Erik Johnson and Team USA
Block the Swiss
Most of the attention has gone to David (Inglorious) Backes when the Olympics and the Blues are talked about. Not today. Today Erik Johnson deserves some attention due to his outstanding performance against the Swiss today in the USA’s 2-0 win. Ryan Miller was the hero against Canada, but this game saw a plethora of heroes up and down the ice, but the defenders and shot blockers deserve special attention.
The shot totals (44-19 in favor of the U.S.) really don’t tell the story. The USA did get a majority of the chances and opportunities, but through two periods the score still read 0-0. The Swiss were threatening throughout these two periods and the USA could have surrendered a goal at any time.
Cue Erik Johnson and the rest of team USA. Maybe it’s just me, but this game seemed to see the USA play a much better game in terms of defense and shot blocking. The Swiss would wind up for a slapper and instantly a blue jersey would get in the way. The Swiss would look to wrist a puck toward the net and a USA stick would break things up. Solid, sound defense.
There were lapses, but the overall effort was one worth noting. Johnson had a risky moment early in the game were he was unable to move the puck out of his zone leading to a 3-on-1. Following a pass across ice, Johnson followed the puck before diving and extending his stick to disrupt the Swedish opportunity. An error salvaged by an incredible defensive display.
The praise doesn’t stop there. Johnson used his body well down low, separating would-be attackers from the puck, creating space for himself and moving the puck to a teammate. He used his stick well, disrupting lanes and chipping the puck away from the Swedish side. Johnson, along with other members of the USA side (Chris Drury for one) kept launching their bodies at the puck, stopping potential shots before they had a chance to come near Ryan Miller.
The USA offense finally clicked into gear following two waived off goals (one coming just after the buzzer and one canceled by a penalty) in the third and were able to hang on the rest of the way, adding an empty netter for extra measure. Zach Parise sprung to life and played probably his best game of the tournament. The team will need his offense to start clicking if they hope to survive the latter stages of the tournament.
Great to see Johnson really living up to expectation, this time at one of the game’s highest stages. Our Blues defender and team USA are in for bigger tests ahead, and will have to continue to play sounds, solid and hard hitting defense to survive.