It took Canada exactly 24 hours to end the USA’s dreams of Olympic hockey gold. In a nod to sexual equality and with no small amount of smug satisfaction thrown Russia’s way, Canada’s men’s team and Canada’s women’s team both sent their USA counterparts to the showers. Yesterday’s women’s gold-medal game was the more heartbreaking of the two USA losses. Both games were meant to showcase the USA’s rise to hockey dominance from four years ago, yet the result was just deja vu but different place. Seems that USA Hockey can overcome Cold War adversaries but just can’t seem to conquer its mild-mannered neighbor to the north.
On Thursday, the USA women brought a 2-0 lead into the final three minutes of the third period. Then it all went to shit as Canada pumped in two goals in those three minutes and then scored in sudden-death overtime to leave the USA stunned with what can happen in mere fleeting moments. In the final moments of regulation, the USA hit the post on an empty net shot that kind of foretold the result.
Today the USA men were outclassed and outworked. Kessel and Kane’s speed gave us hope, but it wasn’t enough as the Canadian’s neutral zone game was flawless and the goaltending of the Montreal Canadians Carey Price was phenomenal. Price stopped 31 shots to improve to 4-0 in the tournament. The lone goal was scored by the Dallas Stars’ Jamie Benn who was a force to reckoned with all game and the Canadians might have done more but for the stellar play of the Kings’ Jonathan Quick.
The USA were just outplayed and didn’t deserved to win. It was tough to watch the impenetrable Canadian defense. The top line of Crosby, Bergeron and Kunitz played a superb two-way game. The Americans will now face Finland for the bronze medal. The Fins gave Sweden all they could handle but suffering a 2-1 loss without their starting goaltender.
On Sunday the big game between Canada and Sweden happens and for all that’s said about the USA being worthy of being in this game they shouldn’t. Sweden is undefeated in the tournament and has yet to be pushed into overtime. The USA would’ve been beaten by the Swedes even if they’d been able overcome Canada. The goaltending matchup is top notch with Price against Lundqvist. The Swedes and Canadians are the two recent Olympic champions and clearly the two best teams in the world. The power play for Sweden is the best in the tournament, as led by Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators, and the forward play is stellar. Expect this game to be a little bit more up tempo with Canada knowing they’re not going to be able to bog down the Swedes as they did with the USA. The USA had a lot of deficiencies on the back end that were mitigated by the play of Quick. Lundqvist is just as good as Quick and has a far better defense standing in front of him.
Sochi is lucky to have this gold-medal matchup as its closing event.