The 2014 Winter Olympics are officially in the rearview mirror, and few sports provided the excitement factor that the men’s hockey did in Sochi.
Canada defended its gold medal from the 2010 Games in Vancouver behind a dominating 3-0 victory over Sweden in the final game. Sidney Crosby seemingly cemented the contest away when he put home the second goal in impressive wrap-around fashion after orchestrating a deke on goalie Henrik Lundqvist on a breakaway.
The NHL superstar discussed the gold-medal game with Associated Press reporters (via ESPN.com):
Not quite as dramatic as the other one. Just real solid all the way through. We knew the way we wanted to play, and the last couple of games, we were solid. With each game, we seemed to build more and more confidence.
Canada became the first team since 1984 to finish unbeaten throughout the Olympic tournament and won its record ninth hockey gold medal.
Outside of the gold-medal dominance, other games that stood out were the United States' shootout win over Russia, Finland’s upset of Russia and the Canadians outlasting the Americans 1-0 in the semifinals.
In terms of pure excitement, it didn’t get better than T.J. Oshie scoring four times in a shootout to break Russia’s heart, although both squads ended their Games in medal-less disappointment.
Let’s take a look at some of the top performers from the Sochi Olympics.
Phil Kessel, United States
No player scored more goals or tallied more points than Phil Kessel of the United States during the Olympics.
Kessel posted eight points and five goals and carried the American offense for large stretches of almost every game. Yes, the Olympics ended in disappointment for the Red, White and Blue after losing to Canada in the semifinals and then to Finland in the bronze-medal game, but Kessel cannot be blamed for that.
Sports writer Joe Haggerty pointed out that Kessel made the Olympic All-Star team:
Phil Kessel made the Olympic All-Star team chosen by the media, so #TeamUSA has that going for them...which is nice— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) February 23, 2014
Erik Karlsson, Sweden
Erik Karlsson of Sweden was tied with Kessel atop the Olympic leaderboard with eight points. He also scored four goals, which was good enough to tie for third in the Games.
While his scoring and total points were certainly impressive, the fact that Karlsson was able to lead his Sweden team to the championship game despite the injuries on the front lines is what lands him on this list.
Sweden had to play without its top three centers against Canada, with Henrik Sedin and Henrik Zetterberg already missing the Games and Nicklas Backstrom testing positive before the final in a drug test because of an allergy medicine, according to the AP (via ESPN).
Without Karlsson’s contributions, it is difficult to imagine Sweden taking home the silver medal.
Carey Price, Canada
There wasn’t a player at the 2014 Games who was better than goalie Carey Price of Canada.
He posted a shutout in the gold-medal game, and his squad did not allow a single goal in their final 164-plus minutes at the Games. Canada shut out both the United States and Sweden in the medal-round contests.
Price took home his first gold medal in the process and only allowed three goals in five games. His goals-against average of 0.59 per game was the best of the Olympics, and he also led the Games in save percentage at 97.2 percent.
Henrik Lundqvist, Sweden
Yes, Sweden lost to Canada in the final game, but it was unbeaten until the gold-medal contest largely because of the efforts of Henrik Lundqvist.
The Swedish goalie stopped 33 shots in the finals, but with so many turnovers and Canada’s formidable attack, it was ultimately in vain.
Lundqvist’s 1.5 goals-against average was fourth in the Olympics, but allowing three goals in the last game inflated that a bit. Lundqvist was critical in knocking out Finland in the semifinals (who knocked out Russia in the quarterfinals) and deserves much of the credit for the silver medal.
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