Perhaps the fact that the bronze-medal game for men’s hockey at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi is a mere one day after the heartbreaking semifinals loss will help the United States team refocus.
That’s a task much easier said than done.
The Americans dropped a 1-0 game to Canada after a second-period goal by Jamie Benn held up as the difference. Both Jonathan Quick for the United States and Carey Price for Canada were excellent in goal.
With the semifinals in the rearview mirror, it’s time for the hockey world to turn its collective attention to the medal rounds. Day 15 will feature the bronze medal game between the United States and Finland.
Men’s Hockey Bronze-Medal Game: United States vs. Finland
Date: Saturday, Feb. 22
Time: 10 a.m. ET, 7 p.m. Sochi time and 3 p.m. GMT
TV Broadcast: NBC Sports Network at 10 a.m. ET and BBC at 3 p.m. GMT
It will be interesting to see the energy level from the Americans with virtually no layover from the semifinals loss. It will certainly have to be better than it was against Canada, as Ryan Suter told reporters after the game in comments passed along by Mike Halford of NBC ProHockey Talk:
We didn’t show up to play. It’s kind of frustrating. They’re a good team. We sat back, we were passive. You can’t play scared…I thought we sat on our heels and just didn’t take it to them at all. We had motivation. We just didn’t take it on the ice.
Getting off to a quick start will be imperative because both teams have made a habit of scoring plenty of goals at these Olympics despite the disappointing semifinal results. In fact, the United States and Finland are tied for the lead at the Games with a 19-8 non-shootout goal differential.
Phil Kessel has led the Americans with five goals and three assists.
As for Finland, Teemu Selanne is the most notable name on the roster. He has two goals and two assists in five games and is currently playing in his sixth Olympics.
Selanne has three medals to his Olympic resume and would love another one in what figures to be his last go around.
While the offense is one thing, who lines up in net for Finland is something to keep an eye on. Kari Lehtonen made 23 saves as a replacement for Tuukka Rask in the semifinals as Rask dealt with an unspecified illness.
On paper, the Americans have more talent than Finland. There are a number of NHL All-Stars who have put it all on the line for national pride in the middle of a grueling NHL schedule, but that doesn’t mean Finland isn’t capable of winning the bronze.
It clearly won’t be intimidated by the Red, White and Blue seeing as it already eliminated host country Russia from the Olympics in the quarterfinals in front of a hostile crowd.
Assuming the Americans come out with the right mindset and are completely focused on winning the bronze, look for them to pick up the pace after a stagnant offensive effort against Canada. They will score an early goal and control the pace of the game, eventually winning 3-1.
Bronze wasn’t the color the United States was looking for when it got to Sochi, but it will certainly beat no medal at all.
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