Canadian Olympic Hockey Team 2014: Unsung Heroes from Gold-Medal Run

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Canadian Olympic Hockey Team 2014: Unsung Heroes from Gold-Medal Run
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Canada has done it again.

After securing the gold on home soil in 2010, Mike Babcock managed to lead arguably the most balanced international roster in history to a second consecutive Olympic title in Sochi.

It wasn't always easy, as Canada barely scraped past lowly Norway and Latvia, but in the end, Canada put away three of the world's best, toppling Finland, the United States and Sweden in succession.

Obviously, Canada needed adequate performances from big names such as Drew Doughty, Sidney Crosby, Shea Weber and Jonathan Toews, but the gold medalists also received critical contributions from some of its secondary stars.

Here's a look at the unsung heroes who delivered the goods for Canada on the world's biggest stage.

 

Jamie Benn

Last summer, Dallas' Jamie Benn was left off the list for Canada's Olympic orientation camp, and clearly, the 24-year-old used that snub as motivation.

From there, Benn put together a very impressive start to the season, as the former Kelowna Rocket racked up 51 points in 58 games in his first season as captain of the Stars and left Steve Yzerman with no choice but to put the 6'2" winger on Canada's roster.

And he didn't disappoint.

While many of Canada's studs were snake-bitten in the scoring department for much of the tournament, Benn made the most of his somewhat limited minutes.

Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Against Norway, Benn notched the game-winner late in the second period and, as a result, earned more responsibilities from Babcock and shifted onto a line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

That move paid off in a big way against the Americans, because Benn played the role of the hero, scoring the game's only goal on a beautiful redirection off a smart feed from Jay Bouwmeester.

Only one forward finished with more goals than Benn, which is indicative of how much this formerly overlooked offensive dynamo contributed to Canada's success.

 

Jeff Carter

After Steven Stamkos was ruled out of the Olympics due to injury, Jeff Carter immediately became Canada's No. 1 pure sniper, and he lived up to the billing. 

As ESPN's Pierre LeBrun reported four years ago, Carter was actually the guy tabbed to replace Ryan Getzlaf if his ankle issues had kept him out of the Vancouver Olympics, but as we all know, the Anaheim Ducks superstar potted two goals in his last outing before joining the Canadian squad, and Carter was left off the roster.

Julio Cortez/Associated Press

This time around, Carter earned a spot on Yzerman's initial roster after playing a key role in L.A.'s Stanley Cup title run in 2012, and he rewarded the former Detroit captain with a superb performance in Sochi.

Against Austria, Carter potted a hat trick and an assist and, for a time, was the lone player on Canada's roster with multiple goals in the tournament—but he wasn't done there.

In the gold-medal tilt, Carter was the catalyst on Toews' eventual game-winning goal, as he sent the puck into the crease and Toews finished the play off with a subtle tip through Henrik Lundqvist's legs.

Carter ended the Olympics as Canada's most productive forward (and leader in plus-minus at plus-six), and given that he wasn't always a lock for this team, it says a lot about the 29-year-old's ability to step up when it counts.

 

Alex Pietrangelo

While much of the credit for Canada's unbelievably stingy defensive effort will go to Doughty, Weber and Duncan Keith, Alex Pietrangelo's name certainly should not get lost in the shuffle.

As a right-handed shot, the St. Louis Blues standout had to beat out an impressive crop of blueliners just to make the team, but once he arrived in Russia, he established himself as a valuable member of this historically spectacular defense corps.

This alone truly demonstrates how well Pietrangelo performed in Sochi:

Mike Babcock is a shrewd coach, and if he was going to keep the reigning Norris Trophy winner (P.K. Subban) on the bench, there had to be at least three right-handers whom he trusted considerably more. Pietrangelo lived up to that billing.

Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

Though he posted just one assist in six games, Pietrangelo finished a plus-six, which was second to only Weber among Canada's defensemen, and provided his country with a steady, mobile presence on the back end.

 

Ryan Getzlaf

While Crosby and Toews were struggling to score during the earlier stages of the tournament, Getzlaf was Canada's most dangerous pivot and generated more offense than any other forward on the roster. 

As a playmaker with silky hands and sublime vision, Getzlaf's ability to not only find wingers or blueliners for open looks, but also use his size to create chances for himself, was critical to Canada's 3-0 round-robin record.

Martin Rose/Getty Images

To see how talented the 6'4" center truly is, one need only take a gander at the beauty he scored against Austria, in which Getzlaf rushed down the left wing, toe-dragged the opposing defender and deftly deposited a backhander past the helpless goaltender.

He played a huge role in Canada's Olympic run in 2010, but one could argue that he was even more important to this gold-medal triumph.

 

Roberto Luongo

Yeah, this may seem ridiculous given that Roberto Luongo played just one game in Sochi, which came during a 6-0 stomping against Austria, but the Vancouver Canucks starter contributed to this Olympic title in a big way.

As the guy who led Canada to the gold four years ago, Luongo may have assumed that he'd be given a shot at being the No. 1 this time around, but Babcock seemed to have his heart set on Carey Price.

Martin Rose/Getty Images

Nonetheless, Luongo supported Price throughout the tournament and genuinely seemed happy to see his younger goaltending partner thrive, just as he had after taking over for Martin Brodeur in Vancouver.

Forming a cohesive unit is vital to any team's success, especially in a short tournament such as the Olympics, and Luongo's team-first mentality (and his shutout against the Austrians) played a part in this triumph.

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