Backes and Johnson
USA Defeats Canada
This was no second coming of the Miracle on Ice nor was it something that will change the face of the game of hockey as we know it, but let’s sit back and be honest with ourselves for a moment. Few people saw this coming. Few people thought the USA would pull out a 5-3 win against Canada IN Canada. Nobody thought Chris Drury and Brian Rafalski would be the heroes. Ryan Miller saved the day – again and again and again. Boy was it sweet to see. Canada carries an attitude toward hockey similar to the one the USA carries with basketball: “It’s our game, we are the best”. On this night, that wasn’t the case. On paper, Canada has a much more talented squad, but on this night hard work is what won the fight.
The picture above really reflects the effort turned in by David Backes last night. Most will look back at the boxscore, see he recorded an assist and move on to those that stand out such as the previously mentioned Rafalski. Don’t turn a blind eye to his performance – without his work down low, the USA struggles and does not score their pivotal third goal to gain a lead. Just prior to this photo from inside the net was snapped, Backes was planted at the top of the crease, causing mayhem for the defenders and Martin Brodeur behind him. Backes used all of his six feet three inch frame to block the vision of those behind him. This sort of effort usually never makes the boxscore and the impact it carries is tough to measure. Most hockey fans know that traffic in front of the net usually leads to good things, and it certainly did with the USA’s third goal. Aside from this moment, I would rate Backes’ game as another solid one. He won’t appear often in the highlights, but he wasn’t a weak point on the ice. Unfortunately, he didn’t continue to try and fight all of Canada as we saw leading up to the Olympic break, but he still was able to deliver some complete checks and use his size to win battles in the gritty areas of the ice.
This brings us to Erik Johnson. His effort won’t stand out and definitely won’t be labeled his best, but perhaps you should take a second look. Johnson, skating in his first Olympic Games (as is the majority of the U.S. roster) was asked to square off against some of the best talent the game of hockey has ever seen and shut them down for a full 60 minutes. For 57ish minutes, Johnson and his fellow teammates limited the damage to two goals. When the final horn sounded and all 45 of Canada’s shots had been fired, only three found the back of the net. An enormous effort by Ryan Miller, but also a solid effort by the defenders and forward who threw themselves in the way of countless other shots that don’t show up in the shot totals. Johnson did well at using his stick the way a defender should – to clog up passing lanes, lift the sticks of opponents (why does this always sound dirty to me?) and to chip the puck lose down low.
When the game was on the line in the closing moments, both David Backes and Erik Johnson were on the ice. Odds are, neither player has skated under the pressure they did last night and I think it goes to show us a lot about what types of players these are with how well they handled it. My hope is that when they return to the Blues, regardless of the outcome of the next few games, these two will share what they have learned with the others Blues skaters. Last night Backes and Johnson had a whole country behind them and a whole country against them. They handled themselves with poise and knew how to respond to the pressure under countless glaring eyes. These Olympic Games should be one huge learning experience that hopefully will carry over to their NHL career.
As the games role on, you can be sure that FrozenNotes will continue to monitor Backes, Johnson and of course Roman Polak.
But for now … USA! USA! USA!