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Canucks Report: Day 9

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
February 23, 2010

Luongo

DAY 9: LOOKING TO LOU

By Derek Jory, Canucks.com

I remember the first time I watched sports in HD, as I’m sure you do.

That heightened definition was like the clouds clearing and the sun coming out, it was a breath of fresh air in experiencing TV.

Once you go HD, though, there’s no going back to RD, or whatever the technical name for regular definition is.

Similar to that, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to enjoy hockey in HD anymore after being spoiled with the most incredible press box seat ever. It’s allowed me to experience what I like to call RLHD – Real Life High Definition.

That’s a working title, if you’ve got something better, let me know.

Watching the game from the vantage point of being eleven rows back between the red and blue lines has changed the way I see the game. For Canucks games I’m typically in the press box positioned high above the ice. Here I finally see how fast the game is, how big the players are, how little room there is to make plays and how little it takes to make or break a play.

The tiny plays that eventually lead to something bigger will be front and centre today during the quarter-finals and I’ll be front and centre to bring them to you.

The first game of quarter-final Wednesday has Ryan Kesler and the Americans against Switzerland in a rematch of the first preliminary game for both teams; game time is 12 p.m. (PST). Roberto Luongo and Team Canada are next up, they square off against Alexander Ovechkin and Team Russia at 4:30 p.m. (PST). The final showdown has Daniel and Henrik Sedin and Sweden against Pavol Demitra and Slovakia; puck drops at 9 p.m. (PST).

Of the seven Canucks competing in the Olympics, only Christian Ehrhoff has been eliminated from play. We’ve got six players in action today; Canucks fans could have as many as many as five players in the semi-finals and as few as one if there are some tyrannosaurs upsets.

BEHIND THE SCENES OLYMPIC PHOTO GALLERY

LUONGO ON TOP OF THE WORLD

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

In the biggest game of his career, Roberto Luongo came up with the biggest win of his career.

Luongo backstopped Canada to a 7-3 win over Russia in a quarter-final showdown between heated rivals Thursday.

With the victory Canada advances to the semi-final Friday where they’ll meet the winner of the Sweden/Slovakia quarter-final.

Luongo was by no means impenetrable, the Russians got the best of him three times, once in the first period and twice in the second, but he came up with every save possible in the third.

A massive stop on an Evgeni Malkin breakaway midway through the period made it clear that the Russians weren’t getting anything past him in the final frame.

He was in the zone and Canucks fans know how damning that is for the opposition.

”I felt really good pretty much the whole game, a couple goals went through a sea of bodies and I don’t know how they found the net but I stayed with it and made a few big saves in the third and that was about it,” said Luongo, who finished with 25 saves in his third win of the tournament.

Dan Boyle and Ryan Getzlef had a goal and two assists each, while Corey Perry, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews chipped in with two points aside and 14 Canadians had at least one point.

Brenden Morrow’s first goal of the tournament stood as the game-winner.

”We played a great game, I don’t think dominated is the word, we played an awesome game for 60 minutes and we scored some big goals,” said Luongo.

“These guys on the other side have talent as well and we did a good job in shutting them down. We played a great game, but the score is not indicative of the talent on the other side.”

The talent on the other side, including Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Semin – four of the top 16 players on the NHL’s current points list and three of the league’s top-eight goal-scorers – was next to non-existent.

Russia got goals from Sergei Gonchar, Maxim Afinogenov and Dmitri Kalinin with Malkin and Kovalchuk the only names to collect assists.

Canada was up 1-0 just 2:21 into the first period and three more scores in the opening 20 minutes had the Canadians up 4-1 early.

Russia settled into the game with two goals in the second, but the Canadians were ready for the attack scoring three goals to take a commanding 7-3 lead.

In the third it was all Canada all the time and when the Canadians faltered, Luongo was there to slam the door.

”I didn’t change much, my game stayed the same but at the same time you want to make sure you don’t let them back in the game,” said Luongo about Russia getting to him in the second.

“Obviously they have some fire power, they can score some goals and a couple times tried to get back, but we answered right back every time.”

