Coming off a silver medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the U.S. Olympic hockey team came into the 2014 Winter Games with its eyes set on gold.
It fell short of that goal and missed the podium entirely. After a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Canada in the semifinal, Team USA found itself unmotivated and outmatched in the bronze-medal game. It was shut out 5-0 by a Finland team that was more than happy to take out its difficult loss to Sweden in a semifinal.
The shutout loss marked an all-time low in USA hockey history according to ESPN Stats & Info:
An end to the Winter Games as heinous as the one that Team USA submitted in its final two games is the kind that would rightfully have a player officially thrown off his game. Unfortunately for these players, there's no time for that.
With the NHL season dropping the puck once again on Tuesday, Feb. 25, there's no time for players to allow the disappointment to seep into their NHL play.
Here's a look at three players who really don't have time to sulk about their disappointment in Sochi.
As one of the NHL's most electric offensive players, 25-year-old Patrick Kane was expected to be a superstar for USA hockey. Instead, he simply couldn't find the net when given the opportunity in Sochi.
He left the Games with no goals and just four assists for the Red, White and Blue. The difficult part to stomach was that his minimal output wasn't for a lack of opportunity. Twice against Tuukka Rask, Kane had penalty shots that he would usually capitalize on but came short.
Kane clearly took the losses hard, too. He wasn't shy about taking responsibility for his poor showing, per Chris Kue of the Chicago Tribune (subscription required):
No excuses — I wasn't good enough to help the team win a medal... I was expected to do a lot more. When you come over here and put up zero goals and four assists in six games, it's not the numbers you want to see. Definitely disappointing.
Kane won't have much time to dwell on it, though. The Blackhawks are tied with the St. Louis Blues for the lead in the Central Division and will be relying on Kane to add to his team-leading points total of 63 upon his return to the Windy City.
Much of Team USA's problem against Finland appeared to be motivation as there are few reasons why a team that was good enough to get to the bronze-medal game in the first place would get blown out like the U.S. did.
Of course, the lack of motivation ultimately reflects poorly on the captain of the team. In this case, that would be Parise. It's a fact that isn't lost on the Minnesota Wild winger. He categorized the performance as "embarrassing":
Parise will need to come back to NHL play ready to make an impact immediately, though. His Minnesota Wild are clinging to the last seed in the Western Conference right now.
Teams playing the Wild in the coming weeks would love to take advantage of the fact that Parise and fellow Wild and Team USA teammate Ryan Suter are both coming off the physical and emotional toll of a disappointing Olympics showing.
OK, so Team USA coach Dan Bylsma is not a player. But that doesn't mean he's not going to have to bounce back after the disappointing letdown in Sochi.
After all, it was the Americans' effort down the stretch of the final game that was so appalling. Part of that blame for a lack of motivation has to go to the coach. Bylsma was unable to inspire the team to give any better effort when the team went down 2-0, and things got out of hand quickly.
From an NHL perspective, the sight of Bylsma coming up small when it matters most isn't a new sight. His Pittsburgh Penguins were swept in the Eastern Conference finals last season after being bounced 4-2 in the opening round as the No. 4 seed in 2012.
Now Bylsma will take the reigns of his Penguins team that is once again atop the Eastern Conference. The question now becomes whether his failures in the big moments of the Olympics were simply an extension of his inability to win when it matters most or a mere coincidence.
Either way, much like the rest of Team USA, Bylsma is going to want to put this performance behind him.
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