It wasn’t the most dramatic Olympic tournament on record, but there will still many compelling moments and excellent individual performances in Sochi. So, which players performed the best in 2014?
The 2014 Sochi Olympic hockey tournament didn’t have the most dramatic conclusion, but it still had some great moments and compelling games. No Latvian fan will soon forget their team’s close fight with the Canadian giant, just as no Slovenian fan will ever forget their country’s first (and second) win in Olympic hockey.
There were also many tremendous individual performances as well and that’s the focus of today’s list. Who were the top 10 players of the 2014 Olympic men’s hockey tournament?
1. Carey Price
Coming into the tournament most of the concern around Canada’s overseas medal hopes surrounded the goaltending position. The nation had struggled between the pipes at various international events between the 2010 and 2014 Games and there was no clear-cut favorite to carry the load as Canada’s No. 1. But in stepped Price, who allowed only one goal in the playoff round and earned back-to-back shutouts in the semifinal and final to earn Olympic gold. His .971 save percentage was the best of all Olympic No. 1’s, as was his ridiculous 0.59 GAA. Sure Price had help from a stifling defense in front of him, but he never erred and finished with mind-boggling totals. Canada’s larger problem in net still isn’t solved, but for these two weeks goaltending was a strength.
2. Erik Karlsson
The driving force of Sweden’s depleted offence, Karlsson scored at least one point in every game until the gold medal final. He was named top defenseman of the tournament and was three points better than the second-highest scorer on his team, Daniel Sedin. The 20 shots he registered also ranked tops among all defensemen and was fifth among all players.
3. Teemu Selanne
At 43 years old, Selanne was in peak, prime form as leader of the underdog, pesky, bronze medal Finnish team. The Finnish Flash was named tournament MVP by the media thanks to a four-goal, six-point effort in six games. He was great right until the end, too, scoring twice, including the game-winning goal, in his country’s 5-0 win against the United States in the bronze medal game. It was likely Selanne’s last Olympics as a hockey player, but would anyone be surprised if he returned to the Games in some other sport?
4. Henrik Lundqvist
The only loss on Lundqvist’s scorecard came in the gold medal game when his own team didn’t get on the scoreboard. King Henrik was doomed in that game against Canada, but still played very well in turning aside 33 of 36 shots (.917 SP). Lundqvist was brilliant all tournament behind a battered and bruised Swedish lineup, finishing with a .943 SP, 1.50 GAA and two shutouts in six games.
5. Drew Doughty
His 19:10 of average ice time was nearly a seven-minute dip from his regular NHL workload, but it still ranked him third on the Canadian roster. Duties were split more evenly across the all-star lineup than they are in an NHL game plan, but Doughty was just as dominant with a lighter workload. He scored four goals to lead all Canadians and was a point per game player in the Olympic tournament. Canada won on the strength of its defensive system, but also got most of its early offence from the blueline. Doughty was the leader from the back end.
6. Edgars Masalskis/Kristers Gudlevskis
They played as a tandem, so they’ll get recognized as a tandem on this list. The two Latvian netminders each had their own game to remember in Sochi, even if their country only won one game. Masalskis was great early on, turning aside 38 Swiss shots in the opening game that Latvia lost 1-0. But his memorable moment came in the qualification round, against the Swiss again, when he turned aside 32 of 33 shots for an upset 3-1 win and advancement into the quarterfinal against Canada. That’s when Gudlevskis came in. After the Tampa Bay Lightning prospect struggled against an overpowering Swedish team in his first start, he stood on his head for 60 minutes against Canada and didn’t allow the winning goal until the final seven minutes of the game. Gudlevskis stopped 55 of 57 shots for the most impressive single game showing of the men’s Olympic tournament.
7. Mikael Granlund
The Finns always seem to come together as a team and play effectively within a system at international events. In fact, Finland has the most medals in men’s hockey since NHLers began going to the Games. To do this, you not only need your top players, such as Teemu Selanne, to be key contributors, you also need off-the-radar players to step up as well. Enter Granlund, who finished tied for third in Olympic scoring with a seven-point total that represents one-quarter of his NHL production through 46 games this season. For his effort, Granlund was named to the all-tournament team.
8. Phil Kessel
Early on, Kessel was having a coming out party at the Olympics. He had multi-point games against the Slovaks, Slovenians and Czechs and got an assist in the win against Russia. Entering the final rounds of the tournament, Kessel was in prime position to not only win the scoring race, but run away with it. But we all know what happened to the American team in its last two games. Kessel still tied for the tournament lead in goals and points, but didn’t contribute when his country needed him most against the best teams.
9. Pavel Datsyuk
Even when the Russians look to be at their worst, Datsyuk still looks to be at his best. Before the tournament, there was some concern Datsyuk wouldn’t be available or, at best, would be playing the Olympic tournament hurt. Despite that, he was still Russia’s best player through its disappointing finish. Alexander Radulov had flashes, but took two costly penalties that led to goals against the Americans. Ilya Kovalchuk also showed flashes, but didn’t record any assists and played as an individual too often. But Datsyuk played the role of checker and offensive catalyst to perfection, scoring two goals in the critical game against Team USA. Had he been completely healthy, perhaps the outcome of the Finland game would have been different.
10. T.J. Oshie
If all four of his shootout goals counted towards his total, Oshie would have tied for second in Olympic goal scoring. He wasn’t especially great after the preliminary round – he didn’t get a point in the final three games – but no American player really was. Since the final two rounds of the tournament were such stinkers, the highlight of the Games belongs to Oshie and the terrific shootout run he went on against the Russians. He singlehandedly lifted the Americans to victory over the hosts, which ultimately put them on top of their group. Unfortunately, neither the Americans nor the Russians made much noise after that game.