Good evening, everyone (or good morning if you're in Sochi). Team USA begins its 2014 Olympic tournament in just a few hours against Slovakia, and the anticipation has been building over the past few days.
Just yesterday, U.S. head coach Dan Bylsma named Jonathan Quick the team's starting goaltender for Game 1 but would not go into any detail about the Game 2 starter. Many believe Ryan Miller to be the guy who gets the call against Russia on Saturday, but it's hardly a foregone conclusion and a lot will likely depend on how Quick performs against the Slovaks.
One item just released by USA Hockey: Team USA's lines and defense pairs for today's game against Slovakia. Here they are...
We kind of figured this was going to happen, right?
After all, once the Olympic tournament begins, it's a two-week sprint to the podium with little room to recover from mistakes or poor decisions. The practice and preparation time is critical for teams and the United States is no different; they have some decisions to make with their defense but, as Dan Bylsma pointed out today, he's made a decision on his starting goaltender for Thursday's opener against Slovakia.
The bad news for everyone else is that Bylsma wouldn't reveal the identity of that goaltender during today's media session. Greg Wyshynski from Puck Daddy has a suspicion that Team USA will start with Ryan Miller, the unofficial MVP of the U.S. team in 2010 and a guy who's played very well this season under tough circumstances.
Could it be Miller? Absolutely, and it wouldn't be that surprising. But the other guy in the mix happens to be a former playoff MVP in Jonathan Quick, who has been strong in net for Los Angeles since returning from a groin injury.
Once again, NHL.com was on-site for practice and got reaction from the players and coaches following the skate. Here's how Team USA skated on Tuesday in Sochi...
Okay guys...it's starting to get real.
As I type this, it's approaching 11 p.m. in Sochi, Russia, where several of the 2014 men's Olympic hockey teams have wrapped up their first practices. Russia was first to go this morning and there was plenty of buzz about Alex Ovechkin practicing on a line with Evgeni Malkin and Alex Semin, and also goaltending questions; is it going to be Sergei Bobrovsky or Semyon Varlamov leading off for the Russians?
No one's giving it away, so we have to wait a couple more days.
Also on the ice today was Team USA, which took a team photo on the ice before beginning its first practice under head coach Dan Bylsma (Pittsburgh Penguins), assistant coaches Todd Richards (Blue Jackets), Tony Granato (Penguins) and Peter Laviolette.
While many consider Canada and Russia to be the favorites for gold at these Olympics, the United States proved in 2010 that it's never wise to sleep on the Americans. It's going to be a tall task to reach the podium in 2014, but the American core is four years older and many of the players have Olympic experience to lean on.
Now, for the juicy details. NHL.com's crew is on site in Sochi and took in Team USA's first practice; here's their report on the lines and pairs today...
We'll keep this brief on the intro, but welcome to the BlueJackets.com Sochi blog. This is the place to find the latest news, updates, videos and more from the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and in particular you'll find Blue Jackets-centric coverage from the Games.
There will be a heavy focus on Team USA (featuring Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards as an assistant to Dan Bylsma), the Russians (with four Blue Jackets on the roster) and the overall tournament. If you followed the 2010 Olympic tournament in Vancouver, you know well that this is one of the most exciting events in sports.
Sit back, relax, bookmark this blog and follow along. It's going to be a blast.