I find I don’t have much to say about Canada’s game against Germany last night. It was probably their best overall game. There was not a moment in the game when Canada did look dominant over Germany last night. From Joe Thornton’s first period goal to make it one nothing, all the way through the three goals in the second period (including two by Jarome Iginla, playing well on the top line again and a monster blast by Shea Weber), all the way through the four goals scored in the third – including Rick Nash finally breaking through, Canada looked like the vastly superior team to Germany that they are. Roberto Luongo was solid in net last night. The two goals that Germany scored were the result of two defensive breakdowns by Canada, and cannot be blamed on Luongo – especially the second goal where he made a tremendous first save.
The line combinations also worked last night. Putting Eric Staal on with Sidney Crosby and Jarome Iginla resulted in three goals, and dominant play all night from the line. Of course the San Jose line of Heatley, Marleau and Thornton kept going strong – getting the games first goal. I liked Rick Nash with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry who had their best game of the tournament so far, but also liked Nash with Jonathan Toews and Mike Richards – which is the line he was on with for his goal. It will be interesting to see if they keep him there, and put Morrow on with Getzlaf and Perry, who also played well with both pairs. Toews, who has been one of Canada’s best, most consistent forwards, continues to do great no matter who they put out with, and Richards and Morrow continue to impress as well.
In terms of defensemen, I thought that once again Drew Doughty and Duncan Keith were Canada’s best two defensemen – although Shea Weber with that wicked shot that literally tore through the net, and a solid game overall was not far behind. Brent Seabrook had more ice time last night, and continued to impress me – making me believe that the big, defensive defensemen will see more ice time tonight against Russia. Scott Niedermayer played better than he had all tournament – and got a goal for his efforts as a bonus. Chris Pronger and Dan Boyle continued to struggle a bit – and that is why they didn’t get the ice time they are used to. Whether this is a sign of things to come, or whether Babcock is just trying to piss them off a little bit so they’ll play better, we won’t know until tonight.
So, now we have the marquee matchup we have waited all tournament for. Everyone knew that if either of these teams were to win gold, they would have to go through the other – everyone just thought it wouldn’t be this early – but screw ups by both teams have put them in this situation. The key tonight for Canada will be to get a great performance out of Luongo in net, be solid defensively, not take many penalties, and to get traffic in front of Nabokov in the Russian zone. If they do all those things, then I think Canada can win. Russia can be an explosively offsensive team – and since they put Semin, Ovenchkin and Malkin out together against the Czech’s, they have become even better. Despite all the talk of a Crosby/Ovechkin showdown, I suspect that both teams will try and keep them away from each other and match the other team’s best with more a shutdown group. I know I cannot wait.
Looking at the other quarter final games, I cannot help but want to see some sort of upset. Despite the fact that the Slovaks beat Russia in a shootout, and the Swiss pushed Canada to a shootout in the Round Robin, neither can be seen as all that shocking. The Latvians gave the Czechs all they could handle last night, forcing overtime, but the Czechs ended up prevailing.
So today, I will be cheering for the Swiss against the Americans. The Swiss have already proven they can shock powerhouses, and stayed with the Americans in their Round Robin Game where they lost 3-1. The key for them will be their goalie, Jonas Hiller, outplaying America’s Ryan Miller, and keeping the score low. Then anything can happen. I would also love for the Slovaks – who are always just outside the top 6 hockey powerhouses – to knock off the Swedes. In the game between the Finns and the Czechs there will be no upset no matter who wins (the same thing can be said about the game between the Canadians and the Russians). But I’ll cheer for the Czechs.
But we can analyze all that after today. No matter what happens tonight between Canada and Russia, I believe we are going to see a great game. Both teams will have to be better than they have been in the tournament so far. I cannot wait.