Winter Olympics 2014: Canada vs USA Men's Hockey Semifinals Recap

Bruce Bennett

Canada is headed back to the gold medal game after another thriller against the United States.

Breathe, Canada.

These were words of wisdom from uttered by the mouth of CBC broadcaster Jim Hughson moments after Canada fended of the United States in a Semifinal victory that has them playing for gold yet again on the Olympic stage.

On the strength of another sound performance, all it took was one opportunistic goal from Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn to seal a 1-0 victory for the Canadians, setting up for one final curtain call against Sweden for hockey's ultimate bragging rights.

The Americans, to their credit, did not take their defeat lying down. On multiple occasions they manufactured scoring chance after scoring chance, only to be equalled at every turn by Carey Price.

Price was fantastic in the win, exhibiting what will be called the greatest Canadian goaltending performance to date. With a calm, cool demeanour he so often displays, he thwarted 31 American shots en route to his first shutout in these 2014 Olympic Games.

Throughout this tournament, Canada has been superb defensively, allowing only three (!) goals against in the five games they've played -- a truly dominating performance when you consider they're up against the world's best. Today, they were marvellous in clogging the middle of the ice, forcing the Americans to beat them wide with speed, a feat they succeeded in doing only on occasion.

But the best defensive tactics employed by coach Mike Babcock has been an aggressive offence, hellbent on controlling the play with puck possession. Their offensive zone time this tournament rates just shy of an imposing 70%, the likes of which we have never seen from any other hockey team.

Today, when playing at even strength, they posted a Corsi Rating of 58.5%, hemming in the Americans at every turn.

Dominating. Commanding. Masterful.

Despite the will-imposing his teammates faced, United States goaltender Jonathan Quick was nearly as stout as his adversary, proving that is still among the elite at his position. Quick made 36 saves in the loss, several of them being of the 5 alarm variety. Without his impressive performance, this likely could have been a cakewalk for a Canadian team that essentially played a masterpiece of a hockey game.

For Canada, this will be their second straight gold medal appearance after dispatching many of these same Americans in a 3-2 overtime thriller at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. They now square off against a Swedish team devoid of many of their superstars but, like the Americans, equally as crafty in creating offence.

The United States will have to find a way to regroup for their bronze medal showdown against Finland on Saturday.

No matter the outcome in the final days of Sochi Olympics, we are assuredly in for a treat when it comes to men's hockey.

USA CAN
0 SCORE 1
31 (0.00%) SHOTS 37 (2.70%)
36 (.973%) SAVES 31 (1.000%)
4 PIM 6

Now, let's take a look at what happened in the other Semifinal.

Sweden 2 - 1 Finland

Recap: Winnipeg Jets' centre Olli Jokinen opened the scoring for Finland early in the second period with a squeaky goal that somehow deflected off the pad of Henrik Lundqvist and into the Swedish net. Undeterred, the Swedes responded moments later with a tic-tac-toe goal tallied by Loui Eriksson to tie things at one apiece. Only minutes after that, Erik Karlsson scored the game winner on a power play blast from the point. Sweden would cling to their 2-1 lead, cementing their trip to the gold medal game.

SWE FIN
2 SCORE 1
25 (8.00%) SHOTS 26 (3.85%)
25 (.961%) SAVES 23 (.920%)
10 PIM 4
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