The United States men's hockey team had high hopes of reaching the podium in the 2014 Olympics. They entered the competition as one of the tournament's deepest teams and flourished immediately.
During the preliminary rounds, Team USA showcased their prowess on both offense and defense, scoring 15 goals and allowing just four in three games played.
The playoff round started nicely for the Americans as well. They dominated the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals by a score of 5-2.
That's when the wheels fell off.
In the semifinal matchup against rival Canada, the United States failed to score a goal in an Olympic match for the first time since 1976 as the Canadians mustered a 1-0 victory.
Instead of rallying and learning from a poor showing against the Canadians, the United States continued its same bad habits on Saturday, as once again the Americans were held scoreless after being blown out by Finland 5-0.
5-0 loss to Finland ties U.S. men's hockey's largest shutout loss in Olympics history— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 22, 2014
Linda Cohn of ESPN elaborated on Team USA's meltdown with this tweet:
USA hockey was last shutout in back to back OLY games in 1936, Yet at #sochi2014 they were highest scoring team heading into semis vs Can.— Linda Cohn (@lindacohn) February 22, 2014
The sudden decline of the United States men's hockey team was completely unexpected. After coasting through earlier matchups, the team began to fall apart in all phases of the game—and it saved its worst for last.
Despite trading similar offensive statistics—the Finns took 29 shots on goal against Team USA's 27—the Americans could not find a way through a Finland defense that had been exposed at times throughout the tournament.
After an exciting scoreless first period, the United States and goaltender Jonathan Quick began to fall apart. Quick stopped all eight shots on goal during the first period. However, he allowed five goals on the 21 shots that followed.
Quick's save percentage of just .827 was by far the lowest of his performances in Sochi.
Early in the second period, Finland players Teemu Selanne and Jussi Jokinen started the scoring frenzy after finding the back of the net just 11 seconds apart.
Selanne is set to retire and Steve Mears of the NHL Network tweeted his appreciation for the legend:
Even the biggest USA Hockey fan has to appreciate the performance, accolades & legend of Teemu Selanne. Hockey won't be the same without him— Steve Mears (@MearsyNHL) February 22, 2014
Once Juuso Hietanen scored and put the Finns up by a score of 3-0, it looked as though Team USA just wanted to get off the ice. Two additional goals later in the third period just added insult to injury as the United States fell by a score of 5-0.
It's not as though the United States did not have any chances during the matchup. After all, Patrick Kane took two penalty shots during the game but was unable to capitalize. Also, Cam Fowler and Kevin Shattenkirk combined for eight shots but they came away empty as well.
The complete collapse of the American team was a drastic one. After scoring 20 goals in their first four games of the tournament, they failed to record a single score in their last six periods played. Defensively, the United States allowed six goals in its first four games and another six in its final two.
After such a promising start, the United States men's team was simply unable to put it together when it mattered most. After earning a silver medal in Vancouver's 2010 Olympic Games, this team will leave Sochi empty-handed.
This lifeless performance from the Americans was an unfortunate way to end the Winter Olympics for these athletes.
Despite missing out on a medal, head coach Dan Bylsma issued this statement after the game, according to a tweet from USA Hockey:
Bylsma: It was an honor and privilege to represent our country and coach this team … It was the biggest honor of my career #DawnsEarlyLight— USA Hockey (@usahockey) February 22, 2014
Unfortunately, the United States men's hockey team will have to wait until 2018 in Pyeongchang to make another run at an elusive Olympic medal.