Hey so this probably isn't going to be very long considering the game finished seven hours ago as I write this, but if you didn't hear, Canada won gold again. (actually this ended up being very long, but I'm leaving this line in so you know I at least INTENDED to write a short article, which I'm apparently incapable of writing.) I know, I'm as shocked as you. For some reason the half-Canadian is writing this instead of the full Canadian, but needless to say I was very happy with the result. And you should be too, American Kings fan! Look, I know you watched your team lose a 1-0 game to Canada that should have been 5-0, and then actually lost 5-0 to Finland, but don't let silly things like nationalistic pride get in the way of what's really important: David Backes and Patrick Kane both went home empty-handed. Dean Lombardi looked like a genius again for demanding Keith Yandle and watching the myriad of crappy defensemen selected instead play, uh, like crappy defensemen. You shouldn't feel obligated to cheer for Brooks Orpik just because of where you were born.
But anyway. The important thing is Jeff Carter got his gold medal. He should have been on the 2010 Canadian Olympic team, as he averaged 37.5 goals in the two seasons before 09-10 (compared to 28.5 goals in the last two full seasons before this year; although obviously the 26 goals he put up in last year's lockout-shortened campaign was mighty impressive). Thankfully the Canadian Olympic committee corrected their mistake from last time around and named him to the team this year, to the sound of sobbing Flyers fans and owners everywhere. How many times before the Olympics began did you hear that Claude Giroux should have gone instead of Jeff? About a zillion times, I would wager. And yet Jeffrey was, statistically, Canada's best forward. He put up 3 goals and 2 assists for 5 points in 6 games, which maybe doesn't sound THAT impressive until you remember that this Canadian team only scored 17 goals in the entire tournament. The only players who had more points than Carter were Shea Weber and some guy named Drew Doughty, who both had 6. And the only player who had more goals than Jeff was again Drew, who had 4. Not bad for a guy that was supposedly a huge mistake. Now, I will grant you the criticism that all three of Jeff's goals came in Canada's only rout of the tournament, a 6-0 drubbing of poor Austria. But who cares; statistically, Jeff was Canada's best forward, and no one can take that (or his gold medal) away from him.
Let's circle back to that Drew Doughty fellow. As mentioned, he tied for the team lead with 4 goals and 2 assists in the tournament, doubling up Sidney Crosby. He was also the only Canadian named to the all-star team, as the voting journalists continued their inexplicable habit of undervaluing the guys who won gold (last time around in Vancouver, only two players from Canada made the cut, Shea Weber & Jonathan Toews, with the silver medalist US team having 3 of the 6). Also named to the all-star team were the US' Phil Kessel (a small consolation for the Toronto Maple Leafs, I guess, who were one of just 5 teams who didn't have a single player come home from Sochi with a medal), Henrik Lundqvist & Erik Karlsson from Sweden, and Teemu Selanne and Mikael Granlund from the Bronze medal-winning Finnish team. Ugh, Teemu was also named tournament MVP, for some reason (but not the best forward, which totally makes sense; that went to Kessel too). Erik Karlsson was named the best defenseman, and in another "this only makes sense to the people who think Alex Ovechkin plays two wings simultaneously" moment, Carey Price was named the tournament's best goalie. Yes, even though Henrik Lundqvist was named to the tournament all-star team ahead of him. I don't get it either.
So let's talk about the actual game. As I mentioned, since this is being written seven hours after it actually concluded, I doubt you need me to go into too much detail on it at this point. The first period was the most even of all three, as Canada only outshot Sweden by a slim 12-11 margin. The game's first goal would go to Jonathan Toews, who tipped a deft pass from Jeff Carter (hey, him again!) to put the good guys up 1-0. Toews, by the way, also scored Canada's first goal in the 2010 gold medal game, a fact you've probably heard so many times that you may have just screamed at your computer or phone screen.
According to the stat line Canada only outshot Sweden 11-9 in the second, which sounds unbelievable to me having watched it, but there it is. Sidney Crosby would finally get his first goal of the tournament on a sweet little move off a breakaway, and if I was going to write a list of keys to the game for Sweden before the game, "don't give Sidney Crosby a breakaway" probably would have made the cut.
