Placid, 30 years ago today, against the mighty Soviet machine. Not in hockey. Maybe not in American sports.

"Perhaps the most important distinction between this upset and those of the past is that, plain and simple, this one did not require a Miracle. Not with more Americans than ever in the NHL. And not with the record number of players at the developmental levels. That includes Pittsburgh, where there are 10 times as many rinks now than before the Penguins drafted Mario Lemieux in 1984.

"One of those, Upper St. Clair native Ryan Malone, was wearing the red, white and blue in this one, the only Olympic hockey player born and trained in the Pittsburgh area. Another, Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik, was raised in Buffalo and named after Herb Brooks, the late architect of the Miracle.

"One telling sign of how far the U.S. has come might have been the reaction afterward: The players congratulated Miller, patted each other on the helmets and, for the most part, downplayed it all."

* "This wasn't exactly a miracle on ice," agreed Amy Shipley of the Washington Post, "but elements of it had become pretty difficult to believe. An underdog U.S. hockey team hadn't merely given a powerhouse Canadian team a fight in a roaring, red-decked arena. By night's end, it had enlarged its medal hopes and left an entire nation bruised."

* "How ’bout dem Yanks?," enthused Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan. "And how ’bout the game of hockey, which, when it contains both the background and the set-up this one had, and the execution on display from some of the world’s greatest players, can stake a claim as the world’s most dramatic team sport?

"Tell me any of the 18,561 in attendance at the Canada Hockey Place or the millions watching worldwide were just sitting there watching calmly as the desperate Canadians peppered US goaltender Ryan Miller in the final three minutes, only to see the game decided on one of the greatest empty-net goals imaginable when hometown hero Ryan Kesler outfought Corey Perry for the puck and swatted it home for the clincher with 44.7 seconds left."

* The Columbus Dispatch's Aaron Portzline offered his thoughts on Kesler from a local perspective: "Tonight's USA vs. Canada showdown in the Olympic hockey tournament may have exceeded all the hype, and it was a kid with central Ohio roots who scored the biggest goal of the evening. No, not Rick Nash. Ryan Kesler, who grew up in Livonia, Mich, and attended Ohio State, scored a huge-mongous empty-net goal with 45 seconds remaining to seal Team USA's 5-3 win over Canada in front of a loud, partisan crowd in Canada Hockey Place ... It must have been an odd scene for fans in Vancouver. They're used to cheering for Kesler, the Canucks' No. 2 line center and now a perennial candidate for the Selke Trophy. On this night they were cursing his name."

* "As underdogs go, Team USA showed up here at Olympus as the runt of the international litter, lacking in experience, short on marquee names, and absent Olympic gold since the 1980 Miracle on Ice," wrote Kevin Paul Dupont in the Boston Globe. "Canada and Russia would be the big dogs when it came time to divvy up the medals. Without question. Some things are just meant to be taken ... to ... the ... world bank ... But by staggering the Canadians, the Yanks already have banked perhaps their most important medal, if self-esteem can be considered an alloy. They may not make it to the penthouse here at the Tournament of Five Rings. But they are no longer in the doghouse."

Olympic Gear * "Everything changes," concurs the Sporting News' Craig Custance. "Team USA's win over Canada -- in one of the most hostile environments imaginable -- completely wipes away its underdog status. Completely. In the months leading up to these Olympics, Team USA General Manager Brian Burke said repeatedly that not a penny would be placed in Las Vegas on his team to win gold. There should be lines at the sports books now.

"In fairness, Canada probably out-chanced us 2-1 most of the game and the goalie played excellent. I still think we've got a long way to go," U.S. coach Ron Wilson said. "There's some great teams out there. Canada, I personally think is the best team."

Sorry, coach. You can't beat Canada and then try to say they're better, just so your team can slip back into obscurity. It's too late for that; everyone now knows what Team USA is capable of doing.

