Olympic Semifinal and Medal Game Recap
My apologies for not having something sooner on the last four men’s hockey games in the Olympic tournament, but I’m still kind of out of the routine with no NHL. However, that changes this week because we get back into the stretch run for the Stanley Cup playoffs. I’ll go over these Olympics and have a column on why the NHL, IIHF and IOC need to hammer out a long-term deal to have pros in the games.
Another piece of news is that I’ll be live-blogging during trade deadline day on March 5. (next Wednesday) I’ll be posting tweets @DanMountSports and then updating the blog from around 9 a.m. Eastern until the deadline passes.
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As you all know Canada blanked Sweden, 3-0, to claim its second straight gold medal. Before we get to that game, we’ll hit up the semifinals and bronze medal game.
Canada continues mastery of USA
It in a tight affair, the Canadians continued their dominance over their southern neighbors with a stifling 1-0 win over the Americans. The U.S. had come into the game scoring 20 goals in its four previous games, including hanging five on the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals. The American forwards (and teammates on the Toronto Maple Leafs) of Phil Kessel and James vanRiemsdyk were scoring at will in those early games.
However, Canada rode its defense led by Shea Weber and Drew Doughty and got splendid goaltending from Carey Price to grind out a win over their rivals. Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars provided the game-winner in the second period.
This game proved the old axiom of great defense usually trumps a great offense, and that defense would show up again in the gold medal match.
Sweden wins Battle of Scandinavia
Both of these teams fly under the radar and set up a pretty good semifinal between countries that have a history between them.
Sweden and Finland both have been dealing with injuries, but still managed to play great hockey. However, it was Sweden’s day as they rallied past the Finns, 2-1.
Sweden did it by relying on efficient offense and defense and the arguably the best goaltender in the world, Henrik Lundqvist.
Many will point to the fact that Tukka Rask was out with the flu, but the loss shouldn’t be blamed Kari Lehtonen. Sweden just came out after that soft goal given up the Lunqvist and rallied to set up a date with Canada for the gold.
A sweet Finnish for Selanne
Finland and Rask recovered enough from the tough loss to wax the U.S. 5-0 in the bronze medal game. The ageless Teemu Selanne, in probably his last international competition, scored two goals and went on to be named the most valuable player in the men’s hockey tournament.
Bronze medal games are always tough to figure out because you don’t know how the losing teams will react after losing tough semifinal games. The Finns looked like they wanted it more, while the Americans looked like they’d already booked their flight out of Russia.
The U.S. weren't moving the puck around like they were earlier in the tournament, and that is needed to beat top-notch goalies like Price and Rask. However, give credit to the Finnish defense and Selanne for not packing it in after a disappointing loss to Sweden.
I’m also sure Patrick Kane would like a do-over after missing two penalty shots.
The Canadians proved that hockey was their sport after another strong defensive effort and Sidney Crosby finally showing up on the score sheet. Carey Price earned his second consecutive shutout as he and the Canadian D blanked the strong American offense and the steady Swedish attack.
The big story may not have been Canada’s win, but the absence of one of Sweden’s top-six forwards in Nicklas Backstrom was barred from playing due a failed doping test for an allergy medication that he’s taken for years. It stinks that Backstrom had to miss the biggest game of his life because of something that keeps him from getting the sniffles. However, he or someone else should’ve really kept track of what’s on the banned substance list. Is it a silly rule? Absolutely, but someone should’ve advised him to switch to something else in the run-up to the games.
And to the people crying conspiracy, shut it! I know people love a good conspiracy theory, but this is just grasping at straws. The Canadians beat the Swedes fair and square. I’m just glad that Sweden wasn’t forced to forfeit its silver medal because of this. That would’ve been a real travesty.
Well, that’s it for the games from Sochi. I’ll have one more piece on why the Olympics and the NHL need each other later in the week. Until then, let’s get ready for the stretch run and the trade deadline.
Dan Mount is an NHL columnist for TJRSports.com. He is based out Watertown, NY.