In what will be the biggest game ever played at 4 a.m. PST, Canada will play Sweden for the gold medal in men’s hockey on Sunday morning. This will be the first time Canada and Sweden have met in the Olympics since 2002, a game Sweden won handily 5-2. It’s also the first time Canada and Sweden have played in on Olympic gold medal game since 1994 (also not a great memory for Canadian hockey fans). That’s ancient history, of course, and Canada will enter the game as slight favourites.
Although it had the vibe of a Gold Medal game, Team USA vs Team Canada 2.0 was just a semi-final against the North American rivals, yet managed to maintain the intensity to which we have all become accustomed.
The teams traded chances early, with both Carey Price and Jonathan Quick coming up big for their teams. Knowing the Americans had scored almost at will this tournament, Team Canada employed a defensive mindset that they executed to a freaking tee. The Americans often looked outmatched in their own zone, especially against the line of Jamie Benn, Ryan Getzlaf, and Corey Perry.
Speaking of which, it was Victoria’s own Jamie Benn who would get Canada on the board in the second period after a pretty feed from Jay Bouwmeester. From there, it was just a matter of playing a perfect defensive game.
As the final minutes of the third period began to wind down, Team USA couldn’t manufacture any significant scoring chances as Canada cruised to a 1-0 victory and their second consecutive trip to the Olympic goal medal game.
With their 2-1 victory over Finland (almost guys…), Team Sweden reached the finals for the first time since 2006 and will face Canada for the gold medal.
I have to say, cracking a joke at Sweden’s expense or making them look like the bad guy is harder than avoiding a stereotypical ABBA reference. In fact, the only time when you are really against Sweden is putting together their damn furniture, but you are okay with that because you’ve just ingested a dozen 75 cent hot dogs. The only possible way I can turn public opinion against the Swedes is to remind the world that Krueger is a last name shared by Swedish forward Marcus Krueger and this guy:
So, he’s kind of a jerk and he may or may not be Swedish. I’m just putting it out there…
However, despite having a dream murderer on their side, it’s hard not to root for the Swedes. Especially if you happen to be a fan of the Vancouver Canucks. The team is loaded with NHL talent and it all starts at the back end with goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and defenceman Erik Karlsson who is tied for the tournament lead in points with Phil “The Thrill” Kessel.
Up front, the forwards are led by Gabriel Landeskog, Alex Steen, Nick Backstrom, and of course, Daniel Sedin. What has been impressive about the Swedes is that they can beat you in different ways. They can outscore any team in this tournament and also shut them down (Exhibit A: Finland), especially with an elite goaltender like Lundqvist in net.
Team Canada Lines
I don’t expect any major line up changes as the players have gotten Canada this far in the tournament.
Bergeron- Crosby – Kunitz
Benn – Getzlaf – Perry
Marleau – Toews – Carter
Sharp – Duchene – Nash
Keith – Weber
Vlasic – Doughty
Bouwmeester – Pietrangelo
Extras: Luongo, Hamhuis, St Louis
Scratches: Smith, Subban
Team Sweden Lines
Expect Sweden to stick with the same lineup (notice the prominent roles that Canucks Daniel Sedin and Alex Edler will be playing):
Landeskog – Berglund – Steen
Sedin – Backstrom – Eriksson
Alfredsson – Johansson – Silfverberg
Hagelin – Kruger – Ericsson
Edler – Karlsson
Ericsson – Kronwall
Hjalmarsson – Oduya
Players to Watch
1. Jonathan Toews
As a Canucks fan, I’m not a huge fan of Jonathan Toews, especially when he tries to talk. However, as a fan of Team Canada, Toews is easily one of my favourite players to watch as a leader of this team. If you want to see an example of a player who cannot stand losing, focus your attention on the Chicago Blackhawks captain. I can’t bet on Canada losing because I don’t think Jonathan Toews will let Canada lose.
2. Erik Karlsson
Arguably Sweden’s top player in this tournament. Karlsson will provide the Swedes with a dynamic attack from the back end that may give Canadian defenders some trouble. He is unpredictable and often times acts as the fourth forward on the ice. Canada will really have to watch their discipline because you can’t give Karlsson too many opportunities on the power play.
3. Sidney Crosby
Sidney Crosby has taken his fair share of criticism in Sochi, but we all know he is going to score the winning goal in some ridiculously dramatic fashion. Let’s see if CBC’s Jim Hughson can match Chris Cuthbert’s “Golden Goal” call.
There is no way I’m betting against Team Canada. Mostly because I would fear for my safety. Although I’m concerned about their ability to score if it comes to that, the way they shut down the Americans was incredible. I say Canada wins a nail biter 3-2. We all go back to bed.