Canada was called for too many men on the ice in the second period, but it should have been a game-long penalty with the sell-out crowd at Canada Hockey Place acting as seventh man for the red and white.

”It was an electric atmosphere, it was really fun to play in and obviously with the lead it was a bit more comfortable,” said Luongo.

Added Sidney Crosby, “It was a pretty amazing atmosphere. We always talk about Canada and Russia and the rivalry, but you feel it more than ever in this building. I thought we responded well to that, we came out hard and energized and part of that is the crowd.”

In moving on to the semi-finals, Canada is guaranteed a top-four finish, not that anything but gold will satisfy this hockey hungry country.

Canada will likely meet Sweden Friday, pinning Luongo against Vancouver teammates Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

”We’ll see what happens tonight, it doesn’t matter who we play, obviously playing Sweden would be fun and playing the twins.

”It was a huge game not only for me,” Luongo added about Canada’s win, “but for my teammates and the whole country, so we’re really glad we won this one, but we still have some work to do.”

CANUCKS RETURN TO PRACTICE

As the team gets back to work at 8 Rinks, they do welcome back a familiar face in Kevin Bieksa, as he skates for the first time since injuring his ankle late December.

Bieksa has missed 20 games with the injury and has 16 points (1-15-16) in 40 games before being sidelined. He is fourth in scoring amongst Canucks defencemen and fourth in ice time, averaging 21:48.

No reports yet on Willie Mitchell’s status, who was still not skating prior to the Games despite optimistic reports saying otherwise. He was supposed to make at least part of the Canucks eight-game trip before the break but progress impeded him from doing so.

Click here to read the full report.

SLOVAKIA 4 SWEDEN 2

FIRST PERIOD

I’m so fried from the emotional drain that was Canada’s win, I’m not even sure what I’m seeing between the Swedes and Slovaks is accurate.

The Swedish push has been underwhelming so far, compared to a Slovakian offence that is getting clean looks at the net frequently.

Shots were 7-7 in the first with neither goalie, Sweden’s Henrik Lundqvist or Slovakia’s Jaroslav Halak, budging an inch.

As time ticked away, both teams got to the body. First Zdeno Chara plowed Henrik Tallinder into the Slovak bench before Mattias Ohlund dropped Marian Hossa, AND I MEAN DROPPED, in front of the Swedish bench.

It’s donuts after 20.

SECOND PERIOD

Sweden and Slovakia are apparently bushed from watching the Canada game as well as the middle frame was a carbon copy of the first period in the early going.

Neither team was getting anything or giving any up, which, understandably, made for some dull hockey.

A Slovak power play changed all that.

After Sweden took a too many men penalty, Pavol Demitra, Marian Hossa and Marian Gaborik came together to open the scoring; the latter converted a nice one-timer from Hossa.

Thirty-seven seconds later and Slovakia struck again.

Former NHLer Zigmund Palffy got the second assist on the goal, but he should have been awarded a purple heart for taking a Niklas Kronwall hit to make a pass. He stood in the face of the Swedish superstar and got the puck to Richard Zednik before being Kronwalled.

Zednik sprinted down the right wing before sending a backhand pass across the ice to Andrej Sekera. His shot fluttered on Lundqvist and skipped past him.

The defending Olympic gold medalists showed little panic as they continued pressing and it paid off with just over six minutes left in the period.

Backhands were play to make as Peter Forsberg sent a backhander to Patric Hornqvist, who sent a backhand shot off the right post and in.

Thirty-seven second later and Sweden struck again. Seriously.

Henrik Zetterberg’s backhand pass to Forsberg in front hit the leg of defender Milan Jurcina and re-directed past Halak.

Game on.

With 47.1 second to play in the period, Demitra scored off a long slap shot from the left faceoff dot on the power play to put the Slovaks up 3-2.

THIRD PERIOD

Slovakia keeps on taking the lead, Sweden keeps on cutting into it.

Leading 3-2 midway through the third, the Slovaks upped their advantage to two goals; Demitra to Hossa to Tomas Kopecky and in. It was Demitra’s third point of the game.

