But Team Canada had other plans. The hosts of this tournament made it known relatively early in Wednesday's quarterfinal round matchup against the Russians that nobody in the Great White North ought to worry.
Canada jumped out to a three-goal lead after a dominant first period and just kept coming before finally, and mercifully, it finished stomping all over Russia and its No. 1 IIHF world ranking coming into this tournament. The game ended 7-3 in favor of the Canadians, who next play Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET against the winner of Wednesday's late matchup between Sweden and Slovakia. The winner advances to Sunday's gold medal game.
The sidebar matchup in this highly anticipated rivalry game never materialized as neither Sidney Crosby nor Alex Ovechkin played a big role. In fact, there were 10 goals scored, all within the first 40 minutes -- and Nos. 87 and 8 did not factor into any of them.
Ovechkin's problems were largely due to the new line Canada coach Mike Babcock put together.
Babcock used Jonathan Toews between Mike Richards and Rick Nash to shut down Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Semin. Scott Niedermayer and Shea Weber filled out Canada's five-man unit, which made Russia's top line look ordinary.
To make matters even worse for the Russians, Nash and Weber scored while Ovechkin, Malkin and Semin were on the ice.
Canada owned the first period and headed into the intermission with a 4-1 lead and a 21-12 advantage in shots. It was actually amazing that Russia goalie Evgeni Nabokov didn't get pulled after giving up three goals, and then he went ahead and gave up a fourth, too.
Finally, 4:07 into the second period, after Canada scored its sixth goal and second in 57 seconds, Russia coach Vyacheslav Bykov pointed at Ilya Bryzgalov and told him to go stop the bleeding. Canada needed less than six minutes to beat him, too.
Nabokov was credited with 17 saves.
Bryzgalov, who many thought was Russia's best option in net anyway, finally settled into a groove and was able to keep the Canadian scoring machine quiet. Sergei Gonchar scored on the power play to bring the gap back to four goals, 7-3, entering the third.
But enough damage had already been done to give Canada its first Olympic win over Russia in 50 years.
Defenseman Dan Boyle, who Babcock said "was doing a little too much thinking" in Sunday's 5-3 loss to Team USA, was just playing Wednesday. He got Canada going with a goal and two assists in the first period.
It was 3-0 on goals by Ryan Getzlaf, Boyle and Rick Nash before Dmitri Kalinin's harmless-looking shot from the point through traffic beat Roberto Luongo with 5:21 left. However, Brenden Morrow struck with a backhanded wraparound less than four minutes later to give Canada its three-goal cushion.
Corey Perry and Weber scored less than a minute apart early in the second period to chase Nabokov and give Canada a 6-1 lead. Maxim Afinogenov scored 39 seconds after Weber, but Perry converted on a 3-on-2 at 9:51 and it was 7-2.
Getzlaf also chipped in with a pair of assists. So did Toews and Duncan Keith.
Canada got a scare early in the third period when Eric Staal was checked hard into the end wall by Russia defenseman Anton Volchenkov
and took a long time to get up. Staal eventually did. He skated off the ice hunched over, but didn't miss a shift.Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com