DAY 6: ARE YOU READY FOR SOME HOCKEY?
By Derek Jory, Canucks.com
And you thought Super Bowl Sunday was big.
Rivalry Sunday is finally upon us, it’s a back-to-back-to-back showing of bitter enemies facing off in rematches of the past three gold medal games at the Olympics.
First up is Jaromir Jagr and the undefeated Czech Republic against Alex OVechkin and the Russians at 12 p.m. (PST). First place in Group B is on the line in the opener.
Top spot in Group A is up for grabs in the second game of the day, Canada versus the United States at 4:30 p.m. (PST). Although Roberto Luongo will likely take a seat to Martin Brodeur, Ryan Kesler will be representing the Canucks.
Sweden versus Finland wraps up the day at 9 p.m. (PST) with the Sedins trying to best Sami Salo to be kings of the castle in Group C.
Once today’s action is complete, the playoff matches will be set and there won’t be any more room for mistakes. My blood is already boiling, mouth watering, fingers ready to bring you all the best moments from the playoffs, which begin Tuesday.
BEHIND THE SCENES OLYMPIC PHOTO GALLERY
GOING FOR GOLD
Splendid isn’t a word I’ve ever used before. Here goes nothing: today was splendid.
The hockey ruled - seeing Ovechkin pancake Jagr was awe-inspiring, Canada lost but no biggie it wasn’t for a medal and the Sedins played a major part in Sweden’s win.
Like I said, splendid.
What made today even better was meeting Canadian Olympic gold medalists Alex Bilodeau and Jon Montgomery, along with a few other Canadian athletes.
Being able to shake hands with Bilodeau and Montgomery to congratulate them on their accomplishments was thrilling, especially when it came to Montgomery, a fellow Manitoban.
SWEDEN vs. FINLAND
Sweden is all over Finland in the final game of rivalry Sunday.
Shots are 16-5 for Tre Kronor with the score 1-0 in their favour. Loui Eriksson put a little Swedish touch on a rebound off a Nicklas Backstrom shot that Miikka Kiprusoff couldn’t handle.
The Sedins have only one shot between them, same amount as Sami Salo who uncorked a rocket on Henrik Lundqvist from the point.
Sorry for the lack of detail, I’m updating my Olym-pics gallery. I’ve got some real Kodak moments to share…
The shot clock read 10-8 in shots for Finland after the second period was through, but I don’t recall a single Finnish shot.
Yes, I was paying attention.
The Finnish attack has been weak at best making things easy on Lundqvist, who now has 15 saves.
Sweden is comfortably ahead 3-0 with Daniel Sedin contributing to second period goals.
The second Swedish goal, a Backstrom strike, was set up by the patience and crisp passing of Daniel. He went to make a move behind the goal but rifled the puck to Backstrom instead catching everyone, including Kipper, off guard.
Sweden took a 3-0 lead on Eriksson’s second goal of the game, a power play strike. Sami Lepisto was the Fin in the box for the score, he was assessed a tripping call on Daniel when he twisted and twirled his way to the net before being taken down.
One period to go and the Canucks fan in me is just loving Kiprusoff giving up goals in every which way. Right now, he’s not a happy Kipper and that makes me smile.
It's not often that I don't have much to say, but there was really nothing to report from the final period. The Fins put up the fight of a ladybug, while Sweden made the safe plays and just grinded things out.
Lundqvist finished with 20 saves for the donut.
I'll fill you in on what the Sedins and Salo thought of this one in a bit.
(Click here for a replay of Canada vs. USA)
The first ever Olympic goal scored by Ryan Kesler will be fondly remembered by him for all the right reasons and by Canadians for all the wrong reasons.
Kesler plunged a steak into the heart of Team Canada with an empty net goal with 45 seconds to play in the third period to wash out any hope of a Canadian comeback in a 5-3 USA win.
”Get a stick on it and direct it towards the net,” said Kesler, “and the best happened.”
The best happened for the United States as well as they took down Canada in Canada with Canada favoured to win. Expectations are huge for Team Canada to win it all and Kesler, the lone American in the Canucks dressing room, is elated to have dashed a few hopes.
It wasn’t a gold medal, but it was big.
One step at a time.
“To beat Canada, we wanted to come into this game and give it our best shot and that’s a good hockey club over there and for us to come out on top is pretty special,” said Kesler, who was a plus-1 with one shot on goal in 17:18 of ice time alongside new linemates Bobby Ryan and Patrick Kane.
”Just go out and have fun,” said Kesler of the US game plan.
”It’s a game where we came in as the underdogs and I think all the pressure was on Canada to win this game. We just wanted to forecheck hard and we’re playing a game out there and we wanted to have fun with it tonight.
“There’s only so many games where you get to play like this and to beat Canada on their own soil was special.”
The Americans become the only team to remain unbeaten through three games (Sweden and Finland had yet to play) and with the win they advance to the quarter-finals, which goes down Wednesday.
Brian Rafalski had two goals and an assist in the win to lead the States, while Canada got great efforts from Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews, who each had two points.
Eric Staal and Dany Heatley were the other scorers on a Canadian team that dominated the opening period outshooting the red, white and blue 18-4. Final shots tipped the scales in Canada’s direction 42-18.
Martin Brodeur was beat 41 seconds into the first and he finished the game with just 14 saves. In GM Place fans are used to better goaltending, naturally a few Luongo calls were heard before the end of the game.
Luongo wasn’t adding any hollers.
”[Brodeur] made some big saves, especially at the end of the second to keep us in it,” said Luongo. “It’s unfortunate a couple of bounces went their way and we were pressing at the end there but Ryan made a great play to put it in the empty net.”
Canada’s road to gold now takes an unexpected detour through Germany. These teams will square off Tuesday with Canada needing to win the game to make it into the quarterfinals Wednesday.
Team Canada has a decision to make about who will man the net for that game.
"Like I’ve said the whole team, I’m here for Team Canada, I’m not here for Roberto Luongo so whatever happens, happens,” added Luongo. “I’ll give full support whatever the decision is.”
The decision is an easy one in my books.
OVI AND OUT
The check that rocked the Czechs, that’s what it’ll go down as.
Alexander Ovechkin lined up Jaromir Jagr as he made his way through centre ice with the puck and delivered a gargantuan body check that sent the Czech forward flying.
I’ve never really thought much of the saying poetry in motion, until now. It was a phenomenal use of the human body, one that led to the game-winning goal in a 4-2 Russia win over the Czech Republic.
Following the hit, Alex Semin set up Evgeni Malkin for an awkward one-timer that he converted to put the Russians up 3-1. Malkin had two goals and Russia’s top line had six points.
Jagr, whose visor was broken in the hit, was held without a point for the first game this tournament.
This game had no Canucks connections whatsoever, but one of our guys will likely be going up against the Russians before this tournament is through so it’s good to have them scouted. I’ve now seen all three of their games and while I’m not completely convinced Russia will play for gold, it’s a major possibility.
Russia vs. Canada anyone?