The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Posted: 02/23/2014 12:16 PM | Comments: 0
Last Modified: 02/23/2014 12:29 PM
SOCHI, Russia - Team Canada beat Sweden 3-0 Sunday to win the nation's second straight Olympic men's hockey gold medal. Here's a graded look at everyone's performances throughout the tournament:
Sidney Crosby — A
The captain's unbelievable play throughout the first five games would've likely gone unappreciated were it not for his highlight-reel, breakaway goal against Sweden in the final. Crosby finished with a goal and two assists, but he was good early on and started flying when the playoff round started. Canada clearly followed its leader.
Chris Kunitz — B-
Kunitz looked out of place at times early on but eventually found a groove. Coach Mike Babcock took him off Crosby's line, then put him back and the results were clear as he started hitting posts and getting chances. Then against Sweden, he made Canada's third goal happen all by himself, stripping Daniel Sedin of the puck and beating Henrik Lundqvist. Call it validation for the Steve Yzerman's most controversial roster choice.
Patrice Bergeron — B
Kunitz and Crosby had natural chemistry from playing together with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it wasn't easy for Babcock to find a third linemate. In Bergeron, he got someone who was able to at least sustain offensive-zone pressure and generate some chances. Bergeron finished with two assists but was a very noticeable player, whether he was on the fourth or the first line.
Ryan Getzlaf — B+
Getzlaf centred what turned out to be a beast of a line with Jamie Benn and Corey Perry that Babcock figured all along he would put together. With a goal and two assists, Getzlaf produced more than most forwards and beyond the stats was strong in skating north-south for Canada.
Jamie Benn — A
Babcock said in August that any player unhappy not to be at Olympic orientation camp should prove why he belongs on the team. After Benn did that, he illustrated why a quick, six-foot-two winger might be useful on the big ice. Benn scored Canada's only goal against the United States, doing so by using not just his size but some hockey smarts to find open ice for the deflection of Jay Bouwmeester's pass.
Corey Perry — B
Perry finished with just one assist, but much like Crosby and Bergeron his contributions were important. Perry had more than a couple of takeaways in the defensive zone, and he was smart and strong on the puck in the offensive zone, getting better as the tournament went on.
Jonathan Toews — A+
Toews' line with Patrick Marleau and Jeff Carter jelled before any other, and that was thanks in large part to the alternate captain's consistent dominance. Babcock quibbled with the official ice-time numbers, but he still played Toews more than any other forward, including almost 20 minutes against Sweden. Along with Crosby, Toews was the biggest reason Canada finished strong.
Patrick Marleau — B-
Marleau over Martin St. Louis or Claude Giroux seemed like a curious choice when Canada announced its roster Jan. 7. But in clicking with Toews and Carter, Marleau showed his value to the team. He assisted on all three of Carter's goals against Austria and was part of a solid cycle game the rest of the tournament.
Jeff Carter — A
The last man left on the outside four years ago in Vancouver while Canada waited to see if Getzlaf could play, Carter validated his inclusion on this team with not only his natural hat trick against Austria but some big-time play when it mattered. He created on Toews' goal against Sweden and came up huge defensively a couple of times on the backcheck.
Matt Duchene — C
Duchene's middling grade is more a testament to Canada's stronger players ahead of him than his own performance. He was scratched for two of the first four games and then got back into the lineup after John Tavares suffered a tournament- and season-ending knee injury against Latvia. Duchene was serviceable as a fourth-line centre and should have a bigger role — possibly as a winger — in 2018 if NHL players are back.
Patrick Sharp — C+
Sharp, who was a healthy scratch for Canada's second preliminary-round game, scored against Latvia in the quarter-finals, picking the perfect spot on goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis. As the tournament wore on, Babcock used Sharp less and less aside from a point spot on the power play, and he lost his fourth-line spot to Martin St. Louis in the gold-medal game.
Rick Nash — B-
Nash fell to the fourth line by the time Canada reached the semifinals, but Babcock praised his play, especially in the gold-medal game. The veteran winger brought knowledge from failures in 2006, and was important to this group's puck possession in the offensive zone even though he had just one assist.
Martin St. Louis — C+
St. Louis went from not being on the 25-man roster to replacing Tampa Bay Lightning teammate Steven Stamkos to 13th forward to scratch to eventual fourth-liner. The 38-year-old got a turn on Crosby's right wing, but his strongest game was against Sweden when he played on the left side of Duchene and Nash.