* The Philadelphia Inquirer's Phil Sheridan was among the many who praised Team USA's veteran leaders: "The U.S. roster was a risky attempt to turn the national program over to a new generation of rising stars. So it was a little ironic that the four goals against Brodeur were scored by players 33 and older. Brian Rafalski scored two, including a stunner just 41 seconds into the game; [Chris] Drury had one; and Jamie Langenbrunner tipped in what proved to be the winner.

"The Canadian players seemed stunned by the outcome. They'll really be feeling it today as reviews roll in from the harsh Canadian media. There will surely be calls for Brodeur to be replaced in goal, as well as changes on the lines and defensive pairings."

Quite so.

* "So, where to from here?," asks Chris Stevenson in the Ottawa Sun. "Which way does Team Canada turn now as the Games have progressed from warmup to sudden-death elimination? Stick with veteran goaltender Martin Brodeur, whose miscues with the puck played a role in the first three American goals in the USA's 5-3 win over Canada at GM Place Sunday? Or switch things up and go with hometown hero Roberto Luongo?

"The irony of the situation Sunday night is Brodeur's puck-handling skills -- allowed to be used to maximum effectiveness without the no-touch trapezoid here -- were the reason why Canada lost Sunday."

* "And so let the debate begin," agrees David Naylor in the Globe and Mail. "Team Canada coach Mike Babcock didn't exactly pour cold water on the notion that he may go back to Roberto Luongo in goal for Canada's qualifying game against Germany on Tuesday. In a game where Canada out-shot the United States by a margin of 45-23 but still managed to lose, the biggest difference was in goal where American Ryan Miller out-shone Canada's Martin Brodeur. "Obviously tonight we would have liked to be better in that area," said Babcock. "Miller was excellent for them ... between our D and Marty, early in the game we didn't execute."

* "Brodeur has no apologies to make to anyone," writes ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun. "He's the NHL's all-time winningest goalie, and no one will ever question his pedigree. But right now, in this tournament, he may not be the right man to play goal for Team Canada. The four goals he allowed on 22 shots Sunday night simply doesn't cut it. Not in the Olympics. Not with the stakes so high."

* The Vancouver Sun's Cam Cole places the Team Canada loss in a wider context:

"It has been written before -- and it's a horrible disservice to the 160 or so Canadian athletes who aren't competing here with hockey sticks in their hands -- but there's a certain amount of truth to it: Win the Olympic men's hockey gold medal, and Canadians will quickly forget whether the sliders and skiers and skaters owned the podium or, actually, what that oddly confident-sounding phrase was all about.

"But get taken to the woodshed by the Americans on pretty much every Olympic Games venue for 10 solid days, and then fail to stop the bleeding against Team USA at Canada Hockey Place -- at the end of a sad, dispiriting weekend in which our Own The Podium aspirations were officially rendered null and void -- and it would be difficult to pick the national chin off the floor for these last seven days.

"And so it will."

* In the hours preceding the Canada-USA classic, fans at Canada Hockey Place experienced another earth-shaking event -- we'll let Sports Illustrated's Michael Farber explain.

"With 18:17 left in the third period of the Russia-Czech Republic game, a temblor struck the West Coast. This was 8.0 on the Richter scale. Alexander Ovechkin is the Great 8, a force of nature that unleashed its proud fury Sunday for all to see in Russia's 4-2 win over its Slavic neighbor. One stride from the red line, in open ice, Ovechkin, tapping his predatory instincts, knocked Jaromir Jagr on his magnificent posterior. You will see this hit in the sports highlight films for years. Jagr will see it in his dreams."

"It was the kind of intense hockey play that seemed to sum up Rivalry Sunday at the hockey tournament," wrote Wayne Scanlan in the Ottawa Citizen. "Jagr, the iconic Czech winger, lamented what he called a poor decision.

"It was a big mistake," Jagr said. "The hit really doesn't (matter). The turnover -- they scored the goal, that hurts. That hurt me the most."