February 24 2010 12:04PM
The playoffs are here, and while most of us were hoping to meet Russia for the gold medal, meeting them in the quarter-final won’t lessen the intensity, excitement or nervousness.
I don’t think last night’s victory over Germany will have much of an impact on tonight’s game, except maybe for Rick Nash now that he has finally scored an Olympic goal. These two teams wanted to play each other and tonight we will have the pleasure of watching what could be the game of the tournament.
It starts with Crosby v. Ovechkin
While these two have a healthy respect for one another, they aren’t friends away from the game. I think it’s great that these two are so competitive that they just can’t be friends. It irks me to no end when I see the great players laughing, smiling and joking around with each other prior to a game.
Crosby and Ovechkin didn’t even joke around with each other when they played for the East in the all-star game. So you know that both of them will be ready for tonight, but with so many stars on the ice I don’t see these two dominating the game like they did when Washington and Pittsburgh battled three weeks ago and they combined for five goals.
Both of them will be a factor, but I think it will come down to who has the best supporting cast. Eric Staal looked great last night alongside Crosby , while Ovechkin has Evgeni Malkin. Toss in Jarome Iginla and Alex Semin and the some would say they are equal, but Iginla has five goals in the tourney—granted they came against Norway and Germany —while Semin doesn’t have a goal yet.
The San Jose trio looked decent again last night, but I’m still skeptical that Joe Thornton can elevate his emotion in a big game. His skill set has never been the problem; it is the emotional part of his game that has let him down. Ilya Kovalchuk doesn’t have a point since the first game of the tourney when the Russians crushed Latvia 8-2. In fact you could argue that the KHL forwards, Danis Zaripov, Sergei Zinovyev and Alexei Morozov have been a better supporting cast to date than the Kovalchuk, Datsyuk connection.
The Russians definitely have some scary fire power, but if Kovalchuk and Datsyuk aren’t a factor tonight I don’t see them winning. Canada has a big advantage on the back end. Andrei Markov, Sergei Gonchar, Fedor Tyutin, Anton Volchenkov and Denis Grebeshkov don’t match up to Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty, Shea Weber, Scott Niedermayer and Dan Boyle. And while the Human Rake has struggled, I’d still take him and Brent Seabrook over the three KHL D-men, Dmitri Kalinin, Ilya Nikulin and Konstantin Korneev.
It is fair to wonder if Roberto Luongo can win the pressure game, but Evgeni Nabokov has only taken the Sharks to the third round of the playoffs once so is he that much more proven?
If this was a seven game series I’d confidently pick Canada in six, but in a one game scenario it is much harder to call. One bad goal, bad penalty, bad pinch, missed open net or a lucky or unlucky break can be the difference. Canada clearly has the crowd advantage and I think that will be the deciding factor. Canada Place will be bedlam tonight, and unless Russia gets off to an early lead I think the crowd can energize Canada throughout the game.
KEYS TO THE GAME
The five things that need to happen for Canada to win:
1. The San Jose trio has to be a factor. Thornton and Patrick Marleau need to be emotionally invested in the game. Use their size to wear down the defence.
2. The energy line of Mike Richards, Brendan Morrow and Jonathon Toews need to by physical early. Be momentum changers with hits and a good cycle down low.
3. Roberto Luongo needs to be steady, not spectacular. Don’t give up a weak goal.
4. Drew Doughty continues to play like he is a ten-year veteran. The kid’s maturity and poise has been unbelievable.
5. If Joannie Rochette gives the pre-game speech. They should show her routine from last night to the players. It was inspirational to see her perform so well, and set a career high in scoring only three days after her mother passed away. If that doesn’t motivate the boys to win, nothing will.
Five things that need to happen for Russia to win:
1. Luongo forgets to sharpen his skates and can’t stand up in the crease.
2. It doesn’t matter, because they won’t win.
3. This is our game, in our country and we will end our eight game losing streak v. Russia at the Olympics TONIGHT.
4. It doesn’t matter, because they won’t win.
5. They lace our water bottles with Vodka.
THIS WILL BE ONE HELL OF A GAME
Paint your face, cheer your ASS off and around 8:10 MST you can relax in your chair after Canada scores an empty net goal to cement the victory. I’m calling 5-3 Canada with an empty netter, in what will be an electrifying hockey game. The rollercoaster of emotions will make this game even better. I suspect you will be filled with joy, pain, fear and elation throughout the game.
We will see Sweden on Friday.