John Tavares - INC
Injured in Canada's game against Latvia, Tavares never got a chance to have his moment. No points in three-plus games hides the fact that the star centre was one of the best forwards. He was able to stay with the team for the duration of the Olympics was got helped onto the ice for the gold-medal ceremony by P.K. Subban and Ryan Getzlaf. The knee injury will keep him out for the rest of the season.
Duncan Keith — B
Keith didn't do anything spectacular in Sochi, but he also was part of Canada's team defensive effort and manned one of the points on the power play along with Sharp. Most importantly, Keith didn't make any mistakes that would've put this team in danger.
Shea Weber — A
Weber took one slapshot that bruised Bergeron, another that hit Latvian defenceman Oskars Bartulis and three total shots that hit the net with great speed. His power back at the point was one of Canada's best offensive weapons on this big ice, along with Drew Doughty's creativity. Weber also defended like his usual self and scored a very important goal against Latvia to help Canada end an unexpected upset threat.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic — B
Like Keith, Vlasic didn't stick out, but Canada didn't bring him to stick out. Vlasic was around because he's stable and dependable, and he also was the man responsible for getting back when Doughty jumped up into the offensive zone to create. He did that job well.
Drew Doughty — A+
Doughty made the all-tournament team after scoring a team-high four goals. When Canada's forwards were struggling to score, Doughty got the job done. No game was he more important than the one against Finland, when he managed to beat Tuukka Rask twice, including in overtime. A youngster in 2010, Doughty was a veteran and a stud for Canada in 2014.
Jay Bouwmeester — B
Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were on the ice for what might've been Canada's scariest moment of the tournament, when Lauris Darzins got behind them to score the tying goal in the quarter-finals. But Canada survived thanks to Weber, and then Bouwmeester made one of the plays of the tournament by finding Benn with a pass along the ice for the only goal against the United States in the semifinals.
Alex Pietrangelo — B-
Along with Bouwmeester, Pietrangelo deserves some responsibility for Latvia's only goal, and he didn't have a game-changing play in the other direction. But Pietrangelo had several poke checks defensively that took away opponents' scoring chances, and he jumped up into the play more than a few times to make goaltenders make saves. That was his job, and he did it.
Dan Hamhuis — C
Babcock didn't use Hamhuis at all in the semifinals against the U.S. and then only for a minute and change in the final. He was on the team as a penalty-killing specialist, but the top six defencemen were simply playing too well for him to get much action.
P.K. Subban — INC
Subban got into one game, and Babcock said only that last year's Norris Trophy winner was "fine." It was obvious Babcock didn't trust Subban in even-strength situations, and given the way Canada played, it didn't need to gamble with his risk-reward style.
Carey Price — A+
In giving up just one goal against both Norway and Finland, Price gave Babcock no reason to doubt his gut decision to go with him as the starter over Roberto Luongo. In playing so well and shutting out the United States and Sweden, Price answered the grand question about who Canada's best goaltender is and if he was capable of performing in big games. Price stopped 103 of the 106 shots he faced and was named the top goalie in the tournament.
Roberto Luongo — A
Luongo did his job in his one start of the tournament, shutting out Austria in Canada's 6-0 win. Babcock had his mind set on Price being the starter, and Luongo couldn't and wouldn't do anything to change that. Like Subban and Duchene, he didn't raise a stink about his role and was all smiles with his second straight gold medal.
Mike Babcock — A+
U.S. coach Dan Bylsma joked that the Americans were already ahead of the Canadians during Olympic orientation camps in August because Canada spent so much time playing ball hockey. As Crosby and others pointed out after beating Sweden for gold, small things make the difference. Babcock's plan from Calgary to Sochi worked perfectly, as he got stars to buy into his puck-possession strategy that made Canada dominant defensively.
Steve Yzerman — A
Yzerman could be second-guessed for not having St. Louis on the team from the start or for other things, but there's no denying he chose correctly again. The top six defencemen played almost exactly as great Yzerman and his staff could have hoped, and the fringe decisions wound up not being as important as the overall construction of the team. Yzerman said he won't be back in 2018, so let the debate begin for who replaces him.
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