I missed the entire first period and most of the second of today’s Bronze Medal Game between the USA and Finland. When I did finally tune in, it was already 2-0 for the Finns and the US team played like they could care less. It was really disappointing to see a bench full of players so collectively dejected to the point of pretty much giving up.
This whole 24 period just shows that the “gold or bust” mentality was bad for the team. They lost to Canada on Friday and were utterly devastated. You could tell in the postgame interviews that they weren’t happy to be playing for bronze. The team went into this game like they didn’t want to be there. It reminded me of the Ottawa Senators during the playoffs last season, when Daniel Alfredsson admitted that they had no will to fight anymore.
There’s a lot of blame being handed out; in fact, it was being awarded before the game even ended. The players were blaming themselves, saying they “collapsed” and basically put no effort into the game. Patrick Kane blamed himself (he has a habit of doing that), and there were snarky people *cough Mike Milbury cough* who were blaming him for the loss. Greg Wyshinski at Puck Daddy makes a great argument that US coach Dan Bylsma is the root of the problem (I would agree, since he led the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Eastern Conference Finals only to be swept and have his best player held to 0 points in four games). But I think the brunt of the blame should go to David Poile and the genius group who threw this team together. If you haven’t read Scott Burnside’s great article on the inner workings of the US team selection, do so now. You’ll want to flip tables afterward, especially in the wake of what happened today.
One more thing: I’m upset with all the hate directed toward Kane. Like I said, he put the burden of blame on himself, saying he wasn’t good enough for the game. I know where it’s coming from: he’d just lost his grandfather the week he left for Sochi, and he was still reeling from the loss. He probably feels like he let his Gramps down by not winning. The hatred toward Kane is misplaced because he played his butt off in this tournament, even if the points don’t show it. He tried, really he did, but he had teammates who couldn’t catch up to his passes. Maybe I’m spoiled because I’m used to seeing his passes taken by his Blackhawks lineys, but you’d think Zach Parise and Ryan Kesler would be in tune enough to have that ability.
I hope the NHL allows its players to participate in 2018. That way, USA Hockey can begin keeping an eye on players for Pyeongchang long before the selection process and get better, more qualified people behind the talent on the ice.