3. The Americans are healthy: The United States has enjoyed an injury-free run to the final four. There were some some scares during the first part of the NHL season with Jonathan Quick, Ryan Callahan, Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin, Zach Parise and Max Pacioretty (among others) missing significant time, but the Americans arrived in Sochi without having to alter their lineup for health reasons. And since they have been here, that good health has continued.
Oh, sure, there are bumps and bruises. Ryan Kesler blocked a shot with his hand in the game against the Russians, and this is a U.S. team that is fond of throwing itself in front of shots. But compared to Canada -- which lost John Tavares to a season-ending knee injury in the quarterfinals, and lost Steven Stamkos to a broken leg earlier in the NHL season -- the U.S. is in a good spot. Take a broader view and look at the injuries that the Finns and Swedes sustained both before and during this Olympic tournament, and you can see one of the reasons the U.S. is so highly regarded right now.
4. Will Carey Price come through? We all know Team Canada goaltender Carey Price is the man in net, but now we'll find out if he's really The Man as he faces the biggest single-game test of his career. Price has a checkered playoff history in the NHL and will have to come up big against the most dangerous, balanced offensive unit in the Olympic tournament. The issue for Price is that he hasn't exactly been worked to the bone here. In three games, Price has faced just 51 shots, an average of 17 per game, but he's been calm and confident when tested.
"He's an unbelievable goalie," Canadian defenseman Drew Doughty said. "He's so skilled. He's awesome. And he's come up big when we needed him. It's tough for a goalie for to play with only 15, 16 shots. It's not easy. And he's done an unbelievable job.''
If anyone has a book on Price, though, it's Pacioretty, a teammate of Price's in Montreal.
"He doesn't have too many weaknesses, so I'm not going to tell the boys too much, obviously,'' Pacioretty said Thursday after practice. "He's one of the best goalies in the world. He's been playing great hockey this year. Just like any goalie, you try and not let him see the puck. It's the only way you're going to beat him.''
5. Intriguing NHL connections: There are myriad NHL connections between these two teams that make for a compelling and complex contest, starting with Bylsma, the Pittsburgh Penguins' coach trying to steal a victory from Crosby, who also wears the "C" for Pittsburgh. Someone asked Bylsma if he knew what was "wrong" with Crosby, who has yet to score in Sochi.
"I haven't seen Sidney Crosby in 12 days," Bylsma noted. But he will see him Friday, the coach was reminded. "I'm not fixing anything," Bylsma added.
It's not just Bylsma/Crosby. There's also Crosby and linemate Chris Kunitz potentially playing against Pittsburgh teammates Martin and Orpik, who have been paired together as a shutdown tandem for much of the tournament for the U.S.