Canada and Sweden controlled their semifinal opponents, the United States and Finland respectively, on Friday to advance to Sunday's gold-medal game at 7:00 a.m. ET. The U.S. and Finland will play for bronze on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. ET.
Canada 1 United States 0
Team Canada's defense was exemplary and Carey Price stopped 31 shots to earn his first shutout of the Olympics. There were some question marks about Price heading into Sochi and they revolved around his ability to win the big game. Price has one more important outing to go, but his numbers have been outstanding as the Canadian starter. He has a .963 save percentage and a 0.74 goals-against average in four appearances. He was solid when he had to be versus the United States, especially in the early going, and helped his teammates get into a groove.
Canada dictated the pace for most of the game and Jamie Benn's second goal of the tournament was all the offense that was required. He enjoyed a superb performance alongside Anaheim teammates Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.
Team USA captain Zach Parise led all shooters in the contest with eight shots, but he couldn't convert. Parise has produced just one goal in five Olympic matches. Phil Kessel entered the semifinals as the tournament's leading point getter, with eight points, but he didn't find the scoresheet despite four credited shots. Jonathan Quick was superb between the pipes with 36 stops. He gave his teammates a chance to mount a comeback, but the U.S. couldn't penetrate Canada's stingy defense.
Sweden 2 Finland 1
The match-up between Sweden and Finland didn't have nearly as much intensity as the other semifinal game. Sweden won the special teams battle and that was the deciding factor. The Swedes killed off all five of Finland's power plays, including a lengthy five-on-three, and they registered the game winner on a man advantage situation of their own.
Erik Karlsson has been Sweden's MVP throughout the Sochi Games. He has elevated his play for a team that started the Olympics without Henrik Sedin and Johan Franzen up front because of injuries. Sweden also lost captain Henrik Zetterberg to a herniated disc in his back after the first contest. Zetterberg will need seven to eight weeks to recover following back surgery. Karlsson will enter the gold-medal game tied for the tournament lead with eight points (four goals, four assists) in five contests. His power-play marker gave Sweden a 2-1 lead over Finland in the semifinals
Loui Eriksson had the team's other goal in Friday's victory to give him three points in the 2014 Olympics. He has been sidetracked by concussion issues this season, but he's played a key role for Sweden and leads the team's forward group with 19:15 of average ice time per match.
Sweden didn't have to face Tuukka Rask in the contest because he was suffering from the flu. Kari Lehtonen made 23 saves on 25 shots in his stead. It is surprising that the Finns haven't given San Jose netminder Antti Niemi any action during the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Olli Jokinen opened the scoring for Finland in Friday's defeat, with his second goal of the tournament.
Canada has won two of the past three Olympic gold medals, while Sweden captured the other. The gold-medal game between Canada and Sweden should be another tight affair, so don't expect many goals. Canada hasn't been firing on all cylinders, but they have been playing soundly at both ends of the ice. Sweden hasn't been surrendering many goals either, so it should be a goaltender duel between Price and Henrik Lundqvist.
The United States will have to recollect themselves after a disappointing showing against Canada and they have the talent to rebound. Finland has the grinders and the veteran leadership to bounce back and put up a good fight versus the Americans. However, they will need to attack the same way they did in the quarterfinals against Russia if they want to upset the United States. A healthy Rask would certainly help their chances, but it's unclear who will end up starting for Finland in the bronze-medal contest.
OLYMPIC INJURY NOTES
John Tavares' torn MCL and a torn meniscus in his knee will sideline him for the rest of the year. Detroit is hoping to get Zetterberg back in time for the playoffs. The Rangers won't have Mats Zuccarello for the next four weeks because of a non-displaced hand fracture. The Florida Panthers are waiting for test results on rookie center Aleksander Barkov, but he could be lost for the rest of the season if surgery is required on his knee.
THE NHL RETURNS
Also don't forget to read Michael Finewax's latest edition of The Week Ahead to get ready for the NHL's return to action following the Olympic break next week. Buffalo hosts Carolina on Tuesday, February 25th to get the puck rolling for the stretch run, so start preparing your fantasy lineups.