Team Canada's defensive game does the trick
Few goals, but enough to win 2nd straight Olympic hockey gold
SOCHI – Steve Yzerman stayed in his seat.
The architect of the Canadian men’s hockey team had just watched Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and the rest of his players successfully defend their Olympic gold medal by relentless defence. They defended by defending.
But instead of joining the others on the ice after the 3-0 win over Sweden, Yzerman wanted to enjoy the golden celebration and the Canadian flag being raised during O Canada from above. As a result, he didn’t make it down to ice level in time for the celebratory team photo.
It was the only time in Sochi something went wrong for the Canadian team and Yzerman, who remarked afterwards that he won’t return as Canada’s executive director after back-to-back gold medals.
Sure, scoring goals didn’t come easy for the Canadians. But the 17 they did score were enough because they prevented goals in an unyielding fashion. They made it look easy. Or, at least, it looked easy.
“It doesn't always feel that way,” Crosby said. “You always feel like the one mistake you can make can end up in your net, but I think that desperation and the work ethic that everyone played with was what allowed us to put up that type of effort. Right from goaltending all the way out, we didn't give up a whole lot.”
Canada allowed only three goals. Goalie Carey Price and his teammates did not surrender a goal in the final 164 minutes and 19 seconds.
A good trivia question down the road would be: Name the three players who scored against Canada at the 2014 Olympics. First, it was Norway’s Patrick Thoresen, thanks to a Carey Price miscue behind his net. Then Tuomo Ruutu of Finland made a dandy deflection. Finally, Latvian forward Lauris Darzins went out the neutral zone door of his bench, as a teammate came off through the other door, to score on a breakaway. That was it.
“Guys want to win,” said Toews, who opened the scoring in the first period with his first goal of the tournament. “I think that’s the bottom line. For people to be talking about our team and saying we don’t score goals, we’re not doing this, we’re not doing that, you look at the offence we have, especially up front, our forwards weren’t scoring goals but we could easily go out there and start cheating, and trying to make plays, and making mistakes and opening ourselves up to give up scoring chances.
“Guys didn’t panic. Guys didn’t get away from what they were doing. We stayed committed to playing the team game, and we knew that was what it was going to take to win a gold medal. So here we are standing here with the gold around our necks and it feels great.”
Final game not without controversy
Against Sweden, the Canadians took over the game when Crosby scored his first of the tournament midway through the second period. He stripped Swedish defenceman Niklas Kronwall of the puck at Canada’s blue line and sped the other way for a breakaway goal.
Crosby faced plenty of questions about his lack of offence all tournament long. But just like in Vancouver in 2010, when he scored the golden goal, Crosby checked in at a crucial time.
“It's hard to compare the two [gold-medal wins],” he said. “Not quite as dramatic, obviously, just real solid all the way through. We saw the way we wanted to play and the last couple games we were solid. But I think with each game we seemed to kind of build more and more confidence."
The final didn’t come without controversy. A couple hours before the game, the Swedes were notified that centre Nicklas Backstrom had failed his doping test for the banned substance pseudoephedrine, which the Swedes claimed was found in his allergy medication Zyrtec-D that he has taken on-and-off for seven years.
Backstrom was tested last Wednesday, but Swedish officials weren’t notified until shortly before the gold medal game. The timing didn’t sit well with the Swedes.
With or without Backstrom, the Swedes would not have beaten the dominant and defensive-minded Canadians on this day.
“The first thing I guard against is you talk about great defence, sometimes we get confused,” Canada head coach Mike Babcock said. “Great defence means you play fast and you have the puck all the time so you're always on offence. We out-chanced these teams big time. We didn't score. We were a great offensive team. That's how we coached. That's what we expected.
“We didn't ask guys to back up. Does anybody know who won the scoring race? Does anybody care? Does anyone know who won the gold medal?”
With that Babcock left his seat. It was time to party.