Olympic Hockey 2014: Biggest Takeaways from the Semifinals
The last two gold medal winners were victorious on Friday as Canada will face Sweden for gold on Sunday. The United States and Finland lost tough games and will compete for the bronze. Both games were very exciting and there's a lot that can be said.
With that in mind, here are the biggest takeaways from the semifinals.
Canada Once Again Proves Doubters Wrong
Just like there was talk in 2010, there were whispers of doubt in 2014. When Canada failed to easily dispatch teams like Latvia and Finland, there was a growing concern from fans and the media.
Head coach Mike Babcock even pointed out that no one is ever happy with Canada (h/t NBC ProHockeyTalk).
Once again Canada's legitimacy as a contender was brought into question, but Canada proved itself against the U.S.
Canada received amazing goaltending from Carey Price, the blue line did an exceptional job smothering and stifling the American offense and every forward was engaged on the forecheck. It was Canada's best performance of the tournament and it came against their toughest opponent.
Sweden is going to be a tough challenge, but Canada certainly has enough talent and momentum to make it an interesting game.
Team USA's Offense Showed True Colors Against a Good Defensive Team
A lot was made of Team USA being the tournament's top offensive team heading into a matchup against Canada. However, there were things that were not really talked about, including the 12 goals scored in group play against Slovenia and Slovakia.
Team USA's other group play goals came against Russia and another one was credited to the Americans after T.J. Oshie's shootout mastery.
The Americans also had a nice showing against the Czechs, but they weren't a great defensive team during the Sochi games.
Don't get me wrong, a team that includes Joe Pavelski, Phil Kessel, Patrick Kane, James van Riemsdyk and assorted others is impressive, but they all failed to show up against one of the tournament's better defensive teams.
Henrik Lundqvist Is in the Zone
A bad angle goal surrendered during Friday's semifinal aside, Henrik Lundqvist has looked like a man possessed. He is one of the NHL's top netminders and has been dominant in the 2014 Sochi games. He is undefeated with two shutouts, and his goals against average and save percentage has been impeccable.
Canada will be the biggest challenge he has faced throughout the Olympics, but he should be up to the task based on how he has played throughout the tournament. Sweden played better against Finland than the U.S. did against Canada, so they will have a better chance to use the momentum that is on their side.
Lundqvist has his eyes on the prize and you got to think a gold medal win would propel him to greater things once he returns to NHL action.
USA Is in for a Fight with Finland
Team USA just lost a tough game to Canada and the Americans couldn't generate much of anything. They will have a short amount of time to rest and prepare for what it shaping up to be a tough matchup versus Finland.
The Finns have been beating the odds all tournament and they would love to complete the 2014 Sochi games by upsetting the Americans. Mikael Granlund and Teemu Selanne have been great, and Kari Lehtonen and Tuukka Rask have been sensational in net.
The U.S. will have to quickly turn the page on their loss against Canada. If they dwell on it they will find themselves second-guessing decisions against Finland.