Sochi Chronicles: Part FOUR

The 22nd Winter Games: SOCHI 2014

The 22nd Winter Games: SOCHI 2014

Canada’s Medal FINAL Medal Count – 25 MEDALS: 10 GOLD, 10 SILVER, and 5 BRONZE.[As of the end of the Olympics; February 23rd, 2014].

On the final day of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games, there was one last event that many across Canada and Sweden had their eyes glued to, to find out what the final result would be. The Men’s hockey GOLD medal game. If you live on the west coast like me, than you were met with the dilemma to stay up all night OR get up ridiculously early to watch the game live. Did you opt for an all-nighter or set your alarm absurdly early? I opted for the sleep a few hours and then wake up early route myself.

Coming into the final Olympic hockey game saw TWO undefeated teams looking to take the gold medal. Canada was looking to defend their 2010 gold medal and Sweden was trying to win their second men’s hockey gold medal in the last 3 Olympics after winning in 2006.

Sweden earned their way into the gold medal game playing some incredibly consistent hockey despite missing two of their best centres (Henriks: Zetterberg & Sedin) due to injuries. They found a way and a will to win every game leading up their gold medal match-up. Canada earned their way into the gold medal game playing the best defensive style and only allowing 3 goals in their first 5 games. Both teams were very impressive in their 5 games leading into the final test…and the only questions that remained were who would win Gold and who would settle for Silver?

How would the final show down between the best two teams of the hockey tournament turn out? Which star players would step up to help their team? What would the final score be? There was an electricity in the air when the teams hit the ice and the puck finally dropped. You could feel the anticipation from both benches of what could be.

The start of the game seemed like all Sweden until they hit a post…after which it seemed it was all Canada. Every time Sweden touched the puck it was quickly back in possession of team Canada and eventually it started costing them on the scoreboard. Jonathan Toews opened the scoring at 12:55 of the first period with his first goal of the tournament (much like he did the 2010 gold medal game…which opened the scoring at 12:50 of the first period).

TOEWS celebrating the FIRST goal of the game!

TOEWS celebrating the FIRST goal of the game with the team!

It may have only been ONE goal in the FIRST period but the entire bench jumped up to celebrate when it went in[they did that for EVERY team Canada goal in the tournament]. The goal was a microcosm of team Canada’s entire tournament…every element from defense to offense had been a TEAM effort and it continued to show for the entire 60 minutes. Everyone held their breath as we awaited the next goal from either side. Whenever Sweden had the puck, there was ZERO panic from Canada has they executed their patience to perfection.It was magnetizing at times to watch the way Canada controlled the puck inside and outside their zone.

Cue the second period and Sidney Crosby on a breakaway…but he was double-teamed by the impeccable Swedish defense on his way to the net making his shot impossible. One could get frustrated after a play like that…but Crosby didn’t get frustrated…he instead skated back to the bench with a look of determination that seemed to say if another breakaway came he would make it count. He did get another breakaway opportunity when Sweden turned the puck over…and this time he could not be stopped…it was executed to perfection.

CROSBY in alone makes no mistake in giving #TeamCanada a 2-0 lead.

CROSBY in alone makes no mistake in giving #TeamCanada a 2-0 lead heading into the third period.

A picture does not do this goal justice, so here it is: SID THE KID STRIKES GOLD AGAIN!!

2-0 leads in hockey are almost never safe…BUT the panic that normally comes with those leads was never present in this game. Canada had set the pace for the game was not giving Sweden enough time to set up or when they did, Price had the answer.

The third period was much of the same. Every time Sweden had the puck, it was quickly turned back over and Canada was in complete control of the game. As fans around the world held their breath to see if Sweden would be able to find some offense, Canada calmly kept executing their game plan to absolute perfection. Any doubts (if you had any lingering) about the outcome of this game were extinguished when Kunitz, the beneficiary of a Swedish turnover made no mistake putting Canada ahead 3-0.

Sweden had found ways to win every game of this tournament BUT could not find the answer to solve Canada’s offense or defense in this game. This game would end with a 3-0 shutout (Canada’s 3rd shutout of the Olympics…1 by Luongo, 2 back to back by Price) as Canada defended their 2010 gold medal with a dominant GOLD medal performance. It was a tale of two games within one game…one team executed a perfect game and the other struggled to keep up.

This game was not nearly as dramatic as the 2010 gold medal game which saw the USA force OT before Crosby scored the gold medal goal. It was much more meticulous as the team moved together as one with every pass, goal and save. Every player knew where to be and where to go as they executed their BEST game of the tournament and Canada’s best players were exactly that, their best players playing their best to finish what they started.

Everyone outside of the team was so focused on what they perceived as a “lack of offense” instead appreciating that BEST team defense a team Canada has ever dressed. Canada gave up a very stingy total of 3 goals in 6 games while scoring 17 goals in those 6 games. It may not have been the offense that everyone expected BUT a tournament like this is not about the individual stats, it is about the TEAM stats. Perhaps, Luongo said it best: “It’s not about personal agendas, it’s about representing your country and trying to win a gold.” Babcock all along told media and those with concerns about offense that they needn’t be worried, he wasn’t worried about individual stats or scoring BUT rather with their team game and wins. If the team was patient with the offense, and focused on doing all the small things right while playing tight defensively, the goals would come. The goals did come and in the end they did exactly what they set out do from the moment this journey began: win the GOLD medal.

It was an incredible game to witness Canada ice a game as close to perfection as possible from the offense to defense and everything in between. This team will go down as one of [if not] the best team[s] that Canada has put together for an Olympic tournament. Before they could receive their medals, the teams had to meet at center ice for the obligatory handshakes and congratulations [this is one of my favourite parts of any hockey playoff series, is that once the game/series…it’s an incredible picture of good sportsmanship that is not always seen in other sports!]. It may not have been the result that Sweden expected or the medal that they desired receiving, but its is the one that they earned with their play in this game. “Winning” a silver medal in hockey doesn’t seem as amazing an accomplishment in the moment because is comes in a loss, but the fight to win that silver medal is something to proud of, so I extend a congratulations, to team Sweden on an excellent tournament!

In case you want to relive the best moments from the Sochi 2014 Gold Medal Men’s hockey game one last time, or if you missed the medal ceremony…here you go:

GOLD medal highlights:

MEDAL ceremony for Sweden & Canada:

For two weeks the NHL was put on hold and regular season rivals became teammates and almost like family on the other side of the world. Friendships formed or revisited during the Olympic break will be put once again on the back burner as the NHL season re-starts and rivals re-emerge. Hold on folks, we are in for a bumpy ride and one heck of a finish to the NHL season!

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

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