Watched today's USA vs Russia preliminary game from the Olympics this morning. I found my feelings a lot more mixed than I expected. I love OV, of course, and Datsyuk is pretty amazing (even if he does have the affrontery to play for Detroit), but the US is definitely my country.
My daughter surprised me by insisting that I wear my OV jersey while watching, which amused me.
I actually missed the first period, watching the Switzerland-Russia women's game then, but did finally find the men's game. It was already tied at one when I turned it on, and stayed close throughout. I thought that Russia got the benefit of a few questionable calls, although they didn't really take advantage of them. It's probably some bias from getting used to what the Caps do, but it seemed like they could have made some better decisions on handedness there.
The US did take advantage of one power play they got, with Pavelski scoring on a wicked pass cross-ice from Kane (the play looked much like a Caps power play, actually, with Pavelski in OV's position when he scored). But Datsyuk matched Pavelski's goal to tie it up again.
Then, several minutes later, Datsyuk's line appeared to score again, probably on a deflection that just barely got under the crossbar. It looked like they were reviewing it to see if it was hit above the crossbar (both attempts to deflect it were trying to push it downwards). After a couple replays, it was apparent that both players attempting the deflection missed, and that the puck was still rising as it went into the net, so it seemed sure to be a goal.
But then the review said "no goal", and I later heard that it was because the net was dislodged before the puck went in. I don't know, but it seemed an odd call. I wasn't complaining, though, as it left the game tied.
And that's the way regulation ended, too, going into 4-on-4 with the huge ice. Unbelievable how much room there was out there (I'll come back to this), but nobody managed to put it into the net, despite some really good chances.
So into a shootout it went, without me really knowing the shootout rules they were using. It turns out that three initial players needed to be selected, and choosing who shoots first is done similarly to the NHL. In that first round, Oshie started out by scoring, while the first two Russians were stopped. But the last two Americans were also stopped, leaving it on Kovalchuk's stick to finish. And he delivered, beating Quick on a cheeky chip shot into the corner, sending it to extra rounds.
Like the NHL, whoever led at the end of any round after that would win. Unlike the NHL, they could re-use shooters, which I did not like at all. It ended up going five more rounds, with Oshie getting all the American shots, and Kovalchuk and Datsyuk sharing duties on the Russian side. Frankly, I hated reusing the same shooters, plus I was disappointed that OV and Semin never got a chance. There were several scores in there, but in the fifth additional round, Oshie finished it after Kovy was stoned.
It was good to see the US win, and better to have had it be a close game.
What I found really interesting, though, was the effect of the big ice. Part of it, I suppose, was the quality of the players on each side, but it seemed easier to break out and easier to carry into the zone (I'm saying this based on several games; men's and women's). But it seems easier to keep play to the outside, and harder to get good chances. Part of it is that, with more boards, cycling doesn't work as well. And part of it is that the defense finds it much harder to pressure all the way out. There seem to be a lot fewer chances, overall, despite all the talent on display.
It's certainly interesting to watch; I'm looking forward to other games. And one of these days, I'll get used to Oshie wearing 74 while Carlson wears 4.