Sochi Chronicles: Part FOUR

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).

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.

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.

Sochi Chronicles: Part THREE

Canada’s Medal Count has doubled in the gold category since the last post!- 24 MEDALS: 9 GOLD, 10 SILVER, and 5 BRONZE.[As of February 22nd, 2014]. **Rumor has it there is another a medal to be added to that total following an event that will have all of Canada on the edge of their seats!**

Women’s Bobsleigh: GOLD Kaillie Humphries & Heather Moyse

Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse came from behind in the 4th and final run to seal their GOLDEN fate and successfully defended their 2010 Gold medal with a Sochi GOLD performance.

Men’s Curling: GOLD – Team Jones (Brad Jacobs, Ryan Fry, EJ Harnden, Ryan Harnden, & Caleb Flaxey)

The Men’s Curling team didn’t start strong with a 1-2 record and then went on to win 8 straight to seal a GOLDEN victory and successfully defending Canada’s 2010 gold.

Women’s Curling: GOLD – Team Jacobs (Jennifer Jones, Dawn McEwen, Kaitlyn Lawes, Jill Officer & Kirsten Wall)

Team Jones did something that no women’s team has done before in the Olympics in leading her team to an undefeated 11-0 record on their way to GOLD medal. Team Jones is also the first Canadian Women’s curling team to win the gold medal since 1998.

 Ladies Ski Cross: GOLD – Marielle Thompson & SILVER – Kelsey Serwa

Women’s Hockey: GOLD!!!!!!!!!!!!

Men’s 500m Short Track: BRONZE – Charle Cournoyer

Now let’s take a closer look at the hockey that has taken place over the last few days. The Women’s hockey medals as you see from the above spoiler picture have been handed out.

The Women’s Bronze medal game featured Team Sweden and Team Switzerland. Florence Schelling backstopped Switzerland brilliantly the entire tournament and is the reason they earned their spot in the bronze medal game. It looked like Sweden was in control of the game taking a 2-0 lead into the third period BUT as we ALL know…2-0 leads are the worst to have in hockey. Switzerland made sure to make their presence known scoring 4 straight goals to take the lead and despite one last goal from Sweden, Switzerland was able to hold on for the win! Florence Schelling was the star for this team as they won their first ever Olympic hockey medal!

The GOLD medal stage was set for another amazing match up featuring Team Canada and Team USA for the 2010 GOLD medal rematch! Coming into Sochi, Team USA had won more games against Team Canada than they had lost and they were looking to translate that into a gold medal.

Team USA took the lead and carried a 2-0 lead with them late into the 3rd period. The writing was on the wall with the clock winding down and it seemed inevitable that the USA was on their way to their first gold medal since 1998. With just 3:26 remaining in regulation Canada found itself on the board and the lead suddenly cut in half…but would it be enough time to change their fate?

Canada pulled Szabados in an attempt to tie the game with just under two minutes left, the USA sent the puck down center ice to the net BUT it hit the POST! Canada swarmed on the puck and surged to the USA end…and with 56.5 seconds left Marie-Philip Poulin TIED the game 2-2! Cue the insanely LOUD cheers from the bench, the arena, and across Canada!

Remember what I said about 2-0 leads not being safe?!

Olympic overtime in a gold medal game is a full 20 minute period followed by a shoot out if needed. It was an extremely intense 8:10 of overtime with chances on both sides before the ever clutch Marie-Philip Poulin SCORED AGAIN and ended this game with the GOLDEN GOAL!! COMEBACK COMPLETE!

Just in case you want to relive that GOLDEN moment one last time, here you go:

THIS game will be long remembered for the epic comeback and the tenacity that these women play with. On one side of the ice there was absolute elation as they celebrated their incredible comeback and the other side there was devastation as they looked at what could have been. They say that you don’t “win” silver in hockey…but it is an incredible accomplishment none the less. It may not seem like it in the moment…but “winning” that silver medal is something to be proud of and will long inspire young girls for years to come. Congratulations to team USA for playing a great game and a continuously helping to show the world that women CAN play hockey at a high level!

The Men’s quarterfinals and semifinals have taken place and saw some very dramatic outcomes: Finland beat Russia in their quarterfinal game that stunned the hometown arena into complete silence. Sweden beat Slovenia in the quarterfinal to earn a date in the semifinals with Finland setting up a rematch of the 2006 Olympic gold medal game. It was an incredibly tight game between these two teams but it would be Sweden that walked away with spot in the gold medal game as they beat Finland 2-1.

The USA scored 5 goals yet again to beat the Czech Republic and earn their way in to the semifinals. Canada earned a win in a tight game against Latvia to earn their spot in the semifinal and date with the USA. The last time the USA and Canada met in the Olympics it was in the 2010 gold medal game…this time they would play to see who would get to play for gold and who would fight for bronze.

Everyone on both sides of the border had their eyes glued to this game. Everyone said that it would be impossible to stop the offensive scoring machine that the USA had become in Sochi and everyone was worried about Canada’s “lack” of offense in comparison. While everyone worried about the offense that would or wouldn’t come…we overlooked one very important aspect of Canada’s game…their impeccable defense. It is true that offense wins championships…but it is also true that strong defense can do the same. Both goal-tenders were incredible in this game…but it came down to one goal and one goal only that made the difference. Jamie Benn had the goal and Carey Price had the shutout as Canada shut down the unstoppable USA offense to earn a spot in the gold medal game and send the USA to the bronze medal game.

The bronze medal game set up Finland being led by captain Teemu Selanne in his final Olympic games against the USA who never expected to be there. The first period was a battle and seemed like it was going to be a nail biter for who would end up victorious….and then 11 seconds and 2 missed penalty shots changed everything. Finland score 11 seconds apart early in the second period while Patrick Kane missed his 2nd penalty shot in the middle frame. It seemed as though somewhere along the second period that the USA’s heart wasn’t in this game and Finland played as though it was championship game. Finland took full advantage of the mistakes being made by the USA and skated away with a 5-0 victory and the bronze medal after 60 minutes. It was a tale of two teams in this game: one that never wanted to be there and the other played as if it meant everything. It was an incredible game for Finland…and Selanne only further cemented his legend status as he showcased one last time for his country why he is the #FINNISHFLASH!

It’s a tough loss for the USA because their last two games with zero offense are NOT the way they envisioned their Olympic journey ending. The USA was so dominant in the early part of the tournament and to have it end in a 5-0 loss is heartbreak for the players and their fans. This is not how it was supposed to go…and while finishing 4th overall is still an accomplishment, it is not the ending that they desired. The USA had a talented roster and while some will critique the players that were on it and the ones the were left off…I tip my hat to the USA on one heck of a tournament [despite the 5-0 loss] and look forward to seeing them come back strong in 2018!

GOLD MEDAL GAME: The stage has been set. SWEDEN vs. CANADA. The only two undefeated teams going head to head with GOLD on the line. We are in store for one heck of a game from two great hockey nations no matter what the outcome. Best of luck to BOTH teams!

T-minus 4 hours to puck drop! Are you ready for the 4:00 AM wake up call west coast?! I know I’m not the only crazy one getting up to watch this game?! Where will you be watching?

Can you believe that there is just ONE day left of the 22nd Winter Games? As quickly as the Olympics arrived, they are nearly gone and within a few days we will be back to the regular scheduled NHL.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.