Team USA continued to ride the wave of momentum built up off of its shootout win over Russia on Saturday with a 5-1 rout of Slovenia on Sunday. Here's how we saw it break down:
GOLD STAR: Phil the Thrill lived up to his nickname against Slovenians. He had a hat trick on four shots and a plus-3 in 12:56 of ice time. Really the game out of reach early. Kessel teamed once again with Joe Pavelski and James van Riemsdyk as the best forward line in all of the Olympics. Those three forwards have combined for 15 points (5 goals, 10 assists) in three pool games, and now get a bye before coming back for the do-or-die medal rounds. Kessel still has the burning speed and lethal snap-shot to beat any goaltender as he showed in going through Slovenian defenseman Mitja Robar for the US's first breathtaking goal. But he also shows a new willingness to battle in front of the net for goals when scoring chances come. One goal was scored crashing the net looking for a Pavelski pass, and his last score came collecting a loose rebound in front. We’ve seen that from Kessel in the last two years, and it’s taken him to a whole different level as a dangerous player while leading the Olympic field with seven points in three games.
BLACK EYE: Tough day for Los Angeles Kings superstar Anze Kopitar, who didn’t get a shot on net in the first two periods and never made it into the ice for the final 20 minutes in the blowout loss to the Americans. Kopitar already did his country proud by helping push them to their first Olympic win in the country’s history a day prior against the Slovakians, and he was targeted early and often for stifling defense from Team USA. It wasn’t going to be Kopitar’s day against a USA roster that’s a team full of Kopitars.
TURNING POINT: It was still a potentially tight game after the first period when Phil Kessel popped in a couple of goals, and the Americans outshot the Slovenians by an 8-7 margin after the opening 20 minutes. But Team USA pulled away in the middle 20 minutes while outshooting the Slovenians by an 11-4 total, and received goals from Kessel and Ryan McDonagh. Given the lack of Slovenian scoring punch outside of Anze Kopitar, there was no shot they were coming back from a four goal deficit.
HONORABLE MENTION: Joe Pavelski has been the overshadowed star of the first line for Team USA, and set up all three of Phil Kessel’s goals while continuing to bust out with big offensive numbers. Pavelski has four points in three games, and has been part of the engine that’s made things happen for Team USA. His four points in the Olympics are up there with names like Kessel, Michael Grabner and Erik Karlsson as one of the leading scorers in the tourney. He will be the most talked about forward with the San Jose Sharks very soon if he isn’t already while starting to shed the shadow of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.
BY THE NUMBERS: 1 – That's the number of assists in this game from Blake Wheeler, who helped set up Ryan McDonagh’s goal in the second period. Wheeler also escaped Dan Bylsma’s doghouse after playing less than a minute of ice time after taking a bad penalty vs. Russia on Saturday.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Just get him the puck.” – James van Riemsdyk to reporters on what to do when red-hot Phil Kessel is on your line.