Canada vs. Sweden Gold Medal Game: Stars Under the Most Pressure in Final

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistFebruary 23, 2014

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 21:  Sidney Crosby #87 of Canada skates during the Men's Ice Hockey Semifinal Playoff against the United States on Day 14 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 21, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

Canada and Sweden each came through with one-goal wins in the semifinals at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, but the challenge starts now as each team wants to leave with a gold medal.

These teams are the two most recent Olympic champions, and the countries have taken gold at four of the last five games. There are several top NHL stars on each side, and it will be these big-name players who will decide the outcome of the highly anticipated battle.

Of course, not everyone has come through with strong performances. While Drew Doughty has four goals for Canada and Erik Karlsson has eight points for Sweden, other top players have been relatively silent.

If either team wants to earn one more win, these stars have to come through with better showings in the gold-medal game.


Corey Perry, Canada

Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

During the NHL season, Corey Perry has been one of the most aggressive players in hockey. The wing has 30 goals, 30 assists and has taken the sixth-most shots while starring for the league-leading Anaheim Ducks.

It makes sense that he would take a smaller role on this all-star team, but Perry has been relatively invisible for most of the Olympics. He is yet to score a goal and has only one assist in 73 minutes of action.

Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review questioned whether the player was even there:

Canada has gone through some scoring droughts during these games, and it needs someone to step up and get good looks at the goal. Perry is one of the more talented players on the roster; he needs to be more aggressive in the offensive zone.


Sidney Crosby, Canada

Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

He was the hero of the last Olympics, scoring the game-winning goal in overtime to give Canada a win in the gold-medal game against the United States. However, Sidney Crosby is not taking anything for granted this time around, telling Neil Davidson of The Canadian Press:

We've got a great opportunity. I don't think Vancouver means anything right now as far as what we have to do in the next 48 hours. ...We're just trying to make sure that we've gotten better every game and hopefully we find our best here when it means the most.

Crosby has done plenty to help Canada get to this point, but he is still yet to score a goal, and that is what he will be judged on when all is said and done. If his team does not win, the blame will fall squarely on one player.

No matter what you do in sports, the question is always "what have you done for me lately?" Crosby has to come through with a strong performance against Sweden or hope that his teammates can carry the load to take the pressure away from arguably the best player in the sport.


Nicklas Backstrom, Sweden

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 15:  Nicklas Backstrom #19 of Sweden skates against Latvia during the Men's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group C game on day eight of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Shayba Arena on February 15, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by
Martin Rose/Getty Images

Unlike some of the other players on this list, Nicklas Backstrom has actually been playing very well in Sochi. The Washington Capitals star entered the break with the third-most assists in the NHL and has kept that up with four more in five games.

However, it will not be easy to keep this going against Canada. The North American squad has been playing solid defense lately, making it difficult for anyone to get a quality look.

This means that Backstrom has to be a leader for Sweden and find a way to create opportunities for his teammates. Whenever the squad has an odd-man rush, he has to make sure to turn that into goals or at least clean looks at the net.

If he struggles, it could end up being a long day for Sweden on the offensive end.


Henrik Lundqvist, Sweden

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 21:  Henrik Lundqvist #30 of Sweden celebrates after defeating Finland 2-1 during the Men's Ice Hockey Semifinal Playoff on Day 14 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 21, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Phot
Martin Rose/Getty Images

When you need a goalie to come through in a big performance, Henrik Lundqvist is likely one of the top names that comes to mind. Jonas Siegel of TSN discusses the talented goaltender entering the final round:

He's known as the King and stands as perhaps the biggest obstacle to a gold repeat for Team Canada at these Olympics. Not only the face and cornerstone of the New York Rangers and one of the top goaltenders in the NHL, Lundqvist makes a strong case as one of the best Olympic goaltenders ever and a major obstacle for the Canadians in Sunday's '94 gold medal rematch with Sweden.

Lundqvist is actually in the midst of a down year for the Rangers with what would be his career-worst 2.44 goals-against average. Still, he is a leader for Sweden and is a major reason his team is one win away from a gold medal.

The only problem is that he has not seen an opponent with this much offensive talent. Canada has elite scorers all over the ice, and they keep coming out on every line.

If Lundqvist cannot stay focused for the entire 60 minutes (and possibly more), Sweden will only leave Sochi with a silver medal.


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