Canada's men's hockey team has won eight Olympic gold medals since 1920, but it's going to take a monumental effort by the 2014 Canadian Olympic hockey team to bring home its ninth.
Thanks to an amazing two-goal performance by defenseman Drew Doughty, Canada got past Finland 2-1 on Sunday to finish undefeated in qualifiers.
However, because the game went into overtime, the Canadians earned the No. 3 seed heading into the quarterfinals. This makes the team's road to gold much more challenging than if it had finished as a top seed, which it would have earned with a win in regulation.
As pointed out by Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail, though, things could be worse: "...this isn’t bad either, and it’s far better than the alternative if they’d lost – which would have dropped them to the fourth seed and likely meant yet another quarter-final meeting with Russia."
Canada will now await the winner of the qualifying match between No. 6 Switzerland and No. 11 Latvia on Tuesday to see which team it will face in the first quarterfinals match.
In public, the team doesn't prefer either squad.
"It doesn't matter who we play. Swiss are tough -- they've only allowed one goal, with seven seconds left in the game," Canada defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic said, as noted by Stephen Whyno of The Canadian Press.
"Those are two good teams, and Switzerland's been really stingy this tournament," forward Matt Duchene added. "We got to be ready for whoever we get."
Clearly, the Swiss would offer more of a challenge, on paper, but the reality is that both teams are just appetizers for what's likely going to be a difficult meal to devour.
Should Canada win, the team's semifinals opponent will likely be the United States, which has put up 15 goals (leading the field) in just three games while allowing just four. From there, with a win over the Americans, of course, Canada would potentially face Finland (again), Sweden or Russia in the final.
Here's a look at the entire men's bracket, courtesy of the Globe and Mail's James Mirtle:
Athletes are fond of saying, "You have to beat the best to be the best."
The athletes on the Canadian Olympic hockey team will surely have a chance to be the best going up against the best the world has to offer in the quarterfinals and beyond in Sochi.
It would have been difficult to win the top prize this year, no matter where the Canadians fell in the seeding process. However, landing the No. 3 seed has made the endeavor more challenging than it might have been.
It's going to take nothing less than an inspired effort every single game in order to win gold.
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