Feb 11, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT
On a team loaded with talent, Dan Bylsma is focusing on the team’s ability to put in work.
“We have a blue-collar mentality,” the U.S. Olympic head coach said on Tuesday. “That is where our strength is at.”
It’s not surprising that Bylsma, a bottom-six grinder during his nine-year playing career, is embracing his team’s workmanlike characteristics. The style served the U.S. well in Vancouver four years ago, allowing six goals in five games en route to the gold medal game, three coming in a win over Canada in the preliminary stage.
While Ryan Miller took home most of the accolades for that defensive effort, others contributed with a decidedly lunch-bucket approach. Veteran forward Chris Drury killed penalties and blocked shots with aplomb. Captain Jamie Langenbrunner also turned in a gritty performance, as did the likes of Ryan Kesler and David Backes.
Four years later, the American team displays similar characteristics.
Rangers captain Ryan Callahan seems primed to fill the Drury mold, even though he plays wing instead of center. A heart-and-soul guy, Callahan was a bit player in Vancouver but should have a more significant role this time around, thanks to his ability to block shots (he led all NHL forwards with 66 during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign) and play the body. Callahan acknowledged he’ll probably be asked to kill penalties in Sochi, one of his prime responsibilities with the Blueshirts.
“I’m guessing I’ll be doing that, yeah,” Callahan said, per the New York Daily News. “It’s always a big part of my game.”
Dustin Brown, a holdover from the ’10 team, is another that embodies the blue-collar approach with 187 hits this year, third-most in the NHL. Same goes for T.J. Oshie, tops among Blues forwards in blocked shots.
All these players seem to share similar traits — speed, tenacity and the ability to get nasty if need be. Bylsma said this was all part of the selection process.
“We looked at the strength of each player and we thought we would be a good skating team, a smart and intelligent team,” he said. Our group is toughest to play against.
“Look right down the line from the top to the last defenseman. We are tough.”
- Voracek turns monster season into massive eight-year deal 45
- Report: Canucks, Sutter closing in on five-year deal, north of $20M 24
- Voynov serving sentence at jail that once advertised it had flat screen TVs 45
- Report: Bernier and Leafs more than $2 million apart ahead of Friday’s arbitration hearing 11
- Flyers re-sign Couturier: six years, $26 million 40
- Benning calls Sutter a ‘foundation piece’ for Canucks 24
- Here’s a chart that shows which teams have been good/bad at drafting 40
- Penguins sign Fehr to three-year, $6 million contract 22
- Trade: Penguins send Sutter to Canucks for Bonino, Clendening 54
- NBC Sports to broadcast 105 NHL games in 2015-16 58
- Bettman says NHL would have to ‘consider’ putting Quebec City in the Western Conference (70)
- Rangers sign Stepan — six years, $39 million (62)
- NBC Sports to broadcast 105 NHL games in 2015-16 (58)
- Trade: Penguins send Sutter to Canucks for Bonino, Clendening (54)
- Voracek turns monster season into massive eight-year deal (48)