It can’t be easy to take the goaltender that won a gold medal for your country just four years prior and tell him to watch the majority of the Olympics from the bench, but that’s what Canada head coach Mike Babcock did to Roberto Luongo. He made Carey Price the nation’s starter instead and Price never gave him a reason to question that call.
Price allowed just three goals in five Olympic games to be named the tournament’s best goaltender. He certainly played a big role in Canada repeating as gold medalists, but he knows that he didn’t do it alone.
“That was the hardest-working team I’ve ever seen,” Price said, per the Associated Press. “I really can’t say enough about that group of defensemen and that overall team in front of me. Our work ethic was what won us this championship.”
As Sidney Crosby noted, the 2014 Winter Games didn’t have the same dramatic finish as the last one and that was largely in keeping with Canada’s theme throughout this tournament. For the most part the Canadians weren’t dramatic, just solid. They would make their fans nervous at times, but they never lost a game or even trailed in a contest.
Babcock took a collection of superstars and turned them into a defensive minded squad willing to grind it out to get a win.
“It is amazing to see the guys that have the raw talent and ability commit themselves to doing all the little things right,” said two-time gold medalist and two-time Stanley Cup champion Jonathan Toews.
“We knew that’s what it was going to take in this tournament to win the championship, and guys were willing to do that.”
It’s telling that with a roster like Canada, none of the Canadian forwards made the Olympic All-Star team and none of them finished in the top-10 in Olympic scoring. What they all are though, is gold medal winners.
In praise of Mike Babcock, who doesn’t want you to be confused
From the NHL:
Pretty veteran crew, including three returnees from last year’s final.
Per the NHL, O’Halloran and O’Rourke will call tonight’s series opener from Consol.
PITTSBURGH — When Pete DeBoer was hired to coach the San Jose Sharks, he wasn’t totally cognizant of how much heartbreak the fan base had experienced throughout the years.
Now he knows.
“First year in the community, I didn’t realize kind of the baggage that was carried around,” DeBoer said this morning ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. “Twenty-five-year season-ticket holders coming up to you with tears in their eyes and crying.”
The Sharks, of course, have never been this far in the playoffs. Prior to this year, they’d made it three times to the Western Conference Final, losing each time.
More painful were the first-round exits. Like in 2009 when they won the Presidents’ Trophy and got knocked out by the Ducks, and two years ago when they led the Kings 3-0 before dropping four straight.
It was only after the Sharks beat the Blues that DeBoer fully realized the “gravity of what they’ve been through” as fans in San Jose, and “how important this is to them.”
Not that he’s satisfied with getting this far.
“The business at hand now is to get off on the right foot, plant the right seeds for this series, impose our game,” he said. “Every series is the same — it’s whatever team can impose their game on the other team the quickest and for the longest. That’s our goal here tonight.”
Related: For Pete DeBoer, San Jose was the perfect landing spot
Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar will spend part of his offseason trying to help Slovenia qualify for the Olympics.
RTV Slovenia has the story here.
The qualification games will be played September 1-4 in Minsk. Slovenia is in a group with Belarus, Denmark and Poland. The winner of the group will qualify for the Olympics.
The NHL reportedly has no issue with Kopitar’s participation, even though the league has yet to commit to sending its players to Pyeongchang.
Slovenia made its Olympic debut in ice hockey at the 2014 Games in Sochi.
Kopitar will also represent Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup later in September.
Related: Slovenia beats Slovakia for historic win
PITTSBURGH — Matt Nieto is healthy, and ready to go.
But it doesn’t look like he’ll go tonight.
The San Jose Sharks are unlikely to make any lineup changes for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh — at Monday’s optional morning skate, Nieto stayed out late with the extras while the guy he’d (presumably) replace in the lineup, Dainius Zubrus, told NHL.com he was in.
Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer wouldn’t reveal any lineup decisions during his morning media availability, instead talking up both Nieto (for his speed) and Zubrus (for his “heavy” game), adding he liked the versatility the two give the club on a night-by-night basis.
Nieto suffered an upper-body injury in Game 6 of the Nashville series, and missed all of the Western Conference Final.
Prior to getting hurt, he had three points in 11 games — this after a regular season in which he scored eight goals and 17 points in 67 games.