Golden Tournament For Canada

Jeremy Wiebe February 23, 2014 8
Canada HugCanadian Press

Clinical. No better way to describe the performance of Team Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics. While there was no golden goal like Sidney Crosby’s overtime winner four years earlier in Vancouver, it wasn’t needed today. In a defensive display that every young hockey player should watch, Canada blanked Sweden 3-0 to capture its second straight Olympic gold medal, and its third in five Olympic tournaments.

In the three elimination games, Canada conceded only one goal, and that was against Latvia in the quarterfinals. A shutout against the United States in the semifinal was followed by a complete smothering of Tre Krona in the biggest game.

Jonathan Toews opened the scoring at the 12:55 mark of the first period, redirecting a Jeff Carter shot off the side boards. Sidney Crosby made it 2-0 as he sped in all alone on Henrik Lundqvist, and make a nice move to his backhand to slide it past the prone Swedish goalie at the 15:43 mark of the second period. Chris Kunitz sealed the deal at the 9:00 minute mark of the third period, as he fired a wrist shot over the glove of Lundqvist and into the top corner of the net. For all three players, it was their first goal of the tournament and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Carey Price was excellent yet again between the pipes for Canada, making 24 saves to record his second consecutive shutout of the tournament. While not making the spectacular save, Price was focused, played his angles extremely well and was a calming presence throughout the tourney.

Price had plenty of help from his teammates. The defence, led by Drew Doughty and Shea Weber were simply outstanding in Sochi. How good was Canada in their own end? Sweden has ZERO scoring chances in the third period. I repeat, Sweden had ZERO scoring chances in the third period. This was as dominating a defensive performance anyone has ever seen. The likes of Duncan Keith, Alex Pietrangeo, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Jay Bouwmeester and Dan Hamhuis deserve plenty of accolades for their efficient work.

The forwards had been criticized for not scoring enough, but they all knew their roles and played theme to a tee. Toews was outstanding in mainly a checking role, shutting down the top centres from other countries. Rick Nash embraced his fourth line role, and played like a true grinder, winning battles on the boards and using his size and strength to push around opposing defenders on the forecheck. Matt Duchene had an excellent game for Canada, using his speed to completely frustrate his Swedes. If the NHL goes back to the Olympics in 2018, the young Colorado Avalanche star will be an automatic choice to don the red and white sweater. The goals didn’t come very easily, but it didn’t matter as everybody did the job they had to do to get the job done.

This gold is vindication for the management team as well. Steve Yzerman and company were under considerable pressure from Canadian fans and media the moment the team was selected. Why was Chris Kunitz on the team? Where is Claude Giroux? Why not Brent Seabrook? Admittedly, I was critical of some of the choices Hockey Canada made to the roster. However, Yzerman and head coach Mike Babcock silenced the critics by playing a style that suited to the big ice surface and sticking to the plan throughout. If Yzerman wants the job for either the World Cup or the Olympics, he will be the easy choice to run Team Canada.

Notes:

- Sweden received a major blow before the puck was dropped as Nicklas Backstrom tested positive for a banned substance and was suspended for the gold medal game. The Washington Capitals centre tested for pseudoephedrine commonly found in Zyrtec D, an allergy supplement. Backstrom was battling allergies throughout so medication was needed. The IOC is very strict on these things, perhaps too strict. The Swedes look deflated before the game started and it showed in their play. The story was broke by Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy and you can read more about it here. Backstrom’s suspension, combined with injuries to Henrik Zetterberg and Henrik Sedin made Sweden vulnerable up the middle and they just couldn’t keep up with Canada’s depth.

- Teemu Selanne was named MVP of the Olympic tournament. The 43-year-old Finnish legend capped off his stellar international career by winning the bronze medal, his fourth career medal. While arguments could be made for Doughty who was sensational for Canada, Selanne is a great choice as he is respected by both fans and media. His play wasn’t too shabby either. The Anaheim Ducks winger tallied 4 goals and 2 assists in six games, including scoring twice in Finland’s 5-0 shellacking of the Unites States in the bronze medal game.

- The NHL resumes to reality on Tuesday night and with that, the debate will rage on whether the league will send its best to Pyeonchang, South Korea in 2018. The players want to go, but the owners don’t want any part of sending its assets to Asia. This won’t be the end you will hear of this fight.

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