Canada Tops Finland, as Bergeron and Rask Face Off
But this is the Olympics, and matchups are bound to happen.
So on Sunday, two Black & Gold mainstays found themselves squaring off as the puck dropped between Canada and Finland in the final game of preliminary round play in Sochi, Russia at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Team Canada, along with Bergeron, Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien and GM Peter Chiarelli, came away with the 2-1 win in overtime, defeating Rask and Team Finland.
While individuals aren’t necessarily the focus at the Games, with entire nations following along with their teams’ play, it’s still worth noting the efforts of those who typically don the Spoked-B.
Rask made 25 saves on 27 shots in the OT loss. The netminder no doubt would have liked to come out of this one the hero, as he made several key (and some incredible) stops throughout the game to keep Canada off the board, but Finland still advances directly to the quarterfinals.
Bergeron has seen his role and minutes increase each game with Canada.
After playing the first two games alongside John Tavares and Jamie Benn, Bergeron was placed up on the top line to start Sunday’s game with Benn and Sidney Crosby. He started on the wing, but played at his natural center by the time Canada had picked up the win.
(For some, Bergeron playing on a line with Crosby may conjure up the 2005 World Juniors, when the pair played together en route to gold. Bergeron finished the tournament as the leading scorer and MVP).
The centerman finished at 86-percent on the faceoff dot, going 6-for-7, while logging 15:28 in ice time. He recorded one shot on goal, and also had a strong opportunity in close in the first period, jamming in front.
"Saw Bergy out there a bunch, but not sure if he got a shot on net!" the netminder told me afterwards. Of course, once the two friends and teammates hit the ice, it is just a game and not something on their minds.
Canada’s line of Patrick Marleau, Jonathan Toews and Jeff Carter turned out the most minutes, but Bergeron moving up the line chart still spoke to the strong tournament he’s had through the first three games.
He didn’t generate as much as he did in the previous two, but that wasn’t specific to him. The game against Finland was played tight and defensive the whole way through, by both teams, at both ends.
"It was a good game - we played pretty well defensively," said Rask, with his team seemingly able to keep the Canadians to the outside most of the night, though they did get plenty of scoring chances, especially with traffic.
At one point in the first period, Bergeron was providing traffic when Shea Weber let a blast go that also blasted the Bruin just below the shoulder pads. He didn’t miss a shift, and was right out there to take his next faceoff.
"He’s a warrior. You saw that in the playoffs. He’s going to play through anything,” Weber told the Chicago Sun-Times in Sochi following Canada's win.
As for Rask, the netminder looked poised to take the game. The goal he allowed in regulation came in the first period, off a Drew Doughty shot short side on a Canadian power play. Doughty displayed an ounce of hesitation from the circle, and the change-up beat Rask over the shoulder.
Rask robbed Chris Kunitz later in the period, and then flew across the crease to thwart a wraparound chance by Toews. The goalie’s stick was broken into pieces, and he had to sprawl in the blue paint. It went to review, and was deemed that the puck never crossed the line.
Earlier in the first, a “no goal” had also been called, when the puck was stuck on top of Rask’s net and Rick Nash had high-sticked it in.
Rask then stopped all 17 shots from Canada in the second and third periods.
Finland tied it up, 1-1, with two minutes left in the second, right after their first real sustained pressure of the game. They only put up two shots in the final 10 minutes of the period, but one came from Tuomo Ruutu off a deflection for the equalizer.
Doughty once again was the one to find a way past Finland, at 2:32 into overtime, with a shot from the right circle that forced its way through Rask's pads and gave Canada the 2-1 win.
Both Canada and Finland get byes to the quarterfinals. The Canadians finished the preliminary round as the No. 3 seed, with the Finns as the No. 4 seed.
The victory positioned Canada to next face the winner of the Switzerland-Latvia qualifier, while Finland was set to arguably have the much tougher task of facing the winner of Russia-Norway. (UPDATE: Canada will now face Latvia, with Finland facing Russia in the quarterfinals, on February 19.)
"It's great to get a bye," said Rask, while also hinting at the challenge of possibly facing the home team in the next round.
But, Finland has improved every game, and has proven that they could contend.
"If we can play team defense and we can protect the house, we can still win games," Rask told NHL.com in Sochi. "[Sunday] was a good example of that."
There will be no Bruin vs. Bruin matchups in the quarterfinals.
Depending on your native country, you may just have to choose national pride over the Black & Gold (knowing that any conflicted feelings will be gone in a week).