Monday, February 27, 2006

Guld! Triumph for Tre Kroners!

Lidstrom, were not sure if it appears in a Finnish dictionary but if it does, it surely means disappointment of great magnitude.

It took only ten seconds of the third period, but with a canonading blast worthy of a Danny Gallivan emotive blast, Nicklas Lidstrom put the third and final Swedish goal of the game behind Finnish goaltender Antero Niittymaki, and became the thing of history for Swedish hockey.

Mats Sundin proclaimed the 3-2 victory over long time rival Finland as a long wait for Swedish hockey fans, the Swedes erasing the bad taste of the Salt Lake games when they dropped off the radar in Olympic hockey. It's taken two complete rotations of the Olympic games but the Swedes can finally claim to be the best in the world from Torino 2006.

It was a back and forth affair for most of the game, both teams equally matched in fire power and playing similar styles. A desperate Finnish squad piled on the pressure in the third period in a quest for the equalizing goal, but Henrik Linqvist would not surrender the marker and he backstopped his squad on to the gold medal podium. In fact, it could very well be the strength in the nets this time around that helped move the Swedes on through the tournament.

With memories of Tommy Salo fresh in their minds, Swedish hockey fans would not have to worry about a clunker of a goal sending their favourites off to the sidelines. From the offence to the back end, the Swedes were full value for their win. A win made especially sweet coming against the top club of the tournament.

For Finland it's another disappointment at the hands of their Baltic neighbour, the Finns were the talk of the tournament as they played disciplined and hard checking hockey through the preliminary and into the elimination rounds.

With top scorers Temmu Selanne and Saku Koivu and Olympic all star defenceman Kimmo Timonen and all star goaltender Niittymaki, many expected the Finns to walk away with the Gold medal once Canada had been handed their travel papers. But the Swedes rose to the occasion and took advantage of the many penalties called against the Finns.

With the win, Sweden jumps to the top of the list of hockey powers in the world, Canada drops to second place and will have to wait until the World Championships in May to try and recapture their first place spot.

The bulk of the Olympians now return to their club teams, with a fair amount making the trek back to North America for games beginning Tuesday. There will no doubt be an extra spring in the stride of the Swedes as they take claim to Olympic glory from Torino. Something that hasn't escaped the notice of Mats Sundin's buddies on the Maple Buds. That spring should help to counter balance the lethargic gait being brought back by Pat Quinn and Bryan McCabe.

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