M-Brain Group

Hockey in Sochi: O Canada!

Blog post   •   Feb 25, 2014 09:10 GMT

The Sochi Winter Olympics ended Sunday with a grandiose closing ceremony. Men’s ice hockey tournament, which we followed up closely, saw some grand twists and turns. Once again, great stories were written to the history books. Canada won the tournament for the first time since the Soviet Union did the same in 1984 and 1988. Sweden won silver despite a tumultuous tournament. Finland won its third consecutive medal since Torino in 2006.

Let us go through the top six teams, including the host nation Russia, their performance and their stories in the ice hockey tournament. We will also compare the results to the rankings, predictions and previews we did before the tournament. We ranked the top eight teams, six of which managed to reach the quarterfinals.

The Czech Republic

We ranked them: 6th. Final seed: 6th.

Czech Republic played a relatively mediocre tournament and finished pretty much where we expected. The Czechs won only two games: against Latvia and Slovakia. There was symbolism in the meeting between the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Players like Jagr, Nedved, Zidlicky (CZE), Chara, Visnovsky, Hossa and Handzus (SVK) most likely won’t meet again at the Olympic level, meaning an end to an era for the neighbouring countries.


The Russian Federation

We ranked them: 3rd. Final seed: 5th.

Russia had great pressure on their home ground. Russia wasn’t very convincing against Slovenia and Slovakia in the preliminary round, but the match against USA was one of the tightest and the most entertaining in the whole tournament. Captain Datsyuk scored two goals but seemed to be out of energy in the shootout. Some of us might have expected moves like this:

Happier times for Datsyuk

Russia’s quarter-final against Finland started well. Ilya Kovalchuk scored on the power play after a nice set-up. Kovalchuk celebrated the goal exuberantly. Finland’s Juhamatti Aaltonen tied the game which seemed to kill the spirit of the Russian team. Russians gave eagerly credit to Finland who played well as a team.


The United States

We ranked them: 5th. Final seed: 4th.

The USA played a two-fold tournament. After the preliminary round they were considered even the favorites to win the gold by some. Their goal-difference in the preliminary rounds was a huge plus-11 in three games. Something happened to the Americans in the semifinals, after dominating the tournament with a fast-paced and aggressive style. Canada’s Carey Price and their tight defense shut USA out 1-0. Finland didn’t allow a goal for the US either, triumphing 5-0 to win the bronze medal.

Finland

We ranked them: 4th. Final seed: 3rd.

Finland had great setbacks before the start of the tournament. They were lacking three of their most important centers because of injuries: Mikko Koivu, Valtteri Filppula and Saku Koivu. The team consisted of three generations, players born in 1970′s (e.g. Teemu Selänne, Kimmo Timonen), 1980′s (e.g. Jussi Jokinen, Lauri Korpikoski) and 1990′s (Aleksander Barkov, Mikael Granlund, Olli Määttä, Sami Vatanen). The age difference between the youngest (Barkov) and the oldest (Selänne) was over 25 years. “Cohesion” was our question-mark for this team, but the team played tremendously as a team, improving game by game.

The fourth injury came during the tournament when Barkov, who had a great start to the tournament as the number one center, injured in the second game. Even that did not prevent Finland from bringing home bronze. The end of the bronze-medal game meant Selänne’s, Timonen’s and Sami Salo’s goodbyes to the Finnish national team.

Sweden

We ranked them: 2nd. Final seed: 2nd.

Sweden had a tough start to the Olympics as well. Their probable number one center Henrik Sedin injured just before the tournament, while their star and leader Henrik Zetterberg had to leave the tournament because of an injury. In the preliminary round, Sweden beat Czech Republic, Switzerland and Latvia, while in the quarter-finals they beat Slovenia handsomely, 5-0. Sweden met their archrival Finland in the semifinals, which meant a rematch for the final game of Torino in 2006. The game was tight, but in the end, Sweden was the better team. Sweden played a smart game with the puck, not pushing outnumbered against the defense. Erik Karlsson’s monstrous slapshot was the game winner, in a somewhat similar manner as in 2006 when Nicklas Lidström’s slapshot decided the gold.

Canada had the upper hand in the final against Sweden. Canada had a very strict defense and Sweden had huge problems in getting into Canada’s zone. Two hours before the final Sweden’s center Nicklas Bäckström was disqualified because of using pseudoefedrine – an irregular substance that according to Bäckström is a part of his allergy medication. Defenseman Erik Karlsson played a great tournament and was Sweden’s number one scorer, registering 4 goals and 4 assists.

Canada

We ranked them: 1st. Final seed: 1st.

The tournament was played on a big ice, but Canada marched to the gold anyways. Their game plan worked well for them. In the preliminary round Canada seemed to have a tough time with Norway and Finland. Canada proved that the exact amount of goals doesn’t count, just the winner. Their low-risk, defensive game might have made some games closer that they could’ve been, but won them the final clearly. Canada only allowed three goals in the whole tournament. Carey Price was named the best goaltender in the tournament for a good reason. Defenseman Drew Doughty played an excellent tournament and he was named in the tournament’s All-star team.

The six other teams of the tournament weren’t easy to play against either. Austria led the match against Finland twice in the beginning, Switzerland was very hard to score against, as were Norway and Latvia. Slovenia really proved what it means to play as a team. One of the biggest upsets of the tournament was Slovenia beating Slovakia. Slovakia was also the biggest disappointment, finishing second to last in the standings.

The final rankings and what we predicted

Here are the complete final standings of the Sochi hockey tournament along with our predictions. We were correct on the top six, just the order between Finland, USA and Russia was different.

Final seed in Sochi, the countryOur prediction
1stCanada1st
2ndSweden2nd
3rdFinland4th
4thUSA5th
5thRussia3rd
6thCzech Republic6th
7thSlovenia9–12
8thLatvia9–12th
9thSwitzerland8th
10thAustria9–12th
11thSlovakia7th
12thNorway9–12th

The Olympic hockey Twitter sentiment

The winner of our live tweet comparison was won by Canada with a small margin over the USA. During the Sochi ice hockey tournament, Canada was positively mentioned in over 15 000 tweets. The USA got over 13 000 positive tweets. USA was mentioned altogether the most: team USA got almost 60 000 tweets. You can see the interactive data here, along with other statistics such as word clouds from tweets: http://www.m-brain.com/sochi2014/

Thank you for experiencing the Sochi Winter Olympics with us!

The tweet volumes and their sentiments regarding the top six teams during the tournament.Click on the image to open it as a larger version in a new window.

Come back for more!: Tomorrow, on 26th February, we’ll release another blog post about a selected group of players in the tournament, their tournament and the reactions in digital and social media. The post includes players like Teemu Selänne, Sidney Crosby and Erik Karlsson.

Update on 26th Feb: Click here for the post about the players.