Team USA began the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics as the most impressive men's hockey team. After a 20-5 goal differential in the first four games, the offense was hung with two shutouts. The once-gritty team also quit against Team Finland in the bronze-medal game Saturday, February 22.
The effort by the Americans was deplorable. That is why all of the pictured stars are Finnish.
Joe Pavelski of the San Jose Sharks comes back without a medal after winning silver in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. That team's magical, unbeaten run extended one more game for Ron Wilson than it did for Dan Bylsma even though this year's team had more talent.
The coach of the 2009 Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins made every right move but had none left for the last chance to walk away with a medal. Playing Jonathan Quick is the one that can be questioned.
Quick was literally on the ice for four hours in a span of 26 excluding intermissions. It is hard to think that rested 2010 hero Ryan Miller would not have been a better choice than a guy that just got through a tough battle less than 20 hours before this game starts.
In a strong and responsible first period, the Americans held a 12-8 edge in shots. They committed just one penalty and drew three, including one that carried over into the second period.
The Finns came in having killed just six of their first 10 penalties in the Sochi Olympics. Once they killed their third in this game, the best hockey player in Olympic history took advantage of one lucky bounce and was off on a mini-break that ended with a backhand past Quick in the first minutes of the second period.
It was wired to the corner, but also a basic backhand from Quick's blocker-side faceoff dot. Nothing about his play on the puck says fatigue, but that is a shot that almost never goes in against an average NHL starter much less possibly the best goalie in the world.
The Americans did not even make an effort from there. Eleven seconds after the first goal, they hung Quick out to dry and everyone knew it was over. Tuukka Rask was healthy again—leaving San Jose's Antti Niemi without one minute of ice time in the entire Sochi Olympics—and he was not giving up three goals.
Just to be sure, Finland scored three times in the third period. America managed just five shots in the final frame.
Pavelski was on the ice for one of the first three scores of the game, and the last two were on power plays as USA took the last five penalties of the game. Selanne scored a second time to end his Olympic career with 24.
By contrast, the best scorer on Team USA finished the Sochi Olympics without a goal and just four assists. Its captain had exactly one point in the entire tournament, and it came when the team was already up 3-1 in a game that would be won 5-2.
The gold-medal game is Sunday, with Patrick Marleau and Marc-Edouard Vlasic already guaranteed at least a silver. Win or lose, they will be the only Sharks to actually earn the medals they take home.