Many Americans are disappointed in the Canadian sweep in hockey during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Thursday (women) and Friday (men), February 20-21. For the general manager of the San Jose Sharks, there was plenty to beam about: "Our players looked good today."
The performances of two of Doug Wilson's pictured players helped secure wins for Team Canada, and the other two active Sharks were not to blame for losses with Team Finland and Team USA, nor was former player Tony Granato who now coaches with the latter. There was going to be at least one winner and at least one loser among the active players, and now at least three of the four players will come away from the Sochi Olympics with medals.
Antti Niemi might even get to play. News of the illness to Tuukka Rask was the talk of players watching the repeat of the other semifinal that put Team Sweden in the gold-medal game on the television inside the dressing room after practice Friday.
With Kari Lehtonen in net Friday, Niemi should get the call Saturday if Rask is not 100 percent. Likewise, one must figure Ryan Miller would be better for Team USA than Jonathan Quick less than 24 hours after turning away 36 of 37 (.973 save percentage).
Only one of these two teams will walk away with a medal. The other is a footnote in history. The Americans are looking for their third medal in the last four Olympics while the Finns have a four-time medal finish at stake.
Canada is going for its third gold medal in the last five games. This would be the first gold medal outside of North America. Sweden has a chance to take its second in the last three games.
Both games were entertainingly tight, one-goal affairs. Both showcased why NHL talent should remain in the Olympics, even if Henrik Sedin, Henrik Zetterberg, John Tavares and Paul Martin were injured playing with three of the semifinalists during the Sochi games.
Ultimately, the teams that won both games simply looked better than their rivals.
Canada out-shot America 37-31 and kept their southern neighbours (as they would write it) from even being safely enough in their zone to pull Quick until inside a minute. Sweden held a 22-18 edge in shots through two periods until it played to limit chances in the third (3-8 in shots).
Still, Team USA's defense kept Team Canada from scoring anything outside of one Jamie Benn redirection of a Jay Bouwmeester shot-pass 101 seconds into the second period. This was probably the two best teams in the tournament, and it is hard to see either losing their next game.
All three goals in the other semifinal also came in the middle frame, with Team Finland getting the first from Olli Jokinen (Sami Vatanen assist). Team Sweden got responses from Loui Eriksson (Jonathan Ericsson and Nicklas Backstrom) and Erik Karlsson (Alex Steen, Daniel Sedin).