The best case scenario for the NHL, and the Chicago Blackhawks, has been realized: the United States will play Canada for the gold medal on Sunday afternoon.
On Friday, the United States began the day’s action with a jaw-dropping annihilationof Finland. It took the US less than 12 minutes to put six goals on the board against two goalies as the Americans ran away with a 6-1 victory. After quietly putting up some of the best numbers of any netminder in the tournament, Mikka Kipprusoff appeared to remove himself from the game after allowing four of the six goals, many of which were easily preventable goals.
After some analysts had pointed out how little Patrick Kane had done for the US compared to the impact his five Chicago teammates have had for Slovakia and Canada, the young forward responded with his best game of the Olympics. Kane scored two goals and was much more aggressive with the puck, leading the onslaught. Among US forwards, only Ryan Kesler was on the ice more than Kane (17:04) on Friday.
Ryan Miller continued his exceptional play between the pipes, running his shutout streak to 112 minutes entering the gold medal game.
In the night game, Canada was simply too deep for the Cinderella team from Slovakia. None of the Blackhawks were involved in the scoring in the game, but Duncan Keith led Canadian defensemen in ice time. Early in the game, Canadian coach Mike Babcock played Brent Seabrook with Keith for a rare few minutes in the tournament before putting youngster Drew Doughty back with Keith.
In his limited action, Seabrook was +1 for Canada. Keith was -1 and Toews even on the night, and none of the Hawks had an assist or goal. Among Canadian forwards, only Sidney Crosby was on the ice longer than Toews.
For Slovakia, Marian Hossa enters the bronze medal game tied with Pavol Demitra for the team lead with seven points (both have two goals and five assists in the tournament). Both Hossa and Demitra were held scoreless in an exhilarating third period, though, as Slovakia came as close as 3-2 in a well-played loss. This is the best performance by a Slovak team in any Olympics.
Perhaps the biggest surprise for Slovakia, and a wonderful development for the Blackhawks, was the solid play of Tomas Kopecky. On the talented roster in Chicago, Kopecky has been lost in the shuffle and has struggled to find his niche after signing as a free agent with his good friend Hossa this past summer. In the Olympics, however, Kopecky displayed a confidence and quality of play that has not been seen in a Blackhawks’ uniform yet this year. In fact, Kopecky performed well enough that in the last minute of the game, when Slovakia was pressing to tie the game, Kopecky was on the ice.
Sunday’s gold medal game will air on NBC at 2:00 pm in Chicago.