Team Canada at the Olympics. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images)
In one of the most suffocating and impressive defensive tournaments ever, Canada got through the medal round without allowing a goal and defended gold with a 3-0 win over Sweden.
SOCHI – So you’re having a chat before the Olympic hockey tournament and your conversation partner turns to you and says: “I predict Canada will win the gold medal and Corey Perry, Rick Nash, Patrice Bergeron, Martin St-Louis and Patrick Marleau will combine for as many goals as Mike Smith." What would you say? We suspect it would be something like, “And what was the name of that planet you said you inhabited?”
But if that same person told you that Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby would score in the gold medal game, then you might be a little more inclined to believe. And that’s exactly what happened because that’s exactly what players such as Crosby and Toews do. They shine on the biggest stage. All the time. Both players scored in Canada’s 3-0 win over Sweden in the gold medal game. Chris Kunitz also scored.
Crosby, as we all remember, scored the golden goal in overtime over USA to win the gold in 2010. Toews was named top forward. Nobody should be surprised that, despite coming into the gold medal game with their own zeroes beside their names, they managed to lift their games as the tournament progressed.
The Swedes, already playing without Henrik Zetterberg and Henrik Sedin, were further disadvantaged by the loss of the Nicklas Backstrom, who couldn’t play the game because of a migraine. The Swedes could not seem to generate much offense, in part because of the absences of some of their best players, but in larger part because they couldn’t get anywhere near the Canadian net.
It’s not a stretch to suggest that Canada’s Olympic team in 2014 is the best defensive team ever assembled. Canada never got an explosion of offense, but never needed it. Carey Price allowed three goals in five games, two on deflections and one on a breakaway. The only goal Canada gave up to a traditional hockey power was to Finland in the preliminary round.
It was an historic Olympics for Canada in more than its defensive record. It also marked the first time Canada has won the gold medal in a non-North American Olympics since taking gold in Oslo, Norway in 1952.
THN’s Three Stars
1. Jonathan Toews
2. Sidney Crosby
3. Henrik Lundqvist