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10 Things to Take Away from Canada's 2014 Olympic Hockey Team
I'm probably at least a day late here, but I think I also just finally really woke up from my post-Olympic, half-awake, half-comatose Sunday morning.
Sidney Crosby received a lot of (negative) attention for his once-goal-less tournament, but I thought he was still Canada's most dynamic, most dangerous player, every shift he took in each game. On Sunday, however, he stopped passing off in traffic. He stopped looking for someone else first. He chose the shot, not the saucer pass.
When Crosby knocked the puck off a non-threatening Swede (who will remain nameless for his own sake because, frankly, Crosby would probably steal that, too) and raced ahead, he tossed everyone out of his tunnel vision and zoned in with incredible point-to-point speed on Swedish goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
The forehand-to-backhand deke wasn't perfect, but it was successful and done with velocity. Crosby's goal put Canada ahead 2-0 in a game they were already dominating in each and every zone.
The captain decided to win, and they won.
Jonathan Toews was also scoreless before Sunday, but his play was typical Toews – all-heart, a lot of skill, and deceptively dynamic. He's a Canadian Finn, really. The one-man rope-a-dope.
Toews scored his first of the tournament in the gold medal final – just like he did in 2010 – and it was the game-winner.
He doesn't hold his stick in the menacing way a guy like Crosby or Patrick Kane does, and he doesn't move his legs like a butter churner like Alex Ovechkin does, but the more you watch the guy, the more amazing you realize Toews is.
With he and Crosby – and with an awakening by the NHL's dumb dumb elite – Canada has been blessed with a 1-2 punch that could give them a leg-up on every other nation between now and 2022.
Carey Price's week will go down as a massively under-appreciated Olympic performance. Sure, he was playing behind a pretty darn formidable Canadian defence, but Price made every save he had to, and he made quite a few of them – off guys like Phil Kessel and five or six Latvians.
Goalies like him get penalized for making it look easy, and the B.C. boy certainly does that.
Canadians are awesome at Twitter. Why? Because we have Roberto Luongo...
I don't feel so bad anymore....... pic.twitter.com/lsFF57sA4V— Strombone (@strombone1) February 15, 2014
Seriously I think I'm having a legit panic attack #CANvsUSA— Strombone (@strombone1) February 20, 2014
JESUS PRICE!!!!— Strombone (@strombone1) February 21, 2014
I love my teammates! pic.twitter.com/cWSDgL4foa— Strombone (@strombone1) February 23, 2014
Canadians are awesome at Instagram. Why? Because they never grow up...
Here's P.K. Subban's post-victory Instagram:
Martin St. Louis has always been one of the NHL's more under-appreciated uber talents. It started with him not being drafted. It continued with him quietly winning a Hart Trophy, two Art Ross Trophies, and a Stanley Cup... and the dude wasn't even selected for the last two Canadian Olympic teams, even with his own general manager picking the squad.
He didn't play much down the stretch of this Olympic tournament. The reason, I can't figure out.
But watching him get just a little emotional during his golden interview with the CBC's Elliotte Friedman was pretty darn necessary.
John Tavares's knee injury has knocked him out for the rest of the season, a pretty tragic way to end both his first Olympic appearance and also his MVP-worthy NHL campaign.
It's a fluke, we all know this. But it will no doubt be the collateral damage – the kind of bargaining chip – that NHL owners use to force their players out of the Winter Games in 2018.
Nevermind the fact that Tavares chose to stay in Sochi and celebrate with his Canadian teammates, choosing to not fly back or go under the knife until he got the gold with everyone else. Nevermind the fact that Tavares himself would volunteer to play in Korea. Nevermind that his injury didn't dissuade any other guy watching from wanting to play.
Nevermind that general manager Steve Yzerman had his own Lightning stars playing the tournament, and that he picked two of them.
The Tavares thing should be sympathetic and heart-warming. But it's also a pawn.
This is the third time Canada has won gold since 2002, which gives them a .750 winning percentage since they bottomed out in Nagano, way back in 1998.
But this is the first time I can honestly remembering watching a real team on the TV. Normally, the Canadians assemble the star talent they can, pretending all along that they're searching for chemistry when, really, they're just winging it and hoping something sticks. Normally, they figure it out midway through and then scramble to slap together a gameplan for their last two games.
This year, though, they looked compact. They looked like they wanted to win it for each other. They looked like it was Canada first, NHL second.
And just in case you think I'm crazy, for whatever reason, Roberto Luongo appears to agree:
Luongo on the team - "I have never seen anything like that before, just the way the guys were together and the commitment to winning."— Sportsnet Pacific (@SNETPacific) February 24, 2014
We're used to seeing the Swedes, the Finns, and even the Americans gel during Game 1. Hell, they tend to gel during their summer orientation camps. Less ego, perhaps. It's more about the flag, always, for those three nations.
But this year, Canada figured it out. They had already bonded by the third period against Norway, like this team had been fusing itself into something special since the Golden Goal in 2010.
This year, the men played like the women.
If Toews, Crosby, and Co. get to return to the Olympics in 2018 or beyond, we could be looking at at least two more guaranteed gold medals. You're going to need a pretty special team to beat this Canadian squad.
I love the early morning games.
The Olympics aren't supposed to follow the same pattern you're used to, anyway. It's supposed to be special and a little different.
But doing what I did, waking up at 4 o'clock – or staying up the night before with board games, some wobbly pops, and a couple friends – to watch a Canadian victory, chasing that with some maple bacon, eggs, and orange juice... that's special.
Some weird geographical trends with this Canadian team...
First, out West, the sniper's brew is a little thicker.
Prior to Sunday, every player who had scored for Canada – Jamie Benn, Drew Doughty, Shea Weber, Ryan Getzlaf, Jeff Carter and Patrick Sharp – plays in the NHL's Western Conference.
And the Kelowna Rockets had a huge hand in Canada's win, as did London, Ontario.
Three former Rockets – Benn, Weber, and Duncan Keith, all B.C. boys from Victoria, Sicamous, and Penticton, respectively – played pivotal roles, both offensively and defensively for Canada.
And three London natives – Carter, Doughty, and Rick Nash – suited up for Canada, as well.
And how about in goal?
You had Montreal Canadiens' goalie Carey Price leading the way, and Price is originally from tiny Anahim Lake, British Columbia. And then you had his backup, Roberto Luongo, who plays his NHL hockey in British Columbia and is originally from Montreal.
Canada's goaltenders, much like your favourite down vest, were made to be worn inside-out and right side-up.