The United States and Canada are peaceful neighbors, sharing the world's longest undefended border. When it comes to the sport of ice hockey, however, there is no love between the North American rivals. It is flat-out war.
While Canada boasts more championships in its history, the competition between the two nations has become heated in recent years because of frequent matchups at other levels, such as the World Junior Championship and Women's World Championship.
Sunday marks the first Olympic meeting between the countries since the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Canadians won 3-2 to clinch the gold medal.
CBSSports.com's Erin Brown and Derek Fobe cast aside all objectivity and preview the contest from an unabashedly patriotic standpoint. Be sure to join Erin and Derek Sunday night at 7 p.m. for a live chat during the game.
Why will the United States/Canada win?
Erin Brown: The Americans are going to win because nobody expects us to. Canada came into this tournament with the goal -- no, wait, expectation -- to come away with the gold medal. The Canadians are looking ahead, and showed exactly that during their game against the Swiss. The Americans may not have the deepest talent pool, but we've got a few flashy players, too, and we fill out the rest of the roster with blue collar grinders ready to hit you upside the head with their lunch pails. In Olympic and World Championship play, the Americans have defeated the Canadians just five times. OK, so the numbers don't exactly favor us. But four of those wins were one-goal games. Close battles are usually very ugly, and we've got just the kind of team to get the job done. Oh yeah, and as far as we know, there are no stupid loonies embedded in the ice.
Derek Fobe: The Canadians are going to win going away because Mike Richter is not dressed for this contest, which I assure you is of immense relief to all Canadians. If the U.S. did call on the former Ranger Sunday night, there would be 19,000+ very nervous Canadians jammed inside Canada Hockey Place whispering Richter's name with Ogie Oglethorpe-like reverence. Since Richter, to my knowledge, is not playing, the U.S. will continue to give away odd-man rushes and Ryan Miller will understand very quickly that the Canadian forwards do not play for teams such as Davos or Stavanger. Canada will score early, loud and often and the Americans will wonder if there is a 'Quick' solution they can turn to if and when they play the Canadian Red Machine again in the medal round. Expect the U.S. to look to abandon the running game early in this one as they fall behind by more than a touchdown. Miller Time will come early (and with a baseball cap!) for at least one member of the Miller family.
How the United States/Canada could conceivably pull off the upset?
Erin Brown: For the Canadians to win, they just have to walk the walk. There's no denying the talent they boast. They've got veterans. They've got loads of game-breakers. They've got players who have consistently performed in pressure situations. Team Canada GM Steve Yzerman even found a way to circumvent the lack of chemistry Olympic teams face by building a roster of players already familiar with each other. Even their coaching staff is unbelievable. And as if that weren't enough, they're playing at home, a hockey-mad country that could see its population skyrocket in nine months if they actually win gold. How on Earth do you compete with that? Maybe the reality is that you don't.
Derek Fobe: Canada has assembled an incredible array of tremendously skilled, offensive firepower. Notice I didn't use the word "team" in that sentence. There are no third or fourth liners on this squad. If defensive mastermind Bob Gainey was in his prime, he would not be selected -- ditto for Alex Burrows. This is an All-Star squad through and through and we saw that type of "All-Star team" dysfunction against the meager Swiss squad Thursday night. The best way for the U.S. team to succeed is to play inspired Team USA hockey. Bring a gritty, hard-hitting performance and use their speed mismatches of their forwards to cause windburn sensations past the likes of old vets Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer. An outstanding Richter-like goaltending performance will undoubtedly also be necessary. Maybe someday Canadians will speak of Miller in hushed tones as they do of Richter.
Who's the hero?
Erin Brown: When the Americans beat Canada, they'll all be heroes. If I had to pick just one, though, I'm going with Minnesota's own David Backes. Leading up to the Winter Games, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound winger beat up three members of the Canadian team -- Jonathan Toews, Corey Perry and Rick Nash. He's having a great tournament thus far, with a highlight-reel game-winning goal in Team USA's opener versus Switzerland and an assist against the Norwegians. He's a fourth-liner, but has embraced his role more than anyone at this point. He's playing with the kind of passion that embodies the American hockey mentality. Herb Brooks would be proud.
Derek Fobe: When the Canadians win, the hero will be Sidney Crosby. Yeah, I know the obvious choice. But hey, like Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Bobby Orr the best players perform on the biggest and loudest stage. There could not have been more pressure on him than on Thursday when he was selected for the shootout a second time, having just missed minutes earlier. Crosby was clutch and buried it. As Don Cherry might say to someone who would NOT pick Crosby to be the hero, "You don't know 'cause you don't know!"
Who's the goat?
Erin Brown: Martin Brodeur. He is arguably the best goaltender to play professional hockey, but how long can the Canadians ride this horse? Brodeur may have been a big-game goaltender earlier in his career, but since winning the Stanley Cup in 2003, he is 14-22 in postseason games and has won just two series. And don't forget that last-minute collapse against Carolina last postseason.
Derek Fobe: USA's gaggle of superstar forwards. They look like at times as if they want to pass the puck into the net. Someone (besides Mr. Backes) has to grab the biscuit and fire it into the net.
What "patriotic" song would you pump up the guys with?
Erin Brown: It isn't part of the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry (yet), but I'm going with Metallica's "Don't Tread on Me ." It is the motto on the Gadsden Flag, originally used by the United States Marine Corps in the late 1700s. The song itself refers to the American Revolutionary War (you know, Canada, when we kicked out the monarchy that still watches over you) and cites Patrick Henry's famous quote, "give me liberty or give me death." The tune bleeds aggression and makes you want to go out and hit someone. Rumor has it many of our soldiers overseas have this tune on their iPod and that it was a popular tune before going on patrol. That's motivational, right?
Derek Fobe: Breaking out the Marines eh?! Well, I'm going to go with Canada's own Guess Who and their rockin' "American Woman." The popular misconception is that it is a chauvinistic tune, but the song actually refers to the Statue of Liberty as an "American Woman ". It has a decidedly anti-war theme -- "I don't need your war machines." What better time and place to waive "bye-bye" to Team USA and their gold medal dreams of hockey domination than Earth-friendly, peace-loving Vancouver, British Columbia? Maybe our friends in Quebec can add a "Da Na Naaa Naaaa" in front of it for artistic merit. Oh, those crazy Quebecers are clutch like that! (And since Erin broke out the "monarchy" line. Here's some trivia: Who was the last foreign power to occupy the United States capital? Quick hint: it rhymes with Canada.)
Erin Brown: Ahem, the War of 1812 was against Great Britain. Canada wasn't even a country then!
Derek Fobe: Wanna go?
Erin Brown: Yeah.
Remember to drop by Sunday at 7 p.m. for our live chat during the United States-Canada men's hockey game. Gloves and sticks optional.