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Own the Podium? More like Own the Russians!
Posted By Corey Krakower On Feb 25 2010 @ 3:17 pm In Canada | No Comments
In a performance that can only be described as epic, the ice hockey team fielded by Canada finally came together and put on a show similar to what people see when they watch the Harlem Globetrotters dominate the Washington Generals. After a very mediocre preliminary round that had many including myself questioning goaltending, speed on defense and intensity up front, Team Canada answered all of those questions last night against the Russians.
The Canadians came out flying with a ton of hits, and more importantly 3 goals (Getzlaf going to the net, Boyle on the PP…finally, and Nash on a partial breakaway…not Crosby!) in the first 13 minutes of the game. The Russians called a timeout and seemed to settle down. They made it 3-1 on a Kalinin shot from the point. With momentum on Russia’s side, Brendan Morrow scored a gritty goal late in the first to make it 4-1 which virtually sealed it for Canada. The rest of the game featured a run and gun second period and a third period where Canada decided to shut it down defensively. The final score was 7-3 and Russia was sent packing.
Looking at the game within the game, there are a few conclusions that can be drawn as to why Canada won this contest so convincingly.
1 – The Babcock vs Bykov matchup wasn’t even close. Bykov refused to get Ovechkin away from the Richards-Toews-Nash line even though he had the last change. Bykov had an opportunity to give his team a push by switching goalies at the end of the first period with the score 4-1, but he felt it would be better to wait until Nabokov gave up his sixth goal before pulling him. Babcock’s defensive structure (it’s called a 1-4 delay) which countered the stretch pass led to many turnovers and chances for Team Canada.
2 – Russia had no answer for Canada’s physical play. It was clear that the Canadians were going to finish their hits every chance they got, especially on Ovechkin, and they did just that. The Russians were simply worn down.
3 – Luongo clearly outplayed Nabokov – enough said.
4 – Russia’s lack of depth on defense versus Canada’s tremendous depth up front ended up a complete mismatch. The Canadian forwards forced all kinds of turnovers and maintained puck possession for extended periods of time in the offensive zone. The shots on goal tell the story; 42-28.
In a situation similar to 2002 when they won gold, Canada avoids a strong Sweden team who were upset in the Quarters by Belarus in 2002 and by Slovakia in 2010. The keys for Canada will be getting Richards-Toews-Nash and Keith-Weber to shut down Marian Gaborik who I presume will be playing with Demitra and Hossa; avoiding a matchup of Chara vs. Crosby and they will need to be effective on special teams. Of course, the big story for Slovakia is the play of goaltender Jaroslav Halak. Team Canada should watch game film of the Montreal vs. Philly game played not too long ago, where Philadelphia’s big forwards drove the net hard, got tons of traffic and jumped all over rebounds. If Canada can get to Halak early, this one could end up being a blowout as well.
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