In a star-studded final at the 2014 Winter Games, it was unsurprisingly Canada that emerged with the best men's hockey team in the world.
Despite the absences of Henrik Sedin, Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Backstrom, Sweden still presented a stiff test for the Canadians, who responded with an impressive defensive performance and enough offense from star players to take the gold via a 3-0 margin on Sunday.
It was a quick team assembly, a faster tournament and an enviable result by Canada, and all that remains is to pick up the pieces as the final left fans around the globe with multiple storylines to appreciate.
Tournament's Best Defense Shines Again
It was clear on paper before the tournament began that the Canadian team would field one of the best defenses the Games in Sochi had to offer.
With a blue line headed by names such as Drew Doughty, Shea Weber and Duncan Keith, it should come as no surprise that the team limited the opposition to just three goals in five games.
The stellar line held Erik Karlsson and the rest of Sweden in check for the duration of the match. Despite the deficit going into the third period, the defense saved its best performance for last as Sweden only attempted four shots on goal in the final 20 minutes.
For his efforts throughout the Games, Doughty was named to the All-Tournament Team, as James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail illustrates:
Olympic all-star team selections (only one Canadian): Henrik Lundqvist Erik Karlsson Drew Doughty Teemu Selanne Phil Kessel Mikael Granlund— James Mirtle (@mirtle) February 23, 2014
While one can certainly argue more Canadian names should be on that list—especially after their gold-medal triumph—Doughty was first on the list of deserving names.
Should the same stars return to the Olympics again in 2018, it is hard to imagine offenses finding success against Canada.
Sidney Crosby Wakes Up
It's about time.
By far the biggest name on Canada's hockey team in Sochi, Sidney Crosby simply had not shown up in his team's prior games in the tournament.
After being carried by his teammates throughout, Crosby stepped up against Sweden and scored in the second period. Crosby finding the back of the net made it 2-0, which changed the complexion of the game entirely as Sweden suddenly had to hit the panic button.
NBC captured Crosby's epic moment:
While not as career-defining as past Olympic goals, Crosby desperately needed a score to silence critics. He got it, helped to change the narrative of his 2014 Games and propelled his country to another gold medal.
Not a bad way to go out when it matters most.
Canada Remains World's Most Dominant Hockey Force
With gold medals in Salt Lake City (2002), Vancouver (2010) and now Sochi, there is once again no questioning which country is the world's best.
The demolition of Sweden showed this well enough, which was exactly what the players had set out to do from the onset, as head coach Mike Babcock told reporters before the final, via Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun:
It's not about who scores the goals or who blocks the shots or who plays. It's about winning. It's about Canada. It's about hockey supremacy. We like to brag that it's our game? If you think it's your game, you better show it's your game.
Limited practice time together for a roster hastily constructed would spell doom for most countries.
Perhaps best of all, the team's style of play is was simply easy on the eye—which any fan regardless of geography can appreciate—as ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski pointed out:
That said, I enjoyed most of the Games. And man, do I admire the way Canada played the hockey.— Gene Wojciechowski (@GenoEspn) February 23, 2014
After a brief domination of the globe in Sochi, one team will now split and go 14 different NHL ways once more. It was a fun ride, and one that reinforced Canada as the globe's lone powerhouse, but the stars must now continue to face one another on a lesser scale until the Games come calling again.