CBJ Olympic notebook: Wrap-up
When we reflect on the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, we'll think about a lot of things: Canada's repeat gold medal performance, Russia's stunning early exit, Team USA's disappointing finish.
There's also the memorable bronze medal win by Finland, a team-first group led by NHL legend Teemu Selanne, who reminded his teammates that winning bronze was a heck of a lot more important than losing silver. Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen, the assistant GM of Finland's Olympic hockey team, often referenced the "team" concept embraced by the national program and it was a big reason why the Finns medaled once again.
Over the past two weeks, we've documented the Blue Jackets-related adventures of this Olympic tournament, one that began with optimism for the leading contenders (Canada, Russia, USA, Sweden) and ended with surprises and a handful of stunning collapses.
Before we turn the lights out on the 2014 Olympic hockey tournament, let's run through the Blue Jackets who participated in the Sochi Games...
(Bobrovsky, Tyutin, Anisimov, Nikitin)
FINISH: Did not medal
This was perhaps the most shocking of all. The Russians, who admittedly had a ton of pressure on them going into the tournament, seemed to have their game in order entering the quarterfinal (ok, it was a 6-0 win over Norway, but still). They were checked hard, outsmarted and out-competed by a feisty Finnish team, one that scored on an opportunistic basis and got tremendous goaltending from Tuukka Rask. Russia's Olympic tournament ended before the weekend ever got started, and the second-guessing started almost immediately.
Why weren't Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin used on separate lines, when their partnership clearly wasn't working? Why didn't Russia's coaching staff go to Bobrovsky more often than they did, especially after a tremendous performance against the United States in the preliminary round?
FINISH: Bronze medal
The semifinal round featured two bitter border rivalries: USA-Canada and Finland-Sweden, two games featuring four teams that don't need reminded about how much they don't like each other. Canada frustrated the U.S. in a 1-0 win, while Sweden outlasted Finland to advance - and it set up for a bronze medal game featuring two teams that had higher hopes, but also had an opportunity to leave Sochi with a medal.
Finland was the better team right from the start. Team USA couldn't get anything going, Rask was sensational, and two quick goals in the second period by Finland seemed to take the Americans off their game.
FINISH: Did not medal
Team USA started with a 7-1 victory over Slovakia, continued rolling with a thrilling 3-2 shootout win over the Russians and completed its preliminary round schedule by defeating Slovenia to win Group A. The Americans earned a bye to the quarterfinal, where they shook off a sluggish start to dispatch the Czech Republic and set up a semifinal showdown against Canada.
The Canadians, who hadn't scored all that much (but were playing tremendous defensive hockey), were ready for the U.S. at every turn. They slowed down Team USA's speed-based attack, forced them into mistakes and needed just one goal - from the stick of Jamie Benn - to help Carey Price pick up the win and advance to the gold medal game.
Especially after the way Team USA burst on the scene in 2010, leaving these Olympics empty-handed can only be summed up as disappointing.