This is the kind of story worth spreading around. In case you missed my Arch City Sports piece earlier this afternoon, here is my Oshie piece from the Olympics game this morning that was heard around the world.
The story reminded me of Rocky 4. An American slaying a monstrous Russian dragon inside the foreign country. Sure, Oshie didn’t tell the Russians “we can all change” but he did revoke the hero label, saying the real heroes wear “camo”. Good for him and the Blues organization, which is doing quite well so far. Patrik Berglund has a pair of goals, Alex Steen a couple of assists, and Backes has a goal. Oshie made a little history today and here is my story on it. Enjoy and have a good weekend.
Sure, it wasn’t Al Michaels screaming “it’s a miracle” this morning around the United States, but the St. Louis Blues’ T.J. Oshie definitely delivered the shot heard around the world this morning in Sochi as he helped the USA beat Russia 3-2 via shootout. In an epic morning battle that involved lead changes, blood, sweat, tears, a rejected goal and 8 rounds of shootout action, the St. Louis Blue delivered the kill shot. Oshie has always been regarded around the NHL as a good hockey player, but today he turned into a legend. No matter what happens the rest of the way, everybody who woke up at 6 a.m. will remember where they were when Oshie sank the Russians.
I’ve said for years that Oshie is the best shootout artist in the NHL. He is 7-10 on shootout attempts this year and lifetime he is 25-46 (54 percent). That’s ridiculous. Oshie has baby Jesus smooth hands when it comes to going one-on-one with a goaltender. The matchup simply isn’t fair for opposing coaches and stoppers. When he skates to the middle of the ice and leans down with his hands on his knees, the arena seems to shut off for him and silence surrounds the moment. Certain athletes can do that in the middle of chaos: clear out the noise and focus like an assassin. His shootout ability is akin to a base-stealing threat. True base thieves in baseball steal bags off instinct and natural born ability, not just speed. It takes confidence, precision and a dose of swagger.
I am sure, for some hockey players, that length of the ice from the center line to the net is shorter than it appears on television. A lot of players simply can’t make up their mind and are beaten by themselves when they reach the net. Oshie is different, and so deadly. He skates in side to side before settling straight up the ice at the last moment. He can pause and choose where he wants to put the puck. His best move is where he skates in quick, slows it down suddenly, pauses, freezes the goaltender and buries a wrist shot right between the legs.
Oshie didn’t just score one shootout goal. USA coach Dan Bylsma sent him out there six times total and Oshie scored four. The same goaltender saw him six times and could only stop him twice. That’s sick. Completely unheard of. Once again, it doesn’t matter what happens tomorrow or next week; everyone will remember the USA’s effort today. They will remember Jonathan Quick’s brilliance in net. They will remember the notorious Red Wing Pavel Datsyuk bringing Russia back with two goals. The oddness for me in the Olympics is seeing the teams separated and the unlikely groups of players. Quick playing behind three Blues players instead of in front of them, Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaroslav Halak playing against the Americans. The familiar face of Datsyuk tormenting our souls and the team’s chances. This is why this event is so special, and why it’s only held every four years. It’s a celebration of the diversity in the talent of this league. All the countries, uniting rivals together for a couple of weeks, to battle for the most precious medal in all of sports. Just like any other huge sporting event, a particular moment can shine the brightest during a tournament propped up by skill.
Oshie’s moment won’t soon leave the minds of not only Americans, but Russians and other countries as well. The Canadians will look at Oshie and the team differently now. His performance in the shootout has elevated him from a pretty decent hockey player to a legend and revered foe in less than eight hours. When the sun came up this morning, Oshie was a St. Louis Blue feeling honored to play for his country in the Olympics. Like his fellow teammates Kevin Shattenkirk and David Backes, he deserved to be there. However, his life has exploded. He added 50,000 Twitter followers over the course of just a few hours. His name is being chanted across the country in bars from New Jersey to California. “Oshie in Sochi” is the new catchphrase. The President personally tweeted his name in a message this morning. The world knows who Oshie is now. Being a St. Louis resident, you almost feel like one of your kids is being celebrated.
A University of North Dakota product, Oshie has played in the NHL since 2008. He is 27 years old. He owns 84 career goals and two playoff goals. His best season totaled 80 games and 54 points. When he first came into the league, former Blues President John Davidson said Oshie had a mind like a computer on the ice and could easily adapt. This year, through 57 games, Oshie has 46 points and a +17 marker. While he has become a better hockey player this year, Blues fans have always seen the special talent in Oshie’s play.
Today, everything changed. Oshie isn’t just a hockey player, he’s a national hero. Oshie told the press the real heroes wear camoflauge, which was a very classy move. Sports, in a way, can drive this country at times. The Olympics brings sports fans together. We can all agree that today was a very good day to be an American. T.J. Oshie slayed the Russian dragon and gave us a moment to remember for the rest of our lives.
Now say it with me….USA!