SOCHI, Russia -- It might be the single most dramatic day on the Olympic hockey schedule: quarterfinal day.
Four games, eight teams, the choices stark. Win and you're guaranteed two more games and the gold medal is still in sight. Lose and you and your medal dreams go home. Finished. Just like that.
The United States is expected to go back to the lineup it used in knocking off Russia in the preliminary round, a dynamite game that made a cult hero of shootout star T.J. Oshie
. That means Jonathan Quick
will return to the U.S. net and Max Pacioretty
will rejoin fourth-liners Oshie and Paul Stastny
. It looks like Dustin Brown
will start with David Backes
and Ryan Callahan
, who head coach Dan Bylsma
said Tuesday might have been as hard to play against so far as any player on the team. But if success in this tournament comes from a constant evolution, Bylsma said he wants his team to get faster in different parts of the ice, from breakouts to the transition game in the neutral zone to an aggressive forecheck. "We've set up a lot and we've had a lot of controlled neutral zones, but we think we can play quicker. And turning that into a forecheck more aggressively than we have," Bylsma said.
Those are elements that seem to fit the personality of this team and should prove difficult for a Czech defense that isn't particularly mobile. If the U.S. can bring the same physicality that we saw in its first two games against Slovakia and Russia, life will be very difficult for a skilled but not overly physical Czech lineup.
"He wants a fast game, a team to play in your face. I like playing that way," said Vancouver center Ryan Kesler, who will likely play with Patrick Kane and Zach Parise.
Pavelec vs. Quick
While Ondrej Pavelec
has been very good for the Czech Republic after being benched in the first game of the preliminary round, the goaltending edge in this game has to go to U.S. goalie Jonathan Quick. As was the case four years ago with Ryan Miller
's seizing the moment and leading the U.S. to the gold-medal game, the confidence in Quick is palpable with Team USA.
"It kind of seemed like we just got better and better as it went [in the preliminary round]," U.S. defenseman Brooks Orpik said Tuesday. "That's the key to tournaments like this, I think. I think you kind of see guys' confidence growing and growing as you go because in a short tournament like this, confidence is huge, especially in net, and both those guys [Miller and Quick] have been great for us."
While Miller got the start in the third game against Slovenia, it was Quick who was so strong in the first two games, stopping 51 of the 54 shots he faced. He was also terrific in the shootout against Russia.