We're talking about Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin on the international stage for the first time since 2005. It's Canada vs. Russia in the Olympics, a rematch of Russia's 2-0 win over the Canadians in Torino four years ago.
Once considered the dream gold-medal game, this one turned into the dream quarterfinal, a do-or-die, win or go home game between hockey's superpowers and the sport's two biggest superstars.
It'll be coming to you live Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. ET (4:30 p.m. PT).
"I know (Ovechkin) will be excited, Sid will be excited and all of our players will be excited," Canada coach Mike Babcock said after his team eliminated Germany from the tournament with an 8-2 throttling on Tuesday. "This is what it's all about. These are our opportunities. We ought to be thankful to have this game and we're involved in it."
The rivalry between Ovechkin and Crosby actually started the last time they played each other on the international stage. It was the 2005 gold-medal game at the World Juniors when Crosby had an assist in Canada's 6-1 victory in Grand Forks, N.D.
Ever since, Crosby and Ovechkin have lived up to the hype by creating one of professional sport's greatest living rivalries. Each time Washington and Pittsburgh play, it's as Crosby and Ovechkin are playing a game of "Anything you can do, I can do better."
The rivalry peaked in Game 2 of last year's Eastern Conference semifinal series when they had dueling hat tricks at Verizon Center. Wednesday's game has the potential to top even that because it's an elimination game in what is being called hockey's most important tournament ever.
"Yeah, but you know what, I'm not worried about me and him to be honest with you," Crosby told NHL.com. "This is Canada-Russia. We want to win and if you ask him the same thing, he'll say they want to win, too. We need to be at our best."
Crosby's right. As much as we want to make this game about the rivalry between the Kid and the Great Eight, it's only a subplot of something much bigger.
It's been a half a century since the Canadians beat the Russians at the Olympics. The last time was in 1960 at Squaw Valley.
| NBCOlympics.com highlights only available to U.S. users. CTVOlympics.ca English and RDSolympiques.ca French highlights only available to Canadian users. |
Most recently, Russia won an intense game in Torino four years ago. It beat the Canadians in the gold medal game of the 2008 IIHF World Championship on Canadian soil in Halifax, N.S., then again in the gold medal game of last year's World Championships in Bern, Switzerland.
Canada wants revenge. This is 50 years of frustration.
"There is a lot of history and a lot of rivalries between players who play against each other a lot," said Jarome Iginla, who scored twice in Tuesday's win and has five goals in the tournament. "We know our country is looking forward to it and we're looking forward to it. It doesn't matter if it's not the final game -- you have to play good teams to win it all, and we're looking forward to the Russians now."
There likely won't be any surprises in Wednesday's game. All 23 players on Canada's roster play in the NHL; Russia has 14 NHL players, and Sergei Fedorov, Viktor Kozlov, Alexander Radulov and Dmitri Kalinin are not far removed from their NHL careers.
Crosby will play against Evgeni Malkin for the first time since the '05 World Juniors. It will be the first time he will ever play against Sergei Gonchar. Babcock will coach against Pavel Datsyuk, one of his top centers in Detroit.
Let's not forget all the Sharks. Dan Boyle, Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau will try to score on Evgeni Nabokov, their goalie back in San Jose.
Rick Nash will try to get his big body around Fedor Tyutin, his teammate in Columbus. Shea Weber and Radulov used to be teammates in Nashville.
"I have played in a lot of big games on the international level and this ranks right up there," said goalie Roberto Luongo, who made 21 saves Tuesday. "Hopefully it's not the biggest one this week."
Canada earned this opportunity by playing arguably its best game of the tournament against Germany.
Joe Thornton staked Canada to a 1-0 after the first period and the Canadians scored three times within the first 8:50 of the second. The four goals they scored in the third period just made them feel better.
"You know what, it might not be such a terrible thing that we played today," Crosby said, "because we want to carry that momentum into tomorrow."
No matter how you look at it, the Ovechkin-Crosby storyline will be front and center and at the top of every broadcast. When those two play, it seems like the hockey world stops.
Earlier this season Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau made the comparison to Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson.
"It's Larry-Magic, Dodgers-Yankees in World Series or Yankees-Red Sox," Boudreau said. "When we play Pittsburgh, it's all they talk about, Sid vs. Ovi. When the Red Sox play the Yankees, that's all they talk about is the greatest rivalry in all of sports."
"It seems to bring the best out of them," said Team USA defenseman Brooks Orpik, Crosby's teammate in Pittsburgh. "I don't know if they genuinely dislike each other. They don't know each other, really. I think that's hyped up. But, in terms of playing, they definitely push each other to be the best one out there. It's fun to watch."
Now they're doing it for country, for Canada and for Russia.
Turn on the game and throw your remotes away. It'll be a barn-burner.
"It's going to be a pretty big game for both countries, for both teams," Ovechkin told NHL.com. "It's going to be a pretty fun game, too."
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com
0 1 1 - 2CAN
1 3 4 - 8First Period
1. CAN, Thornton (Heatley, Keith) 0:13 Penalties
- Schmidt GER (high sticking) 5:29Second Period
2. CAN, Weber (Richards) 2:32
3. CAN, Iginla (Doughty, Staal) 3:41 (PPG)
4. CAN, Iginla (Staal, Boyle) 8:50
5. GER, Goc (Schmidt, Muller) 16:34 Penalties
- Seidenberg GER (slashing) 3:26, Heatley CAN (cross checking) 4:15, Niedermayer CAN (tripping) 6:34, Sulzer GER (hooking) 11:23.Third Period
6. CAN, Crosby (Staal, Keith) 1:10
7. CAN, Richards (Morrow, Toews) 6:41
8. CAN, Niedermayer (Unassisted) 11:22
9. CAN, Nash (Pronger) 16:28
10.GER, Klinge (Muller, Hospelt) 19:58 Penalties
- Niedermayer CAN (hooking) 9:03SHOTS ON GOALGER
4 10 9 - 23CAN
14 11 14 - 39Goaltenders
(goals-shots against) - GER: Greiss (L, 8-39); CAN: Luongo (W, 2-23).
(goals-chances) - GER: 0-3; CAN: 1-3.