In praise of Bobby Ryan

In praise of Bobby Ryan
"The biggest thing is just his poise and his hands are unbelievable. I played with [Evgeni] Malkin and [Sidney] Crosby, and those guys are probably the two best in the league. Bobby's hands are right with those guys... He's a superstar in the making, it seems."
---Ryan Whitney, former Ducks defenseman

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Team USA vs Team Switzerland

The very first men's hockey Olympic game is a big one: Team USA vs Team Switzerland.

Considered the underdogs against big guns Canada and Russia, Team USA gets to start against a team that shouldn't be underestimated. Team Switzerland will have none other than our Jonas Hiller between the pipes, and we know just how hot Hiller is right now.

Team USA features Buffalo Sabres' Ryan Miller in net. Miller has the second top save percentage in the league, but has been facing some difficulties as of late. Only three guys on Team USA have been here before. Both players from our Anaheim Ducks, Ryan Whitney and my boy Bobby Ryan, are looking at their Olympic debut.

What an amazing feeling it must be to represent your country with so many other talented players that you've only shared ice with as opponents.

It's a little bittersweet that Bobby and Whitney will be taking shots on Hiller, but that's how it goes. Another familiar face on the Swiss team, prospect Luca Sbisa!

In the first period, the teams are looking pretty evenly matched. The Swiss aren't afraid to play rough, laying hard hits and grinding in the corners. Team USA has had less time to play together, while the Swiss have had at least 40 games worth of practice, sans Hiller and Mark Streit who play in the NHL.

Hiller is looking very sharp between the pipes, he's playing a great game. Team USA is putting pucks on him, but he's holding strong.

With only about a minute left in the first, David Backes forces the puck away with an effective forecheck behind the Swiss net. Bobby takes a hit along the boards and the puck squirts to the defender at the blue line who shoots it at Hiller. It's fought off and, as it rolls away from the goal, Bobby catches it in the slot and fires it over Hiller's glove hand.

Like I was saying, bittersweet. But it's Bobby's first Olympic goal and it puts Team USA up 1-0 going into the first intermission.

Play in the second amps up a few notches, becoming much more physical. Backes scores for Team USA. And then Ryan Malone too on the power play. They are tough bids on net and nobody can fault Hiller for them. Everyone is skating better in the second. Team USA gains confidence with those goals, driving hard to the net, connecting passes.

The rest of the second goes goal-less, with the Swiss defense looking strong.

The Swiss offense kicks up in the third. They create some scoring chances for themselves, and Team USA appears to be caught on their heels. Miller is forced to make some big saves. Inevitably, Team Switzerland scores on the power play.

On a sidenote, I gotta say I really do miss Luca Sbisa. Can't wait until he's back up with the Ducks.

As Team USA regains their confidence, Hiller continues to come up big on the saves. You can tell, he's playing an awesome game, with a number of sweeping glove saves that plenty of players on the ice are sure to recognize. Nothing gets by him during the final period. It will be a loss for Team Switzerland, but Hiller had one heck of a game.

Team USA didn't have the most pristine play on the ice, there are definitely some aspects that these guys need to clean up before they take on Team Canada on Sunday. Turnovers are a problem, and the defense needs to really step things up, but for a team of young firecrackers, they can be proud of a win today, 3-1.


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