2014 Winter Olympics Men's Hockey – Group A play
UNITED STATES (1-0-0) vs.
RUSSIA (1-0-0) Puck drops: Saturday, 7:30 a.m. EDT
Line: Russia -165, United States +135, Total: 5.5
The marquee game in Group A of the Olympics Men's hockey tournament takes place Saturday morning when host Russia takes on the United States.
While the Americans are not nearly as heavy underdogs like they were in the "Miracle on Ice" in 1980, the Russians are a significant favorite due to home-ice advantage and a star-studded roster that includes Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk. Both teams rolled to easy victories in their tournament openers on Thursday, making the winner of this contest most likely to earn the coveted bye into the quarterfinals. The Americans netted six goals in the second period of a 7-1 rout of Slovakia, while Russia topped Slovenia 5-2.
For the Bet DSI breakdown of Saturday's Group A matchup, see here:
The United States had plenty of heroes in Thursday's scoring barrage, as Phil Kessel led the way with three points (1 G, 2 A), and three others tallied two-point efforts. Paul Stastny had two goals, Ryan Kesler had a goal and a helper, while T.J. Oshie had two assists. Eleven U.S. players tallied at least one point in the contest while a dozen players recorded a plus/minus rating of at least +2. The Americans fired 33 shots on goal, while netminder Jonathan Quick turned aside 22 of the 23 shots he faced in his Olympic debut. He had to face only one power play the entire game, which occurred after the score was already 7-1. Because of the lopsided score, U.S. coach Dan Bylsma didn't allow any of his players to reach 20 minutes of ice time, and Blake Wheeler (4:10 TOI) was the only U.S. skater that did not log at least 10 minutes on the ice. This rest will be an important aspect with just one day off before facing a high-powered Russia club on a rink larger than most NHL arenas.
The Russians actually had some trouble putting Slovenia away on Thursday, as the game was just 3-2 after two periods. Russia peppered its opponent with 18 first-period shots, but managed just 17 shots in the final two periods combined. However, goalie Semyon Varlamov was barely tested, saving just 12-of-14 shots in the victory. Offensively, Evgeni Malkin had a huge day with one goal and two assists. He fired a game-high five shots on goal and was one of only two players to see at least 17 minutes of ice time at 17:10. The leader in that category was Alexander Ovechkin (17:34 TOI), who also thrived in his team's first game with one goal and one assist. Alexei Tereshenko was the only other Russian player with at least two points, tallying two helpers in just 13:57 of ice time. Despite winning by three goals, Russia held a slim 29-26 advantage in face-offs, and this could be a big problem considering the Americans won 67% of their face-offs (37-of-55) on Thursday night.