SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 19: Patrick Sharp #10 of Canada celebrates after scoring a first-period goal against Latvia during the Men's Ice Hockey Quarterfinal Playoff on Day 12 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 19, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
During the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, the Chicago Blackhawks were well represented on the medal stand when the tournament concluded. Jonathan Toews was not only named the top forward of the tournament, but he also won a gold medal as a key member of Canada’s squad, with defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook joining him with gold medals around their necks.
The Blackhawks also had a silver medal winner come home from those Games, with Patrick Kane and Team USA losing in the championship game on Sidney Crosby’s overtime game winner. Unfortunately, they couldn’t pull off the trifecta of medal colors, as Marian Hossa and Tomas Kopecky came home empty handed after their Slovakia team lost to Finland in the bronze medal game.
This year in Sochi, the Blackhawks are once again going to be well-represented on the medal stand, with six players guaranteed to win medals despite Kane and the U.S. failing to medal Saturday. Canada and Sweden, with three Blackhawks players apiece, will battle for the gold medal on Sunday, and the Hawks on each side of the match-up will be key to their chances of success.
For the Canadians, they will need Toews to continue his excellent two-way play that he has displayed so far in the Olympics. He doesn’t have the offensive numbers that he usually puts up, with only two assists to his credit, but he was at his absolute best against the United States on Friday, leading an aggressive Canadian forecheck and establishing possession for the team multiple times during the victory.
Canada will also look to Keith to replicate his feats from Vancouver as they seek back-to-back gold medals. He has been a stalwart defender during these Games, deferring on the offensive side of things quite a bit to guys like Drew Doughty and Shea Weber as Canada has made their way through the bracket.
Finally, Patrick Sharp will be looking to cap off his maiden trip through the Olympics with a strong performance in the championship game. He picked up his first goal of the Games during the quarterfinals against Latvia, and his nose for the puck and ability to find open space in the slot really helps the Canadian side with their spacing and puck cycling game.
On the Swedish side of the ice, three Blackhawks will also be looking to contribute in their own way. Defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya have been instrumental as the main shutdown pair for the Swedes so far in this tournament, with other players like Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Erik Karlsson handling the bulk of the offensive duties on the blue line. The Hawks pairing has also been key on the penalty kill for Sweden, and will have their hands full as they face a potent Canadian offense that is brimming with all sorts of high-end talent.
Finally, Sweden will also look to Marcus Kruger to not only continue to help bolster their center position, which has been sapped by injuries throughout the Games, but also to aid Hjalmarsson and Oduya on the team’s penalty killing unit, much as he does with the Blackhawks.
While the 2014 version of the Blackhawk Olympic Showdown may not have the pinache of 2010’s Kane vs. Toews matchup, it will still be intriguing to see these groups of Hawks go up against one another on such a big stage. Will Sharp be able to contend with Kruger at the point on a power play if the two square off? Will Toews have trouble getting the puck into the zone against Oduya and Hjalmarsson?
It will be interesting to learn the answers to those questions, and the fate of the two nations’ gold medal chances could hinge upon their resolution.