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Canucks Report: Day 8

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
February 23, 2010

Luongo

DAY 8: DO OR DIE

By Derek Jory, Canucks.com

Gold morning!

Sorry, I got an egg mcmuffin and hashbrown from McDonald's at the Main Press Centre this morning, so I have Rotten Ronnie's slogans in my head.

It's win or go home time in men's hockey with a quartet of games on the slate today. The three games being played at Canada Hockey Place are Switzerland against Belarus at 12 p.m. (PST), with the winner facing USA Wednesday; Roberto Luongo and Team Canada then take on Christian Ehrhoff and Team Germany at 4:30 p.m. (PST), with the winner up against Russia Wednesday; Slovakia and Pavol Demitra play Norway to end the day at 9 p.m. (PST), the winner there lands Sweden Wednesday.

The lone game played at UBC is Czech Republic versus Latvia at 7 p.m. (PST), whoever comes out on top faces Finland Wednesday.

Keep your peepers glued to the Canucks Report today as I'll have every heart-pounding moment from the Canada vs. Germany game in full detail.

BEHIND THE SCENES OLYMPIC PHOTO GALLERY

READY FOR RUSSIA

(Click here for a replay of Canada vs. Germany)

The third period chant from the sold out crowd at Canada Hockey Place said it all: WE WANT RUSSIA.

That’s exactly what Canada is going to get.

Canada steamrolled Germany 8-2 in a playoff qualifier Tuesday backed by a 21-save performance by Roberto Luongo. He’s stopped 36-of-38 shots in two Olympic starts, both wins.

Luongo wasn’t overly challenged by Germany’s lackluster offence, but he did break a sweat, which is more than he could say after blanking Norway in an 8-0 win in Canada’s opener of group play.

"If you’re feeling sharp, you see the puck well and I was tonight," said Luongo. "Sometimes you feel that way but you don’t get the results, but tonight obviously I felt good, I saw the puck well and I made a couple nice stops."

Luongo’s resume on the night featured four saves in the first, 10 in the second and seven in a final 20 minutes where Germany got to him twice. By then the game was too out of hand to imagine Canada not closing the deal.

All things considered, it was a great outing for Luongo.

He’ll look to make it three straight great outings when Canada faces Russia in the quarter-finals Wednesday.

"It's a big game, I don't think it would be normal not to have nerves at this level,” he Luongo.

"The nerves are there obviously but for different reasons. That being said, it’s a good thing to have a little bit of butterflies in your stomach."

If butterflies are the result of a Russian lineup consisting of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Alexander Semin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Radulov, Canadian fans can rest easy tonight. Most tenders would have night terrors.

The Russians pack a powerful punch, there’s no disputing that. The top seeded team coming into the Olympics has an offence capable of dummying any team, regardless how good its defence, like one of those inflatable clown punching bags that were all the rage when we were kids.

Luongo will be there to stop every blow and hopefully help Canada advance to the semi-finals.

"I've worked hard my whole career for situations like this. I just want to play my game, play it well, and do the best that I can do. I’m a good guy, I work hard everyday in practice and I play the game hard."

Some say Luongo is stepping on the toes of arguably the greatest goalie ever in Martin Brodeur, but the New Jersey Devils netminder played himself out of the net in a slim shootout win over Switzerland and a 5-3 loss to the Americans.

Still, Luongo admits there’s no bad blood between him and Brodeur. How could there be, both keepers are working towards the same end goal: gold.

"Twenty years from now, if we win, nobody will remember who played goal, but they will remember that we won."

They’ll also remember if you lose.

Luongo is confident he’s seen enough of the Russia's snipers in the NHL to deal with whatever they throw his way.

Luongo is thinking what the fans were saying: WE WANT RUSSIA.

"I’ve seen plenty of them, I used to play in Florida so we played those guys eight times a year.

"They’re shooters, they like to shoot a lot. When those guys have the puck, I’ll be looking for a shot."

And Canadians everywhere will be looking for a win in what was supposed to be a gold medal showdown.

"Hopefully it's not our biggest game this week."

You can say that again.

EHRHOFF, GERMANY SENT PACKING

Roberto Luongo was front and centre in the mixed zone after Canada’s win, which made getting quotes easy peasy.

Canucks defenceman Christian Ehrhoff, on the other hand, wasn’t really in a talking mood after losing.

Or so I thought.

Chris Stevenson of QMI Agency got a few words out of a disappointed Ehrhoff.

A few words Canadians won’t want to hear.

Here’s a snippet of the story:

Minutes after Canada blasted the Germans 8-2 to punch their ticket to that game, Ehrhoff didn’t hesitate when asked who would win.

“Russia,” he said. “They bring skill, but they also play very hard and physical. They have a great goalie and I think they have the complete package to pull it off here.”

Ehrhoff agreed Canada isn’t yet at the level of team play the Russians and Americans have shown so far.

