Reminiscent of Salt Lake City in 2002, the final event of the winter games came down to the US and Canada. In the end, Canada won. I just heard on TV that this win may be considered the best moment in Canadian sports history. I strongly disagree. This Canadian team may have been very good, but not the best in these Olympic games.
On paper, Canada had the best team. They were a team full of all-stars. The Canadians only weakness was possibly on defense. I emphasize the word possibly. Again, the Canadians were one of the best teams coming into Vancouver. Ever poll, every prediction, had the Canadians winning the gold.
No one gave the United States a chance in these games. A very young team, with only 3 returning Olympians from Torino. USA was to go down quickly, and not even medal.
Well, tear up the paper. This is based on what happened in Vancouver. First, I look at Canada. Canada plowed over Norway. No one can be too surprised by that. However, the Swiss forcing Canada to a shootout was not supposed to happen. Crosby saved it for Canada, barely. The Swiss should not have been able to get this close to the Canadians. Following this, came the US. I don't need to repeat that Canada showed their weaknesses, and lost 5-3.
Switch over the US. USA played a hard fought match against Switzerland and pulled off a tough win, 3-1. This went unnoticed. Following that game came Norway. USA dominated the game and won 6-1. Again, quietly pushed into the background as Canada struggled against the Swiss. Then the US upset the Canadians to take the top seed in their pool. No one saw this coming, but there it was. 5-3 on the scoreboard in front of a shocked Canadian crowd.
Move into the single-elimination round of the tournament and back to Canada. First up, Germany. Amazingly, they won. Yes, this is sarcasm. However, Canada let Germany linger for quite awhile prior to finishing the job, 8-2. Following came the semifinal, Canada vs Russia. Canada surprisingly dominated the Russians. However, if Russia's goalies had showed up, it would have been a different night. Following this came Slovakia to get to the gold medal game. Canada should breeze past the Slovakians. However, after building up a 3-0 lead, it almost evaporated in the last ten minutes on Friday, while Canada barely hung on to a 3-2 lead. If it hadn't been for the desperation play by Canada's defense to deflect Pavel Demitra's shot in the dying seconds of the third period, it's a 3-3 game. Not exactly the overpowering Canadian team we expected.
The US had a tough battle against Switzerland for a second time. The Swiss had a great team, and deserves an honorable mention for these Olympic games. The US hung on with a 2-0 win. Then came Finland. This was definitely too be a tough battle. Finland had one of the strongest offensive teams in the tournament. However, USA had a strong period first period, netting 6. They sat back, and played defensively for the last two periods, knowing of the upcoming gold medal game; a rematch with Canada.
To this point, US had won all of their games without much question. They were all regulation wins, by two goals or more in each game. Canada had struggled, and even lost in regulation to to the uS. They needed a shootout to beat the Swiss, and nearly let Slovakia overcome a 3 goal deficit in the final 10 minutes of the game. Hardly the overpowering team. Canada didn't necessarily get into the gold medal game on skill, but limping in, barely holding on to two of their wins.
Tonight's game was nothing short of classic. Canada jumped to a 2-0 lead. This wasn't because of skill, but because of two tiny mistakes made by the US. Luongo, showed no confidence in net and seemed uneasy for the duration of the game. For the last 15 minutes of the game, with a one goal lead. Canada sat on their heals, and let the US try to fight to get the tying goal. USA tied the game with 24 seconds left in regulation, just to be able to force an overtime. Canada was supposed to overpower the United States, and here they were, letting the US team hang around, and force overtime.
After a lucky bounce to Crosby, and a quick shot that no one could have stopped, the Canadians won. However, I stand by the fact that the Canadians did not play like gold medal winners, and were very lucky to be in the gold medal game. The United States were the dominate team in the Olympics. They played the best hockey out of all the teams in the tournament.
Both teams played their hearts out in the Olympics. Canada was not the most consistent or the best of these Olympic games, despite the fact that they have the gold. The US was the best team of the games of the 21st Olympic Winter Games. Canada can be mentioned in contention with this, but comes up short. No other team is worth mentioning, because the games were so closely played. Canada may have won the gold, but the United States definitely deserved it more.