Muggin’ - Time To Worry, USA?

Wherein I throw some cold water on the prelim results for the US hockey team.

Three exhibition games, two wins over quality opponents. A 4-2 win against Canada and a 3-2 nail-biter against Finland packed around a 5-2 loss to Canada. 2-1 in those three games? Good news, right?

Well, maybe.

The underlying stats are, how you say, not kind. In three games, the US team was out-shot 113-77, never out-shooting their opponent in any of the three games. I haven’t yet found specific faceoff stats for each game, but the US only won more faceoffs in one of those three games: Finland.

And, if this US team was built solely to combat team Canada, well, a 1-1 split is nice in exhibition games, but there are some warts that merit some worry:

  • Canada out-shot the US 81-48 collectively.
  • Canada won faceoffs at a 58/42 percent split in the game the US won. In the Canada win, it was a 57/43 percent split for the Great White North.
  • Canada went 3-for-11 on the Power Play, including 3-for-8 in their win. The US managed just one PPG on 9 chances. /

I admittedly didn’t watch the 5-2 loss for the Americans, so I’m flying blind a bit. What I did watch was a US team very opportunistically take advantage of a rusty Carey Price on Friday and ride an equally hot Jonathan Quick to hang on for a victory.

I saw a US team chasing the play all night. I saw a team content to go into a shell and try to hold onto a lead for the entire third period (it felt very, very familiar). I saw a US team playing at or near its ceiling against a Canada team that looked like it was just getting its legs under it.

It looked like the US took their collective foot off the pedal Tuesday night.

That’s all #feelingsball, I know. But, I just don’t see how the US team can play *better* than it has done in its two wins. They are, essentially, going to have to cash in on their chances (12.5% shooting percentage in the two Canada games, 11.6% overall) and hope Quick can stand on his head.

If you look at those shot and faceoff stats, at what point can the US team count on winning a draw and controlling the puck, either to protect a lead or to score a big goal to get back into a game in which they trail?

I joked with Mike via e-mail last week:

Mike: “Have fun gents, even in exhibition there's nothing better than best-on-best!”

Me: “I would like to raise an objection that this is the US's ‘best’. [sarc] But at least we'll be able to bang it out in the corners! [/sarc]”

So, what have you guys seen? Are you feeling confident? Can the US actually win this tournament, or is Canada going to simply overpower them?

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