With the weight of the hockey world on his shoulders, St Louis Blue, TJ Oshie scored the game-winning shootout goal for team USA in a massively important victory against host team Russia, earning a 3-2 win Saturday in Sochi.
Not only did Oshie score the GW clincher in the 8th round of the shootout, but he buried four of his six shoot out attempts against Russian net minder, Sergei Bobrovsky, leading up to the final five-hole stinger.
The reason Oshie was able to shoot six times during the 8-round shootout is the same reason team USA found themselves competing in the extra time in the first place: international ice hockey rules.
When the Russian defenseman Fedor Tyutin, and the largest land mass on earth, thought they had a 3-2 lead late in the 3rd period, a seemingly minor rule difference between North American and international hockey proved to be colossal.
Tyutin fired a shot from 55 feet away, and found the back cross-bar behind Quick. But what no one else in Sochi realized, except for USA goalie Jonathan Quick, was that the net was actually dislodged, and off its moorings.
After the puck went in the net, and the bottles of Stolichnaya started poppin, Quick instantly protested the legitimacy of the goal to the referees. They went to video review and found evidence confirming that the net was dislodged, meaning the play should have been whistled dead. Thus, no goal for Russia.
Overtime ensued, and after the scoreless five-minute period ended, the shootout begun.
Oshie channeled the soul of Mike Eruzione and the mind of Bobby Fisher as he patiently glided in on each attempt with a quizzical slyness, and seemed to play mind games with Bobrovsky. If I can quote Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez’s role in Mighty Ducks), “Make him make the first move Charlie.” Bombay’s lesson to Charlie Conway is the same one as Oshie showed us this morning- be patient.
It is a virtue in any aspect, but the patience TJ showed in each attempt was a thing to be marveled. He entered the zone in the same curling pattern, but would change up his approach on each shot. Bobvorsky’s, like most big goalies, weakness was his five hole, which every great goal scorer knows will open up if the net minder is anticipating to move from side to side, and Oshie made him pay for his anticipatory actions.
Oshie had an American partner in crime, as team USA goalie Quick, faced repeated attacks from Russians Pavel Datsyuk and, former NHLer, Ilya Kovalchuk in the seemingly never-ending shootout. Quick prevailed and showed his clutch ability by shutting down the Ruski duo, and reinforced the fact that he is the best money goaltender in the world.
This was a game that will be talked about well beyond Oshie’s years wearing the Blue Note; one of those memories where you’ll recall exactly where you were when you saw Oshie score in the 8th round. It was also a game that a team (and nation) can rally around and build instant chemistry and momentum heading into the critical stage of the Olympic tournament.
As a St Louisan, there have been few better Saturdays in recent memory to celebrate the accomplishments of your hockey team. Without four incredible late goals by Oshie, the physical presence and intensity of forward David Backes, or the flawless play on the backend (and power play) of Kevin Shattenkirk, team USA would have been in a major hole against Russia.
But if you’re an avid St Louis Blues fan, this morning, while internationally significant, seemed like just another day watching these three hockey players. Backes, every day, leads by example and has an outta-this-world compete level, while throwing his weight around in a fashion that resembles his American power-forward fore fathers, like Keith Tkachuk, John LeClair, Tony Amonte and Bill Guerin.
And former collegiate National Champion, Boston University stand out, Kevin Shattenkirk, proved that he is a top ten defenseman in the NHL. The ability to shut down guys like Malkin and Ovechkin around the net, and then lead an American power play at the other end late in the 3rd period of a 2-2 game, shows his versatility and composure, earning him the tag of a top-tier blue liner.
But the main headline for USA vs Russia 2014 was TJ Oshie and his sick skill. But again, for Blues fans, this is business as usual, as we’ve all seen Oshie use his Kovalev-like hands to his advantage against net minders in one-on-one situations. Even dual teammate David Backes corroborated the sense of ordinary felt by Blues fans abroad, to USA Today Sports after the game:
It kind of makes me chuckle when I see it… His hockey sense is off the charts and he makes plays. Today, he got to do it in front of a lot of spectators here and back home.
While Oshie’s play today was anything but ordinary by human standards, it is a harbinger of things to come, and is just the first act in Oshie’s one man show; not only for team USA, but once the real season gets back underway in St Louis.
And as a result of the last few years living in Boston, I’ve unfortunately been exposed to the culture of Red Sox nation, but today I can steal a phrase earned by one of their legends and clutch performers to sum up the game…
It was just Oshie being Oshie.
A note to Blues and Team USA hockey fans- There is no rest for the weary, Oshie, Backes and the boys are back at it tomorrow morning, Sunday, against Anze Kopitar and Slovenia, at 7:30 am est. Kegs n’ Eggs!