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Touch of Julien: USA blown out in 1-0 loss

Posted by Obnoxious Boston Fan  February 21, 2014 03:30 PM

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Leave it to Boston coach Claude Julien to help Team Canada engineer a 1-0 blow out victory over the United States.

Julien, who is serving as an assistant on Team Canada's coaching staff, helped lead a team that played the style of hockey he as come to implement as the mastermind of the Bruins.

Julien's Canadians dominated the Americans with a tall, muscular, aggressive defense that both smothered Team USA's rare scoring opportunities and controlled the puck whether they were at full-strength, on the power play or shorthanded.

Team Canada's defense and puck-handling ran up the score on Team USA with every denied scoring opportunity and each deflected pass.

The Americans were listless on offense, disorganized in the attack zone and absolutely tepid on the power play, frittering away three chances in the game.

Perhaps only Julien - with some help from the spectacular play by Team USA goalie Jonathan Quick - could hold a team that includes Sidney Crosby, Patrice Bergeron and Jonathan Toews to one goal.

The goal, a beautifully engineered slanted-stick deflection from Jamie Benn, was the lone shot that got past Quick. Otherwise, the 2012 Stanley Cup champion goalie kept this game from becoming a lopsided, profane affair on the scoreboard. He stopped 36 shots and denied several scoring opportunities.

Team USA's scoring opportunities, as limited as they were, were one-shot affairs that were either slapped/kicked aside by the untested-before-Friday Carey Price or absorbed by Price to stop any chance of a rally or rebound.

The favorite target of Bruins fans everywhere - Phil Kessel - played down to his reputation as being a big-game flop. He may have been responsible for the majority of Team USA's scoring chances but he'll still be playing for Bronze on Saturday against Finland.

The most intriguing part of the Bronze-medal game might be the status of Finnish goalie Tuukka Rask, who missed Friday's semifinal loss to Sweden with the flu.

Sunday's gold-medal game features Bergeron and Julien facing Loui Eriksson and the Swedes. It will be carried noon Sunday on the NBC Spanish Shopping Channel in the United States. Actually, it will be on NBC, but it will be tough for USA hockey fans to watch with any emotional attachment.

Bruins fans will be rooting for Bergeron and Eriksson to get out of Russia unhurt and hope that Rask didn't catch some mysterious Russian-born illness that was unleashed on anyone from Finland by Vladimir Putin following their hockey victory over the Russians.

Sochi marks the second straight Olympiad in which Team USA lost to Canada with a medal at stake. In 2010, it was the gold-medal game in Vancouver lost by Team USA in overtime thanks to Crosby's goal. Team USA erased a 2-0 lead in that game. The Canadians would have none of that Friday.

Chicago's Patrick Kane crushed the heart of Bruins' fans with his dynamic play in the Stanley Cup Finals. He, too, was frustrated and shut down Friday. He had three shots vs. Canada and has not scored a goal in Sochi.

"No one said it was going to be easy," said Kane. "I think everyone expected a tight checking game but to say we would have gotten shut out, I don't think anyone would have thought that."

This type of loss leaves plenty of room to second-guess the player selection for Team USA. But none of those concerns were raised before this game so they probably won't carry as much merit once the emotion subsides.

The question of whether or not NHL players should or will be allowed to play in the Olympics will certainly be a hot topic on and off the ice, at least among American fans. There will be no "Miracle On Ice" this year. [Sorry, but last Saturday's win over the Russians was miraculous, but it wasn't a miracle.]

It's been 34 years and counting since Team USA won a gold medal in men's hockey. Folks under the age of 40 don't have any real recollection of the feeling created when the untested American amateurs beat the pros of the Soviet Union and then Finland to win the gold in Lake Placid.

While that feeling can't be duplicated with NHL stars on virtually every team, the presence of the best players in the world gives the Olympics a taste of legitimacy that it lacked in the bad old days. [See the Soviet hockey team and East German women in everything.]

It also provides another boost for hockey as a sport, as opposed to the NHL which must shut down for three weeks. The next Winter Olympiad takes place in Pyeongchang, South Korea, which is 14 hours ahead of the East Coast. There could be NHL jet lag hanging from that tournament until April. There could also be a full-blown military conflict underway in that part of the world by then, so you might want to hold off on booking your airfare just yet.

The USA remains stuck at being one goal short of Canada when it comes establishing a foothold atop the historic battle of hockey supremacy.

That's something the Americans will have to live with for another four years.

It's doesn't evoke quite the despair of waiting at least 38 years for another Olympic hockey gold medal, but it hardly feels any less painful.

Almost as bad as this:

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The NHL playoffs can't start soon enough.

Got a news tip, want to let me know directly what you think, or have a complaint or compliment about my "aggressively relevant" content, hit me up on our Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or e-mail me at obnoxiousbostonfan@hotmail.com. Thanks always for reading and pass the clicker.

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