Finally, the third was a glorious celebration of the greatest hockey nation in the world. Canada somehow outshot the Swedes 13-4, despite being up two goals, making the US' terrible third period in the 1-0 semifinal game look positively great by comparison. Chris Kunitz scored to make everyone briefly stop making jokes about Chris Kunitz being on the Canadian Olympic team, and to say the game wasn't in doubt would be about on par with "Russians were a little sad about their hockey team." in the understatement category. Carey Price finished off one of the easiest shutouts of his career and Canada skated away with Olympic gold. Flowers magically bloomed months early. Diseases were miraculously cured. Birds flocked to the trees to sing a beautiful song of victory (or maybe that was just Canadian fans singing the na-na hey hey goodbye song, it was hard to tell on TV). It was pretty cool, is I guess what I'm trying to say here.
So what will I ultimately take away from this here hockey tournament? First of all, the Pacific Division has a lot of good hockey players. Of the three teams who had at least one medal of every color, two of them were the Kings' hated rivals of Anaheim and Phoenix (if you really want to count Mike 'I got a medal for sitting in the press box for two weeks!' Smith, but I guess it technically does; the other one was Boston, by the way). Unfortunately the Kings' lack of Europeans meant no one other than Drew & Jeff came home with medals, but having the overall leading scorer and the leading scorer among forwards on the gold medal team isn't too shabby, either. Patrick Marleau from the Sharks had a nice tournament, with no goals but 4 assists in the 6 games. He also looked very nice on the same line as Jeff whenever they were paired up together, so if San Jose ever completely lose their minds and trade him here they would have some nice chemistry to build off of. It might warm your hearts to see that Corey Perry had just one point, an assist, in his six games, though his line with Ryan Getzlaf (1 goal & 2 assists) and Pacific expat Jamie Benn (2 goals & 0 assists) were at times the best forward line for Canada. And Marc-Edouard Vlasic of the Sharks had no points but never looked out of place or even really noticeable at all on Canada's incredibly deep defensive corps, which is probably a good thing given the type of role he was asked to play.
Let's not forget about Slovenia, either. We had a ball playing SBN Slovenia while it lasted, and it lasted longer than any reasonable person could have possibly predicted. Not only did they win a game in the round-robin, their first-ever Olympic victory, but somehow made it out of the qualification round, blanking Austria 4-0. Yes, they beat Austria by just two less goals than Canada did, somehow. Amazingly Anze Kopitar wasn't even the team's leading scorer- that honor went to Ziga Jeglic (2 goals, 2 assists in 5 games), but he still put up 2 goals along with an assist and hit the post a couple of times to boot. Kopitar got to show off his skills on a world stage, reminding us and showing everyone else why he's one of the best players in the world.
As for the American Kings, they played pretty well. Dustin Brown matched Kopitar's production exactly, albeit in one more game, and managed not to cause any international incidents, so that's another victory. Jonathan Quick got shelled by Finland 5-0 after his teammates largely decided that bronze just wasn't their color, but still finished the tournament with a sparkling .923 sv%, better than most could have expected given the very middling NHL campaign he's in the midst of (and following one of his worst seasons last year, though granted he did have another stellar playoffs). Slava Voynov, on the other hand, wasn't particularly good for the host Russains. He had no points in his five games and the lasting image of him will likely be the puck bouncing over his stick as Mikael Granlund then blew past him en route to setting up Finland's first goal in that brutal quarterfinal loss. Also the IIHF stats page lists his name as "Voinov", which is either an alternate translation or an embarrassing typo that sums up his Olympics pretty well. He wasn't exactly having a great year for the Kings before heading overseas, so hopefully he can bounce back from this crushing disappointment of a lifetime and finish off the year strong.
So that's it for the Olympics, folks. Back to NHL regular season hockey soon enough, with a barn-burner of a matchup on Tuesday: Buffalo-Carolina. Woof. Thanks, snowstorm. The Kings will return to the ice in Colorado on Wednesday, as Jeff Carter: Olympic Gold Medalist will score another hat trick to lead them to victory. You heard it here first. Until then, never forget who, exactly, is winter.