The men's hockey tournament of the 2014 Winter Olympics proved decidedly less fruitful for the Carolina Hurricanes than the 2010 competition as only Tuomo Ruutu returned from Sochi to Raleigh with a medal.
For Justin Faulk (USA), Andrej Sekera (Slovakia) and Alexander Semin (Russia), the Olympics ended in disappointment as each of their respective nations fell well short of expectations and failed to medal.
The 'Canes can take pride in Ruutu's performance, however, as he—after an underwhelming NHL campaign—blossomed in a large role for Finland and earned a highly deserving and very appreciated bronze medal.
How did each Hurricanes Olympian fare individually in Sochi? Statistics, analysis and grades for each of the team's four participants fall on the coming slides.
Stats: 2 GP, 0 G, 0 A, Even
USA Finish: Fourth place (lost bronze-medal game)
Much to the bewilderment and frustration of many hometown fans, Justin Faulk was held out of Team USA's lineup for the first four games.
He made it onto the active roster only when things when south—USA's medal quest was stymied by Canada and then embarrassed by Finland in the final two games.
Even in the lineup, Faulk's impact was mediocre at best. He didn't play very much—not a single second, in fact, in the second period against Canada—and proved uncharacteristically mistake-prone when on the ice.
However, the bitterness of 2014 could prove to be a valuable learning experience for the mere 21-year-old, who (counting on NHL participation) will likely represent the USA in the Olympics several more times down the road.
Stats: 4 GP, 0 G, 2 A, minus-1
Slovakia Finish: Lost in qualification round
It was a rough go for Slovakia in Sochi.
Expected to be a possible dark-horse candidate two weeks ago, the Slovaks failed to win a single game in four attempts. They helped Slovenia earn its first Olympic victory, then fell short in a comeback attempt against rival neighbor Czech Republic in the first elimination game.
Despite the benefit of 2010 experience, Sekera looked shaky with the puck and inaccurate with his passes. Defensive partner Zdeno Chara also strangely struggled, but Sekera's lack of consistency and conviction certainly played a role in his country's failure.
Upon returning to Raleigh, however, the 27-year-old did seem relatively content with the experience and optimistic in getting back to NHL play. "We had a good team, but things just didn’t go our way,” he told team reporter Michael Smith on Sunday. “Those are unfortunate situations in a short tournament like this. We battled, but it wasn’t good enough.”
Stats: 5 GP, 0 G, 1 A, plus-2
Russia Finish: Lost in quarterfinals
Alexander Semin, only a last-second addition to Team Russia coming in, was initially granted a splendid opportunity alongside Alexander Ovechkin and Yevgeni Malkin on the first line but failed to record the prolific numbers that seemed would follow that trio.
Semin picked up an assist on Team Russia's very first goal, a tally by Malkin just one minute and 17 seconds into their first contest against Slovenia. But he was held off the box score for the entire remaining duration of the tournament.
Prior to the first elimination game against Norway, Semin was demoted to the third line with Artem Anisimov and Nikolai Kulemin.
Russia was eventually knocked out by Finland and fellow 'Canes teammate Tuomo Ruutu (see next slide) in the quarterfinals. National newspaper Sport-Express (h/t New York Times's Jeff Z. Klein) stated, "There is no greater shame in the history of our ice," after the loss.
Semin's performance, while not highly productive, wasn't marred by the same mistakes which plagued Faulk and Sekera. However, his pain in defeat was likely the most of any of the 'Canes' four representatives.
Stats: 6 GP, 1 G, 4 A, plus-5
Finland Finish: Won bronze medal
Finland, a nation with a population approximately 1.7 percent that of the United States, was evidently thrilled by its bronze-medal game victory over its American counterparts—Finnish hockey's second consecutive Olympic bronze medal.
Ruutu was no exception.
The entire tournament was a marvelous performance by the 31-year-old, who entered Sochi in the midst of his worst professional season in years. Ruutu put his NHL struggles behind him and flourished in a top-six role with Finland. His five points ranked third on the team, trailing only Anaheim's Teemu Selanne (the overjoyed hugger above) and Minnesota's Mikael Granlund.
No. 15 was also one of just three players to score on Team Canada in their six-game run to the gold medal, helping Finland pick up a point in the final group-stage game.
While he didn't personally factor in on the scoring, Ruutu remained steady all the way through the 5-0 rout of the USA and will certainly bring home his 11th international medal with pride.