Friday's thrilling men's hockey semifinals saw Sweden and Canada advance to this weekend's gold-medal game inside Bolshoy Ice Dome in Sochi.
Powered by another dominant performance from Henrik Lundqvist in the crease, Sweden will be playing for the gold for the first time since 2006, after knocking off reigning Olympic bronze medalists Finland 2-1. The Scandinavians will aim to stay unbeaten this February by defeating defending Olympic gold medalists Canada.
Team Sweden advances to the gold medal game after beating Finland 2-1. It'll be Sweden's 3rd trip to the final since 1994 #Sochi2014— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) February 21, 2014
The North American juggernaut shutout the United States on Friday, reaffirming their favorite status ahead of Sunday's marquee clash.
With the stage set for one last winner-take-all battle at the Winter Games, we'll get you set with a quick breakdown of who you should be watching for on Sunday.
What: Olympic Men's Hockey Gold-Medal Game
Where: Bolshoy Ice Dome, Sochi
When: Sunday, Feb. 23 at 4 p.m. local time, 7 a.m. ET, 12 p.m. GMT
Watch: NBC (U.S.), BBC Two (U.K.)
Drew Doughty, Canada
Canada's defense was sensational throughout their 1-0 win over the United States in Friday's semifinal, and defenseman Drew Doughty was a huge reason for that.
The 24-year-old former second-overall pick has played with excellent poise in front of the net, but has also looked to move forward and create scoring opportunities for the North Americans. Though Doughty didn't score against Team USA in the semis, he leads Canada with six points (four goals and two assists) through five games.
Canada: scored 13 goals in the Olympic tournament - 7 have been scored by defensemen Drew Doughty and Shea Weber— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 21, 2014
In addition to his incredible range and versatility, Doughty's physicality on defense and overall toughness make him an invaluable player for Canada.
Canada will need Doughty to be active and engaged from start to finish on Sunday in order to shut down the Swedes' attack and have a shot at cracking the code on Lundqvist in the crease.
Henrik Lundqvist, Sweden
Sweden's elite netminder has recorded two shutouts in Sochi already and will be looking for No. 3 in Sunday's gold-medal game.
Lundqvist stopped 25 shots and let in just one goal in his side's 2-1 win over Finland in the semifinals on Friday, assuring the Scandinavians a silver medal at worst.
Following his shutout performance against Slovenia in the quarterfinals, Lundqvist talked about the progress he's made over the years, per ESPN.com:
I learned so much over the years in New York. I changed my game a lot. That was my first year in the league, and I changed my game that year, being very aggressive to playing more deep in the net and crease.
Lundqvist made 19 saves in the blowout win and has 117 total through five games. With only six goals surrendered thus far, the 31-year-old enters Sunday's showdown with a save percentage of .951.
Even Lundqvist's teammates agree that he's been their most valuable player to this point. Carl Hagelin, who also plays alongside Lundqvist with the NHL's New York Rangers, didn't waste anytime cementing his teammate's status, per The New York Daily News' Wayne Coffey:
"He’s been our best player, he’s been our MVP. I’m used to seeing him like this. For me it’s nothing new."
Although Sidney Crosby hasn't been a productive player for Canada in terms of creating goals this winter, the veteran and captain remains one of the biggest threats on the ice and is coming off an encouraging performance against the U.S.
I know he hasn't score but strongest game to date for Crosby— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) February 21, 2014
Plus, Crosby has proven he can deliver in the biggest moments. After all, he was the hero for Canada in Vancouver back in 2010, scoring the game-winning goal in overtime of the gold-medal game against Team USA.
Over-Under 0.5 point for Crosby vs. Sweden?
Therefore, the massive stage suits Crosby well and will likely bring out his best hockey.
Love him or hate him, there's no denying that Crosby is a wizard with the puck and one of the most dynamic players on the planet when at his best.
As a result, his performance on Sunday will go a long way in determining whether he leaves Sochi as the hero or the goat for Team Canada. If Crosby doesn't show up on the scoreboard and Canada falls short of gold, the 26-year-old captain will likely hear about it for the next four years.
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