The 2014 Winter Olympics are drawing to a close, and the gold-medal victory for Team Canada over Team Sweden in the final of the men’s ice hockey tournament was the perfect culmination of the highly anticipated event.
Canada defeated Sweden 3-0, earning the gold medal for the second consecutive Olympics.
While winning a silver medal is a great achievement for a Swedish team struck hard by injuries, the fact that the team was forced to accept the medal after a lopsided loss made it a bittersweet achievement.
It also didn't help that Nicklas Backstrom was forced to sit after testing positive for a banned substance, which turned out to be "an allergy medication that Backstrom has taken for the past seven years," according to Swedish Olympic Committee spokesman Bjorn Folin, per Larry Lage of the Associated Press (via Yahoo! Sports).
Team Canada showcased in the final why the team was one of the pre-tournament favorites and proved that it was the best squad in this tournament. Using consistency in the offensive and defensive ends, the Canadians stole the show as gold medalists.
The championship game was set after Canada beat Team USA in the semifinals and Sweden beat Team Finland. In the bronze-medal matchup, it was the Finnish squad that upset the Americans and took home third prize.
|Men's Scores from Medal Round|
|Bronze||Finland 5, United States 0|
|Gold||Canada 3, Sweden 0|
Here are the final medal winners for the men's tournament.
|2014 Winter Olympics Men's Ice Hockey Medal Winners|
|Source: Sochi 2014.com|
Canada Defeats Sweden, 3-0
In a lopsided battle that featured Team Canada imposing its will on its Swedish foes, the Canadians were able to take home the gold medal in convincing fashion and answer any questions about the nation still being the most dominant force in hockey.
Add in the women’s ice hockey gold medal for Canada as well, and the country’s dominance was on full display in Sochi.
Center Jonathan Toews started the action in the first period with a big goal from winger Jeff Carter and defenseman Shea Weber.
The teams battled hard through the remainder of the first period and much of the second, before a turnover from Sweden gave Canadian captain Sidney Crosby a breakaway. The star buried the puck behind Swedish goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
The third period featured more of Team Canada goaltender Carey Price ensuring that his country would win the gold medal, stopping all 24 shots he faced.
Forward Chris Kunitz added a third goal in the final stanza and helped seal the victory for the Canadians.
Finland Defeats United States, 5-0
After dropping a heartbreaking loss to Team Canada in the semifinals, the United States was unable to win any medal. In a letdown performance, the Americans were defeated by Team Finland in the bronze-medal game in convincing fashion.
While the loss is considered a devastating blow to Team USA after expectations of fighting for the gold medal were placed on the players before the Games began, the Finnish athletes and the entire nation should be incredibly excited about the victory.
American captain Zach Parise spoke to NBC Sports after the loss to Finland, via Brian Stubits of CBS Sports:
I think it started yesterday, we didn't show up to play a tough team in Canada and lost that game. Just today, I thought we had a pretty good start but once we gave up that first goal, we kind of deflated. They played like they had something to win and we just kind of shut it down. It's kind of disappointing, kind of embarrassed about what happened, especially today. It wasn't a good effort by us.
The score remained tied through the first period, but tournament MVP and Father Time thwarter Teemu Selanne broke the game open with the first goal early in the second period. The tally was followed up 11 seconds later when forward Jussi Jokinen managed to make it 2-0.
The Americans looked strong at moments, but lacked the consistency needed to get back into the game. Team USA completely folded in the final 20 minutes, though, allowing three goals in the third period to ensure there was no comeback attempt.
While this is undoubtedly a disappointment for the United States, the victory for Finland will go down as one of the most important in the history of the national team.
|2014 Men's Olympic Ice Hockey Tournament Award Winners|
|Tournament Directorate’s Best Goalie||Carey Price||Canada|
|Tournament Directorate’s Best Defenseman||Erik Karlsson||Sweden|
|Tournament Directorate’s Best Forward||Phil Kessel||USA|
|Media's MVP||Teemu Selanne||Finland|
|Media's All-Star Team|
Now that the 2014 Winter Olympics men’s hockey tournament is over, the players who also play in the NHL will now travel back to their respective teams and get back into the second half of the 2013-14 regular season.
With top stars like Henrik Zetterberg, Mats Zuccarello, Tomas Kopecky and John Tavares all forced to leave the Olympic Games early with injuries—not to mention the general wear and tear that this event causes on the players that participated—how the top athletes perform in the second half of the season will be under intense scrutiny.
Some stars will hop right back into NHL action and not miss a beat, but there are many teams that will be forced to contend with returning players dealing with fatigue or nagging injuries.
The extended break makes the second-half schedule even more jam-packed with games. Those teams that sent few players to the Olympics and have spent the last several weeks resting and getting healthy will have the advantage as the season grinds on.
With so much emotion left on the ice in Sochi, how the NHL players returning to North America perform will be the focus of many fans and executives across the league.
Updated Medal Standings