Some closing thoughts as the world’s best hockey players return from Sochi for the closing stretch of the NHL season:
Is anyone due for a bigger shock upon returning to the NHL than Canadiens goalie Carey Price? After two weeks of playing behind Team Canada defensemen Shea Weber, Duncan Keith and Drew Doughty, he now has to deliver with Josh Gorges, Alexei Emelin and Douglas Murray butchering the puck in front of him. Still, he might be the one player who benefits the most from his Olympic experience and, by extension, so might Montreal. Price wasn’t the reason Canada won gold, but he was a reason. He was sensational in Sochi, where he literally made every single stop he was supposed to make and weathered early challenges in both medal round games on the way to shutting out the U.S. and Finland. Price left the tournament with a GAA of 0.59, a save percentage of .972 and the confidence that comes from measuring yourself against the best in the world and finding out that you belong in that club. He’ll be a beast down the stretch.
Everyone was happy to see 43-year-old Teemu Selanne named the MVP of the Olympic hockey tournament, but he’s not in the mix for that honor without the playmaking skills of the breakout star of the Sochi Games: Mikael Granlund. “This is his business card for the world to show that he is hungry and can’t wait to get out there,” Selanne said after Granlund ladled out the sauce twice while leading the Finns to their bronze-medal clinching 5-0 win over Team USA. The Wild’s young star stepped up to fill a void on Finland’s top line and powered the team’s offense (3 goals, 4 assists) with his quick reads and creativity. One NHL team exec told SI.com that a younger Selanne would have scored 10 goals thanks to the way Granlund was feeding him the puck. The same exec also said that Granlund might benefit from “calling his own number more often,” but Minnesota will likely be happy if he keeps working the same magic that he did with Zach Parise and Jason Pominville in the weeks leading up to the break.