February 25, 2010

Time To Put The Puck On The Nyet, Errr . . . Sorry, I Mean 'Net

Canada vs. Russia
  • Two immediate thoughts come to mind - "Phew, what a relief," and "Wow, who saw that coming!" Somewhere tonight Mike Liut is smiling.
  • I've often said the first 10 minutes of the game are the most important. That certainly was the case tonight. Canada exploded out of the gate, not surprising since they played last night and should have gained their legs quicker than the Russians, who had 2 days off. Canada needed to top off a furious opening attack with a goal or two. Mission accomplished and then some.
  • One of Alex Ovechkin's few quotes after the game: "Everybody saw what happened...there's nothing to say...we can't play like that in first 10 minutes of game."
  • Slava Bykov's coaching was down right bizarre. Not pulling a struggling Nabokov earlier was unbelievable, but so was his failure to change strategy until it was far too late. Canada was coming in waves with speed through the neutral zone and unmolested into the zone. That left he average Russian blue liners exposed as Canadian wingers zipped wide by them. The other two forwards crashed the net and found the puck. Bykov did nothing to fix that up. He had last change too, and did not do a good job selecting line matches. Russian coaches don't usually match lines, but he should have at least tried to avoid certain Canadian matching attempts.
  • After the game Bykov did not seem too interested in accepting any blame, saying "Let's put up guillotines & gallows in Red Sq & kill all players and staff. Why look for someone 2 blame?" Thanks to @dchesnokov
  • Russia's biggest problem tonight though - Canada was just that good. Full credit to the coachs, especially Ken Hitchcock who apparently devised the game plan.
  • The mood in Russia must be very low today. There was so much hype, and equal pressure to win. This is the first time since 1956 that Russia has finished lower than 4th. That's amazing.
  • Even though it was obviously not the Russians night, it probably wasn't until after Luongo's breakaway save on Malkin with about 5 minutes left that I felt comfortable in declaring victory, even with a 7-3 lead. If there was ever a team that could erase that lead it would have been this collection of superstars. Coaching, goaltending, and exposed defense held them back tonight.
  • Kudos to Sergei Zinoviev, who I consider to be a very elegant and intelligent center in the classic Russian style. He obviously played in terrible pain tonight, hobbled by that knee injury. If only his teammates could have matched that heart.
  • By the way, this was the first time in 50 years Canada defeated Russia in Olympic play. In 1960 Canada beat the Soviet Union by a similar high score, 8-5.
  • At the end of the game the Canadian fans chanted "We want Sweden!" I'd rather have Slovakia, thank you very much, even with the great play of Halak, Chara and, believe it or not, Pavol Dimetra.
  • The way Canada played on Wednesday they looked unbeatable. They will come down from this high and will be vulnerable in the opening 10 minutes on Friday. And at some point the extra game will exact some toll on them.
  • Line of the Night - CTV's Nick Kypreos who said, and I paraphrase, "This might not have been for a gold medal, but this was for the heavyweight championship."
  • Line of the Night II - Bruce Arthur - "It's a shame that Alexander Ovechkin couldn't be here tonight."
  • In fairness to Ovechkin, he had lots of company as Semin, Malkin and especially Kovalchuk were unnoticeable, too. Ovechkin is not to blame for this loss.
  • So much for the big Crosby vs. Ovechkin showdown. I thought Crosby played well enough, but he was a non-factor, too.
  • The only bad thing about Canada winning is now I can't change my socks again. Superstitions are crazy, aren't they!
USA vs Switzerland
  • I didn't see the whole game, but Switzerland played their hearts out. These guys can play. They need a game breaker, but many of their players impressed me.
  • Zach Parise was nothing short of great on this day.
  • American boss Brian Burke complained earlier in the tournament that "noon starts suck." I bet he wants to play on noon on Sunday. That's when the gold medal game begins.
Finland vs Czech Republic
  • Finland outlast the Czech Republic in a defensive chess match.
  • The turning point was the opening goal, late in the third period, when Pavel Kubina lost his helmet. In international hockey you can't play without a helmet. You must put it back on or leave the ice. He retrieved his helmet, opening up the chance to score.
  • Make that a lesson to all NHLers at these Olympics - tighten your chin straps!
  • Finland, the defending silver medallists, now plays USA on Friday. The winner plays for gold.
Slovakia vs. Sweden
  • Slovakia over Sweden is not a huge upset. A surprise sure, but no upset.
  • Canada must be somewhat pleased. Sweden was a real power, but make no mistake Slovakia will not be easy. They have Jaroslav Halak in net, arguably the hottest goalie on the planet. And they have big Zdeno Chara on defense, the best defenseman in the world. Marian Gaborik and Marian Hossa are game breakers and Pavol Dimetra, much to the shock of Canucks fans, is playing out of this world!
  • Still, you have to have memories of 2002 with this development. The mighty Swedes don't make it to the semi-final against Canada, thanks to an upset.
  • Henrik Lundqvist, the Swede's fearsome "King" of the net, allowed 4 goals on 14 shots.
More to come. As always, for more thoughts and conversation, as well as some great links and retweets, join me on Twitter @HockeyLegends.

1 comment:

TheRealDFG said...

All great points and observations. The Russians were flat, uninspired, and just didn't seem to have the heart. I thought it was kind of interesting during the handshake processional that Sergei Gonchar and Geno both kind of brushed off Sid's handshake. They are still teammates in a week.