VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- We caught up with NBC men's hockey analyst Pierre McGuire this afternoon to get his take on a certain vent so heavily anticipated here that it is expected to be the most watched program in the history of Canadian television.
The Canada-US gold medal game, of course.
(Seriously, what else would it be? The SalmonMasters finals?)
McGuire, who has New England ties -- one of his first coaching jobs was at Babson College in the mid-'80s and he later served as assistant general manager and coach of the Hartford Whalers -- offered several insights on what each team might do and needs to do . . . including these three things that must happen for the United States to emerge with the gold Sunday.
"Ryan Miller has to be Jim Craig," McGuire said, referencing the unforgettable performance of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" goalie. "That's No. 1. No. 2, [the US] can't give up a lot of odd-man rushes. They can't be over-aggressive, because Canada will eat them alive. And then the third thing is, they have to capitalize on their power play. They do those three things, they can disappoint a lot of Canadians."
Miller made 42 saves on 45 shots on the teams' first meeting in Vancouver, a stunning 5-3 US victory last Sunday.
McGuire said Miller's performance in that game can't be understated, but it may need to be duplicated.
"I'm not sure that whole thing was reported correctly -- Miller deserved even more credit than he got," said McGuire. "The scoring chances were unbelievably tilted in Canada's favor. I mean, he was the story of that game, he was spectacular.
"One thing I think they'd like to do differently, the US, is be a little bit more physical than they were in the first game," he added. "It's really important for them to develop a physical presence early without picking up penalties."
A few of McGuire's other sentiments and opinions:
On whether the US forwards are too quick for Canada's defensemen: "I'm not buying that theory. I think that's fluff. Because [Canada defensemen] Duncan Keith, Shea Weber, Drew Doughty, Scotty Niedermayer, they can all skate. [Chris] Pronger is the only slow guy back there, and he's got such a long stick that he's not going to be intimidated by speed. He goes against [superstar Alex] Ovechkin all the time in Philly. I think that's one of those things where people are reaching. The American speed quotient is high, that's true, they're extremely quick. But I don't think that's going to be a deciding issue in the game."
On whether it's up to the individual play of Canada's stars to determine the outcome: "No. Canada has to play the same way it played against Russia [a 7-3 victory in the quarterfinals]: total team commitment to defense, offense, and matchups, the forecheck, shotblocking, everything. Canada, when they played against Russia, that was their best game of the tournament, and the reason why they were successful is that they took away the Russians' skill and will. They were physical, they took away space, they didn't give the Russians a lot of room, and they dominated because of that."
On whether the loss to the US actually benefited Canada's players, since it meant they had to play an additional game and allowed them to jell as a team: "Every player I've talked to on the team says it did, because it allowed [Eric] Staal to go with [Sidney] Crosby and [Jarome Iginla] and stabilized their lines, it helped create roles for the players that they were comfortable with, and it gave them confidence going into the game against Russia. So the answer is, absolutely."
On any advantage Canada and Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo might have since he's playing in his home arena: "He knows the building here, he knows the nooks and crannies of the boards. I think it's more optics than anything else. [Martin] Brodeur [who struggled in the loss to the US and hasn't played since] could have won that game against Germany [an 8-2 win for Canada] just as easy as Luongo did and I think Brodeur could have won the game against Russia just as easy as Luongo did. There wasn't a lot of testing going. You know, [Friday night], I think the Slovaks through 40 minutes only had 13 shots on goal, so I think Brodeur would have been OK in that game too."
On the importance of scoring first: "The first goal is extremely crucial, especially in a single-elimination game. When you score first in a deciding game of a Stanley Cup playoff series or a gold medal game in the Olympics, the team that scores first usually wins. And especially here, the tension is so amazingly overpowering that it's critical that everybody is energized -- the players, the coaches, and the fan base, because it's going to be a Canadian crowd. . . . If the Americans get it, it's going to be a really tough game for Canada to win. But if Canada gets a goal early, it's got a pretty good chance to be a successful afternoon."
On one player who could be the determining factor: "This is Ryan Miller's moment. Ryan Miller has to stand and deliver. If he doesn't, I think it's a tough game for the Americans to win. And for Canada, if their star players don't score, then it becomes a really difficult game for them to win."