Still showing no signs of frustration or panic, Tre Kronor came back with a goal 38 seconds later. Niklas Backstrom set up Daniel Alfredsson out front, his swift shot fooled Halat.

Unfortunately for Sweden, that was all the offence they could muster as the Sedins and Sweden, the third seeded team coming in, is bumped from play by the 10th seeded Slovaks.

This shocker means Canada will face Slovakia Friday in the semi-final.

SEDINS STRUGGLE

If you're wondering why I haven't said anything about the Sedins, it's because they didn't do anything against Slovakia.

Daniel and Henrik were held to two shots combined in 13:43 and 13:23 of ice time. Their linemate Mattias Weinhandl failed to record a shot.

FINLAND INTO SEMIS

It wasn’t pretty, but Team Finland eliminated Team Czech Republic with a 2-0 win at UBC Thursday night in the third quarter-final game.

The game was scoreless until the 13:34 mark of the third period when Niklas Hagman beat Tomas Vokoun to put Finland in front.

The Czechs pulled out all the stops late, including sitting Vokoun for the extra attacker, but Valtteri Filppula was able to pocket a freebee to end the game for Finland.

Sami Salo was a plus-1 with three shots on goal in 24:26, the second highest team total.

Finland moves on to the semi-final Friday and will play the United States.

KESLER AND AMERICANS BLANK SWISS

(Click here to a replay of USA vs. Switzerland)

With his Canucks teammates back to work Wednesday, Ryan Kesler went back to work trying to help the United States to a gold medal.

The Americans are one step closer after a 2-0 win over Switzerland in the quarter-finals with Kesler playing a major role.

The gritty forward, one of the US’ top players of the tournament coming into today’s action, played his best game yet in finding his happy place between attacking offensively and being responsible in his own end.

Although Kesler didn’t hit the scoresheet, he had the second most ice time among forwards at 19:16 and he made the most of it with four shots on goal.

”My game is starting to come around and this game I definitely had a lot more chances and thought I had one,” said Kesler.” Every game, every shift, it’s important for not only myself, but for the entire team to get better.”

The Americans steadily improved against the Swiss outshooting them 18-4 in the first period and 14-4 in the second.

The game remained even at 0-0 after 40 minutes, but just barely. With less than a second left in the second, Kesler spun from the corner and threw the puck at the net.

Swiss goaltender Jonas Hiller hit it with his stick before the puck flipped up and over his head into the goal. The horn sounded and the Americans cheered, but it was waved off as time had expired .1 seconds before the puck cross the line.

”I thought it was in, I didn’t hear the horn until after,” said Kesler.

”I haven’t seen a replay yet.”

Kesler was involved with another disallowed goal in the third period with the Americans sporting a 1-0 advantage. A point shot flew towards the net from the left side and it eluded Hiller, but Kesler was called for high-sticking in front.

No goal.

”I was more upset about the disallowed goal than anything. It’s part of the game, he saw the helmet come off and he thought he needed to call it.”

The Americans rode their 1-0 lead until Zach Parise added an empty netter to his third period strike. That finally dashed the Swiss hopes and sent Hiller, who stopped 146 of 159 shots in four games, and company to the showers.

Finals shots favoured USA 44-19. Hiller frustrated the Americans all game.

”We just kept telling ourselves to shoot anything, if it takes 100 shots, one is going to go in,” said Kesler. “[Hiller] played exceptional for them against and he gave them a chance to win.

”Their defence played well, they play such a defensive style, but we still got 40 shots on them. If you shoot that much you expect to score more than one goal.”

Going in the Americans knew what to expect from the Swiss having faced them in the opening game of group play and they adjusted their game-plan accordingly.

This contest wasn’t about to play out like the US’ wide-open 5-3 win over Canada in preliminary play.

”We set a game-plan that we’re going to have to win 1-0, 2-0 or 2-1, we stuck to it, we know they’re a defensive team that likes to play on turnovers and their transition game, so we just chipped pucks behind them.”

Thursday is an off day for Kesler and the Americans with the women’s tournament wrapping up at Canada Hockey Place. They’ll get back to it Friday in the semi-finals against the winner of Finland and Czech Republic.

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