With two great games on back-to-back this past Sunday, it felt like a blessing to have tickets. Given that watching Canada play in the Olympics was on my list of sports fan must see’s, I was already pumped beyond belief.
The talent present on the Czech, Russian, American and Canadian national teams was startling.
Most people don’t get the chance to see Ovechkin, Malkin, Kovalchuk, Datsyuk, Nabokov, Jagr, Vokoun, Miller, Crosby, Nash, Thornton, Heatley, Iginla, Kane, Toews and (unfortunately) Brodeur in a full season, let alone in one afternoon.
Of course world-class talent will make the caliber of play world class, but what I was really hoping for was atmosphere, and the crowds were epic.
I’ve finally returned home from Vancouver and can share my scattered thoughts on both games.
Russia vs Czech Replublic
For starters, the turnout by both the Czech and Russian fans was fantastic. They came out in numbers, were dressed in team colors from head to toe and were vocal enough during the game that they drowned each other out.
My favorite foreign chant was undoubtedly something that sounded like “Shy Boo” (spelled phonetically here) from the Russian fans. I have no idea what it meant, but it always got the Russians fired up.
If I was to describe the styles of play by either team, the Russians would be fluid on the attack yet somewhat sloppy in their own end. The Czechs were a much more disciplined and tactical squad.
Evgeni Malkin was clearly the best player on the ice. While he had a few bad turnovers high in the offensive zone, he was a demon with the puck on his stick and clearly wanted it more than anyone else.
If Malkin was the clear #1, then Ovechkin was 1a. He managed to get his stick on every puck near the net, took plenty of dangerous shots and absolutely brought a physical element to the game that no one else could match. His physical presence was manifested in the play of the game, and possibly the greatest hit I’ve ever seen live.
Note: I’d like to show it to you, but NBC, CTV and the IOC have all banned it’s viewing on Youtube and other sites. Great marketing job guys.
The open ice explosion that Ovie dished on Jagr was both a highlight reel clip for years to come and a game changing play. The hit gave the puck to the Russians who promptly pushed it up ice for a goal by Malkin.
Despite thinking the Czechs were done after the 2nd Malkin goal, they steadied their nerves and continued to pour on the pressure. This team has a lot of life left.
Canada vs USA
If you’re wondering whether the crowd was ready for this game, here’s all you need to know. They stood and cheered at the top of their lungs for the entire … warm-up. I’ve never seen it before and may never again. The warm-up was louder than the Czech-Russia game at any point.
Despite being “tasered” early by the USA goal 41 seconds into the game, the Canadian crowd still responded to every attempted U-S-A chant with a flood of CAN-A-DA that drowned out the American fans before they could get going.
Rick Nash was the only forward on Team Canada bringing any kind of physical play to the USA defencemen.
Jonathan Toews didn’t get anywhere near enough credit for his work along the boards in the offensive zone. He controlled the play and frequently found teammates in great scoring positions.
Drew Doughty was Canada’s best defenceman. He was calm with the puck, had great recovery in his own end and helped create offense consistently.
Chris Pronger looked terrible. Scott Niedermeyer wasn’t bad, but hardly played like he’s capable of. Canada looked best with a combination of Doughty, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith manning the blueline.
It’s not a surprise to anyone who watched the game, but Martin Brodeur looked incredibly shaky. He wandered from his crease at inopportune times, played the puck poorly and frequently took himself out of position. With the news today that Luongo will replace him in net, Canadian fans can finally exhale.
Speaking of Luongo, I’m surprised that no one in the media has mentioned that he would essentially be playing “at home”. He plays for the Vancouver Canucks and should know every bounce in that arena. On top of that, he is the only goalie on Canada’s roster who could legitimately steal a game.
Ryan Miller absolutely stole THIS game. Any time a team faces more than 40 shots and wins, they should be giving their goalie the royalty treatment. The Buffalo Sabres gatekeeper was stellar on Sunday and deserves every ounce of praise he’s received so far.
Am I the only person who wonders why Crosby wasn’t getting more icetime? He was legitimately dangerous every time he touched the puck. I know that he and Nash were both -3 at one point, but that was more a function of Brodeur and the defense on those particular plays. The Russians were smart enough to ride Ovechkin and Malkin, shouldn’t Babcock do the same with his own superstar?
Finally, the minute the Crosby-Nash-Iginla line was reunited in the 3rd period, they produced results. Crosby scored a powerplay goal and that same line was responsible for the flurry of chances in the final minutes of the game. Babcock needs to realize that he messed with a good thing and put that line back together.
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