Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 02/17/14 at 02:39 PM ET
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
The tournament begins in earnest Tuesday with the four qualifying games. The tension then ramps up Wednesday with the quarterfinal games. On both days, the reality is harshly simple: Win or go home.
Here are five things about Team USA heading into the meat of what has been a terrific tournament thus far.
1. Four years makes a difference
Is this team better than the team that came within a goal of winning gold four years ago in Vancouver?
"I hope not," Canadian forward Rick Nash said Monday. "They were pretty strong in 2010.
"They're a good team. They've got hard-nosed guys, guys that play the right way, don't cut corners. They had that in 2010, too, and you wouldn't expect anything different from Team USA."
The simple answer to that question is yes, though. The forward group is more mature than four years ago and brings a ton of experience both in terms of the Olympics (nine returning forwards from the '10 team) and beyond. Since that beautiful Sunday in Vancouver, guys such as Patrick Kane (twice) and Dustin Brown have won Stanley Cups, while Zach Parise and Ryan Kesler both went to Stanley Cup finals in the intervening years.
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