The best team won the 2014 Winter Olympics men’s hockey tournament, and they really made it look easy. Like, really easy.
Team Canada put the finishing touches on what was really a masterpiece as they cruised to a 3-0 win over Sweden on Sunday in the gold medal game in Sochi. The win gave Canada its second consecutive gold medal, but this one was much easier to come by.
Maybe it was because the Canadians didn’t have the same pressure they had in 2010 where their gold medal quest was accompanied with the pressure of trying to do so as the host country. Maybe they were just an even better team this time around. Maybe it was a combination of both. Regardless, the Canadians will leave Russia with gold around their necks, and that hardware only begins to represent how good the Canadians really were.
This tournament was dominated by Canada in a way recent international tournaments haven’t been dominated. The Canadians didn’t have many eye-popping, one-sided scores, though. Instead, they just sucked the life out of their opponents all tournament long. That was no clearer than in their final two games of the tournament. Canada didn’t allow a single goal in its final two games. The team allowed just three goals over the entire tournament.
This was perhaps the most dominant defensive team ever assembled. The Canadians had a ridiculous amount of talent on the back end with players like Shea Weber and Drew Doughty not only playing shut-down defense, but also contributing offensively when the Canadians needed some help generating offense. But the defensive style of play wasn’t just a result of a talented defensive corps. Hockey Canada is obviously fortunate enough to pick from an incredibly deep pool of forwards, many of which are just as committed to playing in their own end as they are to playing offense.
There’s some credit to be given to goaltender Carey Price as well. The Montreal Canadiens goalie posted a shutout streak that lasted more than 140 minutes to finish the tournament and probably should have earned the honor of being the tournament’s top goaltender. He wasn’t tested a ton — the Canadians allowed just 129 shots over the course of the tournament — but Price made the big saves when he had to. Price made a pair of huge saves against the Americans in Canada’s 1-0 semifinal win and was treated to a rather easy gold medal game.
It’s one thing for a country to have a seemingly never-ending group of talent to pick from like Canada does. What the Canadians mastered this time around, though, was finding the perfect group of players as well as coaching staff. Mike Babcock’s calculated style was a perfect fit for this veteran-laden, professional bunch. His coaching staff — featuring the likes of Lindy Ruff, Ken Hitchock and Claude Julien — made for an incredible gathering of hockey minds as well.
The only thing that was going to stand in the way of another Canadian gold medal was going to be a lackluster effort from the Canadians. Instead, Canada turned in a relentless, workmanlike effort. That proved to be way too much for the rest of the field in what will likely be looked at as one of the most dominant Olympic hockey efforts the tournament has or will ever see.
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