Canada vs. Sweden Gold Medal Game: Most Impressive and Disappointing Stars

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Canada vs. Sweden Gold Medal Game: Most Impressive and Disappointing Stars
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The 2014 Olympic hockey tournament ended with the type of star-studded showdown that every unbiased hockey fan could hope for, as the two arguably deepest teams in the field faced off for gold in Sochi.

Yes, the Swedes were missing Henrik Sedin, Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Backstrom, which proved to be a crushing blow, but on the whole, Canada was by far the better team.

Both squads were ripe with elite NHL players, and while some showed up to play on the world's biggest stage, a handful of stars did not.

Here's a look back at the gold-medal game's most impressive standouts, as well as those that disappointed in what may have been the biggest game of their lives.

 

Most Impressive

Carey Price

Prior to Canada's opening game against Norway, it remained unclear whether Mike Babcock would go with the proven veteran in Roberto Luongo, or opt to tab 26-year-old Carey Price as the team's starting goalie.

Well, despite Luongo's shutout against Austria, Babcock appeared to be set on keeping Price in the net when things mattered most, and the Montreal franchise stopper shined brighter than ever for the Canadians.

Martin Rose/Getty Images

Against Sweden, Price stopped all 24 shots he faced and managed to weather the storm in the first two periods as 20 shots came his way.

Despite his past postseason struggles in the NHL, Price proved his mettle, and perhaps this victory will help him reach the next level at the professional level.

Though Henrik Lundqvist faced 12 more shots, Price was easily the better of the two goalies on the ice and played a key role in Canada's second consecutive gold medal victory.

 

Sidney Crosby

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

No, the captain hadn't found the back of the net heading into the Olympic final, but Canada wasn't worried about his lack of production, because he'd been making his presence felt more and more as the tournament progressed.

As CTV's Neil Davidson pointed out, Crosby and his linemates were rounding into form at the right time going into the all-important tilt.

The Canadian captain has yet to score and only has two assists in five games but he has been cranking up his play each game with linemates Patrice Bergeron and Chris Kunitz. And like the other Canadian forwards, they are taking care of business at both ends of the rink.

But against Sweden, Crosby finally put away his first of the Sochi Olympics away, and it was a back-breaker for the opposition.

Late in the second, Crosby created his own chance as he stole the puck at his own blue line, raced in on a breakaway and calmly buried a backhand just past the outstretched pad of Lundqvist.

And, though he didn't get a point on the play, his much-maligned Penguins teammate Chris Kunitz sealed the game for Canada with a beautiful shot into the roof to make it 3-0.

Crosby didn't have the offensive impact that some might have hoped for, but with the gold hanging in the balance, the game's best player showed up to play.

 

Jonathan Toews

Like Crosby, Toews entered the gold medal clash without a goal in the Olympic tournament, but he turned on the red light when the chips were down for Canada.

In 2010, Toews opened the scoring against the Americans in the Olympic final en route to the gold, and in Sochi, history repeated itself. 

Petr David Josek/Associated Press

Midway through the first period, Jeff Carter threw a puck towards the cage, and Toews was in perfect position to get his stick on the biscuit to put Canada ahead by one with just over seven minutes remaining in the opening frame.

As a former Conn Smythe winner, two-time Stanley Cup champion captain and the 2010 Olympics' Best Forward award recipient, Toews is no stranger to pressure-packed situations, and it showed today.

 

Most Disappointing

Henrik Lundqvist

This loss was by no means Lundqvist's fault, as he faced a constant onslaught and could not possibly have been blamed for either of Canada's first two goals.

That being said, given that he's regarded as one of the game's unquestioned top goaltenders, King Henrik was beaten far too often, even if he was bested by some of hockey's top offensive threats.

Julio Cortez/Associated Press

In particular, Kunitz's clinching goal was one Lundqvist will want to have back because it isn't often the New York Rangers star gets beaten by clear looks from the slot.

Furthermore, Lundqvist is generally solid on breakways, but Crosby's deke to the backhand left the Swedish stopper out of position to the point that the Canadian captain had a lot of room to deposit the insurance goal.

He wasn't the reason Sweden lost, but in order for his team to claim gold, he would've had to be the reason they won.

Lundqvist deserved to be named the tournament's top goaltender, but unlike in the 2006 Olympic final, he was not the best netminder on the ice.

 

Erik Karlsson

Heading into the Canada-Sweden clash, one could've made a very compelling case for Erik Karlsson to be named the tournament's most valuable player.

Harry How/Getty Images

Well, against Canada, Karlsson didn't have his best game, and like Lundqvist, he would've needed to be outstanding for the Swedes to knock off the reigning Olympic champs.

It wasn't that Karlsson was particularly bad, but after being Sochi's most dominant force through the earlier stages of the tournament, he didn't live up to the lofty expectations that lay before him on Sunday.

There is no doubt that Karlsson is in the discussion when it comes to the game's best rearguard, and Sweden needed him to be their best player at both ends of the rink.

Karlsson had a great tournament, but he wasn't his usual electrifying self against Canada.

 

Alexander Steen

Early in the season, Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Steen were in a dead heat for the NHL's lead in goals until the St. Louis Blues sniper went down with an injury.

Regardless, Steen remains among the league's best in terms of goals in 2013-14, as he's managed 28 tallies in just 46 games, and he was a key offensive weapon for Sweden in Sochi.

Martin Rose/Getty Images

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, while his father was starring with the Jets, Steen has played for Sweden internationally his entire career, but he had a day to forget against the Canadians.

In the end, Steen was a team-worst minus-three and failed to generate many scoring chances, which is what he's generally counted on to do. But this was a team effort at both ends of the rink, and Canada was simply the better team.

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