Bronze Medal Game: Team USA Ends Its Own Olympics with Missed Opportunities

Lars Baron

The United States dominated in the first and then the patient Fins waited for momentum to swing.

Team USA has no one to blame (or credit) but themselves as they come home without hardware.

Finland capitulated in the first and the Americans did what they wanted with the puck, largely maintaining possession throughout while out-chancing them, but could not score. A Patrick Kane penalty shot and a Max Pacioretty break away both ended without forcing Tuukka Rask to make a save. A dangerous power play was impressive to watch, but ultimately fruitless.

So Selanne's bunch was fortunate to survive scoreless into the second period, where a bounce of the puck off a linesman's skate changed everything, and the Finnish Flash scored on a weak backhander from distance that Jonathan Quick will want back.

Poor defensive coverage a minute later so non-NHLers create an opportunity that Jussi Jokinen finished off in the slot, and from there the collective back of the Americans looked virtually broken.

If it wasn't then, it was after a shot from the blue line found its way, unbelievably untouched, through four different bodies and past Quick for the 3-0 lead. That bit of fortuitous bronze medal quality gamesmanship came from undrafted KHL regular Juuso Hietanen.

And when those kinds of shots from distance are finding their way through and beating you it's just not your day. It's what can happen in a short tournament, and it brings out the beauty that are seven-game series in the NHL playoffs.

The Finish (Coyotes) had stayed patient and relied on their goaltender, turning a couple of mistakes in transition into a lead on which they could patiently sit. Rask was better than Quick. The Americans could not finish, including a second penalty shot for Kane, in which he again did not force Rask to even make a save.

Penalty trouble ensued in the third and they'd pour on three more thanks to good old American frustration.

This sort of thing happens to the Dallas Stars quite a bit. Afterward they often say "If we start like that every game we're going to win our share." In a one-off win or go home scenario with a meal on the line the post-game discourse will be a little different.

They belong out there with the big boys of this tournament. They proved that yesterday against Canada. They proved it against Russia. But they couldn't finish. They didn't score in their final six periods of hockey.

It's a disappointing result considering the uncertainty surrounding NHL participation in the 2018 games. Was this the last chance for much of this roster? We'll see. Through much gnashing of teeth and negotiation they may find their way back again.

Teemu Selanne ends his Olympic career (we think) in style with the bronze, and Kari Lehtonen won't be completely dissatisfied with his trip East, having performed admirably in a tight spot against the Swedes. It's five medals in the last six tried for Finland, who are always discounted but nearly always deliver above expectations.

At the very least the Dallas Stars don't have anyone involved in those two heart-breakers in a 24 hour span. Those guys played their hearts out, and they may benefit from it in the long run, but that's going to hurt for a while.

Luckily NHL play starts up again Tuesday.

Congratulations to Finland, the least objectionable hockey power to the tastes of most. Go Sweden.

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