“I was a little surprised. But it can happen in a tournament,” he said. “You’ve got to get together quick as a team and so far the Russians have done that.”

Because of the loss to Canada, Germany is eliminated from tournament play.

SLOVAKIA vs. NORWAY

FIRST PERIOD

This game got off to a horrible start with the first major event being a bloodbath on the ice.

As Slovakia’s Lubos Bartecko played the puck in front of the penalty box near centre ice, he was clipped in the head by Ole Kristian Tollefsen of Norway and sent spiraling to the ice.

Bartecko smashed the back of his head on the ice and was out cold, leaking profusely.

There was a lengthy stoppage in play and his return is not expected.

On the ensuring five-minute power play, Slovakia scored twice with Marian Gaborik in on both goals.

Michal Handzus opened the scoring when he put a rebound off a Gaborik point shot past goaltender Pal Grotnes.

Gaborik then followed that up by redirecting a perfect shot/pass from Pavol Demitra into the net. It was flawless.

Norway replied with a late goal with 1:54 remaining. After Mats Zuccarello Aasen’s pass was blocked by a defender, he collected his own rebound and snapped it past Jaroslav Halak from in close.

Richard Zednik ended the frame by restoring Slovakia’s two goal lead.

Slovakia is ahead 3-1 after the first.

SECOND PERIOD

I don’t think I was alone in thinking Slovakia was going to walk all over Norway, but I’ll admit I was wrong.

I guess the logic that the Slovaks beat the top-seeded Russians, they should be able to handle the Norwegians is false.

Good to know.

Norway scored the only goal in the second period. After Patrick Thoresen failed to finish a one-timer at the side of the goal, he sent a pass to Tore Vikingstad as he flashed towards the goal. The puck went off his skate and it, but there was no kicking motion so the goal stood.

With 0.1 second left in the period, Norway’s Anders Bastiansen confirmed what we were already thinking: there’s an upset in the making.

Bastiansen’s wrist shot beat Havat a hair before time expired to even this game at 3-3.

We’re in for a wild third period.

BEACH BALL MANIA

It was only a matter of time.

Fans are bringing beach balls into Canada Hockey Place and batting them around while the game is on. It’s a weird concert/sports cross over dealie, one full of hot air.

Anyways, early in the second period a beach ball predictably made its way onto the ice near the Slovakia blueline. It was white, so no one noticed.

As play continued Norway’s Juha Kaunismaki knocked the ball to the boards, yet still in play. The product of good times at the beach was on the ice for more than two minutes before a stoppage in play when Patrick Thoresen of Norway tried to bat it back to the crowd.

Strike one.

His attempt fell short and the ref was quick to snatch the ball and throw it in the garbage, despite a rain of boos from the fans.

Good times.

UPDATE ON BARTEKO

According to a press release that just flew my way, Lubos Bartecko was treated for his head injury at a medical clinic in the arena before being transferred to the polyclinic at the Vancouver Athletes Village. He’s in stable condition.

THIRD PERIOD

In the second period this game got crazy, not Vince Carter draining an 86-foot sitting down during practice with the Orlando Magic today crazy, but crazy all the same.

After all the craziness, a calm final 20 minutes was a nice break.

The only goal of the third was scored by Miroslav Satan. He took a pass from Lubomir Visnovsky (grossest name in hockey) and tapped a one-timer to the bottom right hand corner, just past Grotnes.

Demitra finished the game with one assist; he’s not got a goal and three helpers in four games.

CZECH REPUBLIC vs. LATVIA

The only game not played at Canada Hockey Place today ended up being a thriller with the Czechs beating Latvia 3-2 in overtime.

David Krejci had the game-winner.

The big news out of this game isn’t that the Czechs won, it’s that Jaromir Jagr left in the first period with an upper-body injury. After 6:03 of ice time, Jagr was hit by Latvian defenceman Janis Sprukts. He went to the dressing room and never returned.

The Czech Republic will face Sami Salo and Team Finland Wednesday in the quarter-finals.

SWISS MOVE ON

Two things stood out to me from the first game of the day, a 3-2 shootout win for the Swiss: the guy who was dressed head to toe in a salmon suit and the fans holding the sign that said We couldn’t afford Canada tickets. Both genius and hilarious.

The on-ice product was decent with the teams coming together for quite a few good scoring chances and four goals. Jonas Hiller, who let in a weak early goal, recovered to make 20 saves in regulation and a pair in the shootout.

The Swiss, competing in their 15th Olympics, will now face the United States of America Wednesday in quarter-final play.

I missed the American pass through the mixed zone, but François Gagnon, my new ami from La Presse who covers the Montreal Canadiens, shared one gem quote from Ryan Kesler with me.

When asked about being an enemy in the city that normally adores him, Kes had the following to say: “They can hate me for two weeks, I can deal with that.”

I think I speak for all Vancouveries and Canucks fans alike in saying that we can live with that arrangement as well.

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