Hockey superpowers collide in huge quarterfinal game
No. 6 CANADA (2-1-0-1, 8 points) vs. No. 3 RUSSIA (2-0-1-0, 7 points) ?
NOTE: records are presented as three-point wins (regulation time), two-point wins (OT or shootout), one-point losses (OT or shootout), zero-point losses (regulation time). ?
What to watch -- Let's see … the two most skilled teams in the tournament, the two tournament favorites, fighting to survive and still have a chance at a medal. Think there might be some jump in the skates for this one?
"It's going to be a pretty big game for both countries, for both teams," said Russia forward Alex Ovechkin. "But it's going to be a pretty fun game, too."
Russia seemed to find its line chemistry in Sunday's 4-2 win against the Czech Republic. Barring any changes, Evgeni Malkin will center a line with Ovechkin and Alexander Semin, with a second line Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk and Maxim Afinogenov.
"A great moment for me (and) for him and for our team, too," Ovechkin said of skating alongside Malkin. "But I think it was the most important thing that we win the game. We take one extra day off for us. We just take more time and space to work out and be ready for next game."
Canada won't have much time to rest, coming back one day after routing Germany, 8-2.
Goalie Roberto Luongo rose to the occasion in his first elimination game since he gave up seven goals to the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs. On Tuesday he stopped 21 of 23 shots and gave no reason for coach Mike Babcock to reconsider his choice of goaltenders.
"I think it's normal to be nervous," he said immediately after the game. "Big game, big stage, I think it's normal to be nervous, but I think it's good, you get more adrenaline pumping in the veins."
?Last game -- Canada defeated Germany, 8-2, in the qualification round Tuesday; Russia beat the Czech Republic, 4-2, on Sunday in their final preliminary round game.
Russia -- With Russia among the pre-tournament favorites, much was made of this being Russia's chance to avenge the 1972 Summit Series, when Canada clinched the series with a victory in Moscow.
Russia beat Canada to win the World Championships in 2008, but that wasn't a best-on-best competition like the Olympics.
While this game won't win anybody a medal, you can't help but think the Russian players are licking their chops at the thought of ruining Canada's home-ice Olympic coronation.
"No doubt, they (Canada) would be very motivated playing on home ice and also gunning for revenge," said Ovechkin, referring to the '08 Worlds, as well as last spring, when Russia beat Canada for the gold. "But we'll be just as hungry as them."
Canada -- It took four games, but it finally seems like Canada coach Mike Babcock has found line combinations that worked. In the 8-2 win against Germany on Tuesday, each line had a goal, led by the line of Sidney Crosby-Jarome Iginla-Eric Staal, which combined for 3 goals, with two of them by Iginla.
"We're feeling better going off a win, but also (it's) more time together," Iginla told NHL.com. "We've come together pretty quickly and it is better than a practice. You know you don't want to play (this game) and you know you need to win it; but, at the same time, once you are in it, it's more time for line combinations, more time for power play, penalty kill. Just get used to also playing elimination games; that's a Game 7. I thought tonight we handled that early. We came out and had our best start of the tournament. All of our legs were going."
The Sharks line, the trio of Corey Perry-Ryan Getzlaf-Rick Nash, and the threesome of Mike Richards, Jonathan Toews and Brenden Morrow each had a goal.
The breakout for Iginla especially was good to see. The Calgary Flames captain had 3 goals on five shots in the tournament opener against Norway, but then had just two shots in the next two games.
Nash also got on the scoreboard for the first time in the Olympics. After playing the first three games on Crosby's wing, the move to Getzlaf's side seemed to reinvigorate him; the pair was dominant at last year's World Championships.
Now the goal is to keep that momentum going on short rest against the arch-rival Russians.
Total NHL players on rosters: Russia 14; Canada 23. ???
Puck Drop -- Iginla said the focus already has shifted to Russia. "We're looking forward to it," he said. "We know our country is and we are as players. There's history there. There's rivalries there; World Juniors and up, everybody has played against them and we are really looking forward to it and happy we have the opportunity. You know, whether it was the finals, semis, quarters, you have to play all good teams to win it and we play them now."
???NHL.com predicts: Has Canada found itself? The players certainly got a fanbase desperate to cheer for it going again. Canada rides that emotion to a fast start, and holds on for a wild 6-5 victory.