An unstoppable force meets an immovable object.
The United States had scored the most goals in the tournament with 20. They had the best goal differential at +14. They were streaking, with everyone contributing to the scoring, and Phil Kessel leading the way with the tournament lead in goals (5) and points (8).
But the boys met the immovable object, donned in their red and white sweater's.
Team Canada's 1-0 win over the U.S. is a bitter pill to swallow for the players, coaches, and fans who support the Red White and Blue. Team Canada got the better of the U.S. for the second Olympics in a row.
Jamie Benn's deflection-tip goal that beat Jonathan Quick early in the second period was all the Canadians needed to reach the gold medal game, where they'll take on Sweden.
The U.S. will play Finland for the bronze medal.
The U.S. played hard, but they never got in the grove that had played with in the four games prior. They threw 31 shots on Carey Price, but only a few of them were premium scoring chances. Defenseman Ryan Suter called the play of the U.S. "terrible."
We didn't show up to play. It's kind of frustrating. They're a good team. We sat back, we were passive. You can't play scared...I thought we sat on our heels and just didn't take it to them at all. We had motivation. We just didn't take it on the ice.
When Suter was asked which loss was worse, the '10 gold medal game or this one, Suter didn't hesitate in responding:
This one. We didn't show up to play and it's just very frustrating.
The Canadians, who've given up only three goals the entire tournament, smothered the U.S. attack. They blocked shots. They backchecked. They shut down the shooting lanes and controlled the neutral zone. They controlled the blueline, forcing the U.S. to dump and chase. The U.S. never gained the traction they needed to get into a grove.
The U.S. will take on Finland for the bronze medal, and the Finns aren't anything to sneeze at either. They'll be looking to save some pride from bowing out against the Swedes in the other semifinal.
It's a stinging loss for the U.S. men. The process of building this team has taken years, and they believed they had the right blend of skill, speed, toughness and grit to be crowned the best in the world.
They definitely proved to many that the collection of players the brass rolled with was more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the best in the world.
But they're march towards gold comes up just short. Losing to their arch-rival makes the hurt even worse.
And with the uncertainty on the horizon that is the 2018 Olympics in South Korea, is this the last we'll see of NHL talent in the Winter Games? We'll deal with that question at some other time.
Now for some of the observations on the tournament:
- If the Rangers don't want Ryan Callahan on their squad, I'd take him any day of the week on the Bruins. Peter Chiarelli, make it happen! He's the perfect blend of skill, toughness and grit that would fit perfect with the Black and Gold.
- I kinda like the bigger ice sheet. The two North American teams did not crumble under the bigger ice surface; in fact, they were more than O.K. The best part were the powerplay's, as it seemed the entire 2:00 minutes of any man-advantage was spent in the offensive zone. It'll never happen due to the removal of seats in arenas, but I wouldn't mind seeing NHL rinks getting expanded just a bit.
- Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson will both win a medal (remains to be seen which color) and Tuukka Rask and Team Finland has a chance to grab the bronze vs the Americans.
- Is it time to give Phil Kessel his due? The guy was money for the U.S. in the four games they played, scoring five times and totaling eight points. We give him a hard time in Boston for obvious reasons, but after the Bruins jettisoned Tyler Seguin out of town, Kessel is continuing to put up some lofty goal totals, as he sits in 2nd place in goal-scored (31) behind Alex Ovechkin (40).
- I can't wait to see the first T.J. Oshie shootout attempt when the NHL starts again.
- The Russians losing before the gold medal game definitely sucked the air out of the tournament. The Sweden/Finland game didn't feel like a semifinal game. Even the U.S./Canada game didn't have an amped up crowd behind it, compared to say, the 2010 gold medal game in Vancouver. If it was Russia and Canada going at it for the gold, that would've obviously been an awesome thing to see. Canada/Sweden? Meh. Not as sexy as Canada/Russia, or U.S./Russia.
- If this is the last we see of NHL talent in the Olympics, it's been quite the ride. I do like the idea of junior players taking the spots on the rosters, however. It'll be a different twist and not the same, but I think the powers in charge can make it work.