Americans change up top line, knock off Norway 6-1
Coach Ron Wilson said coming into the Olympic men’s hockey tournament that his U.S. lineup would be a chemistry experiment and he proved that Thursday by dramatically altering his formula in a 6- 1 win against Norway.
Late in the game, Wilson decided to move team captain Jamie Langenbrunner to the top line with Paul Stastny and Zach Parise and moved Patrick Kane from that line to play with Ryan Kesler. That seemed to spark the Americans, who scored three goals in the final six minutes.
“Patrick is a winger, but he’s really a center playing wing,” Wilson said. “Stastny needs to touch the puck a little more, and also Zach does. I was just looking for a little bit more compatibility.”
Langenbrunner plays with Parise on the New Jersey Devils. “This isn’t Patrick Kane’s fault — he’s been playing Patrick Kane hockey,” Wilson said. “The difference between here and Chicago is that he plays with two great offensive defensemen who jump into the plays all the time.”
Wilson said the Americans simply don’t have “that kind of dynamic defenseman.”
“I think (Kane) will be better suited to play with Kesler and perhaps Bobby Ryan on the other side,” Wilson said.
Kane scored his first goal of the tournament to give USA a 3-0 lead. Defenseman Brian Rafalski scored twice, and Phil Kessel, Chris Drury, Ryan Malone scored one goal each for the Americans (2-0), who have to prepare for Sunday’s game against tournament favorite Canada.
“We are getting better, but are game isn’t where it needs to be by any means, but we have a couple of days to work on that,” said USA forward David Backes, who offered that his team was “too sloppy” and gave up too many odd-man rushes.
Although Wilson didn’t mention Canada when he talked about switching up his lines, by moving Langenbrunner and Kane he added a bit more size and grit to the top line. In the new setup, every line has a forward who can push back in a rough game.
The second line of Malone, Joe Pavelski and Phil Kessel has been the USA’s most productive with three goals and four assists. Wilson had been mixing Ryan Callahan, David Backes, Drury and Ryan into the fourth line, which has been effective.
“They were successful because they have been playing the standard NHL north-south game,” Wilson said. “For some reason, we have gotten away from that with the other lines. They want to put a little whipped cream on top of the plays they are making and it doesn’t always work.”
If Ryan plays with Kesler and Kane, Wilson said he might move Dustin Brown into that last group “to give it more physicality.”
“I love the way that Drury and Callahan play,” Wilson said. “They have shown some speed. They get in on the forecheck and they are (top) penalty killers.”