Tough game for the Swiss. Jonas Hiller made 42 saves, as Switzerland stuck to the rope-a-dope strategy it’s been using the whole tournament.
The idea is to keep the game close, let the other guys initiate the play and wait for them to make a mistake (Swiss coach Ralph Krueger has actually said his team plays best if it does not have the puck). And for two periods, it appeared to be working.
But the system requires enormous effort from the players, whose task is to maintain body position on the attacking team at all times, to stick-check ferociously and to race like maniacs for loose pucks. Essentially, it’s a stop-and-start drill that lasts the whole game.
By the end of the second, they were losing their legs. A shot in the dying seconds by Ryan Kesler popped up and off Hiller’s chest, falling into the net. And while replays showed it had not yet crossed the line when the buzzer went, this bit of good fortune for the Swiss merely delayed the inevitable.
Zach Parise scored for the U.S. at 2:08 of the third on an eerily similar play, then popped the insurance marker into the empty Swiss net with 12 seconds to go. The Americans move on to play the winner of today’s Finn-Czech game, which starts at 10 p.m. ET over at UBC.
Props to the Swiss though. They showed in this tournament that they are knocking at the door of the world’s top-tier hockey powers, that they “get” the game on the level Canadians do. To wit: early in the third, Swiss defenceman Severin Blindenbacher appeared to dislocate his shoulder; he left the ice and, there on the bench, the trainer trussed him up in a full nelson and tried, rather forcefully, to pop it back in.
Blindenbacher disappeared to the dressing room for a while. Then, with two minutes left and the Swiss down by a goal, he was back on the ice, taking a heavy hit as he pushed the puck down the left boards.
A guy like that can play for my team any day.