Team USA advances to the quarterfinal round with a 5-1 win over - New York News

Team USA advances to the quarterfinal round with a 5-1 win over Slovenia

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The U.S. followed up an emotional victory versus Russia with a 5-1 cruise over Slovenia.

Team Slovenia stayed engaged throughout, and the U.S. looked a bit sleepy at times, but the contest was never in doubt.

Starting for the first time were goaltender Ryan Miller and forward Derek Stepan. Miller was solid and head coach Dan Bylsma has the luxury of two goalies who have been playing well. After the big win on Saturday by Jonathan Quick, Bylsma probably goes back to him in the next game.

The US has been doing some good things and now it will be a question if they can raise their level of play. There are no missteps allowed the next time the US takes the ice, a loss will end their tournament. For now they have the best goal differential of any team and have the opportunity to rest for a couple of days.

Phil Kessel recorded a natural hat trick to lead the charge on Sunday. Ryan McDonagh and David Backes were the other scorers. Patrick Kane was credited with two shots but didn't stain the score sheet.

As for Kane, the bar is set very high and so far he hasn't played to his elite status. There have been flashes of brilliance, as with his outstanding pass to Joe Pavleski on Saturday, but Kane has not been a consistent factor. He has been playing with different line mates and possibly the two days off will help Kane a great deal.

In general Kane's play has somewhat mirrored the entire team.

The U.S.  will need to be much better to have a big shot at a Gold Medal. Versus Russia, Quick and the penalty killing unit was a big reason for the win, besides TJ Oshie.

Bylsma will look for a more consistent effort during five on five play in the next round. The U.S. head coach hasn't been bashful about switching up line combinations and is still searching for the right mix.

The best news is the U.S. defensemen have been good and that includes those that are experiencing their first taste of Olympic action. With a more complete effort in their next match the U.S. could advance to the semifinal round.

Sunday's opponent, Slovenia, has an interesting story as this is the first time they have qualified for Olympic play.

Slovenia has only a handful of professional players. They are led by a great player, Anze Kopitar of the Kings. His father Matjaz is the head coach of the club.

Slovenia is a country of only about two million people. As far as hockey is concerned there is one professional team and a total of only seven ice rinks.

Slovenia's upset on Saturday of Slovakia, a team that includes Marian Hossa and Zdeno Chara, plus 10 other NHL players, was an Olympic stunner.

With Sunday's victory the U.S. wins bracket A of the preliminary round. That means they will get a some time off because of earning a qualification round bye. The next time the U.S. plays will be on Wednesday in the quarterfinal round. They will have to win to advance to the semifinals.

Al's Shot's

The big victory over Russia included some controversy but the rules are the rules.

International games feature rules that are different than in the NHL . For those who thought it was a good idea for the NHL to participate in the Games, the fact a shootout can happen the way it did on Saturday should be embraced.

After the first round of the shootout the same player can keep shooting, it is that way in International play. For Canada, Jonathan Toews scored three times during a shootout in the 2007 World Junior semi final game to defeat the US.

Concerning the goal being disallowed versus Russia because the net was slightly displaced, it would be the same issue.

That's the rule and if a referee doesn't see the net slightly out of position, it isn't a goaltender's responsibility to let him know it is not on the moorings. When Quick mentioned to the ref the net was off, it was after the goal was scored. Quick knew the goal should be disallowed and the video showed the same.

My view has always been the shootout is not the best way to decide a hockey game. The NHL chose to participate in the Olympics and this time the rules worked in their favor. Oshie is the best player in a shootout and he was the difference versus Russia.

Team Russia can make the claim they deserved a better fate. I could make a strong case they were the better team but the rules shouldn't be blamed for the loss. Sometimes the best team doesn't win.

It would be great theater if Russia and the US could square off in the Gold Medal game and decide superiority that way.

On Twitter @AlCimaglia

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