Well, it wasn’t exactly a rematch of the Olympics, but Canada’s defeat at the hands of the Russians might salve some of the wounds from February. In a 5-2 thrashing, some of the Russian Olympic team beat some of the Canadian Olympic team, and it only took 78 penalty minutes to happen!
Today’s game was noteworthy in that Brooks “Lugnut” Laich opposed a ton of his current and former Capitals teammates (Ovechkin, Semin, Fedorov, Kozlov, Varlamov, Rasputin, Zhivago) and didn’t evaporate any friendships in the process. Aside from one tense scrum and a blocked wrister from Varlamov, the friendly rivalry was not a factor in the game. What did matter was the steady drip of penalties leaking from the referee’s whistles. Across twenty seven penalties, the officials dealt out 78 minutes of penalty time (30 for Russia, 48 for Canada). If this wasn’t the most litigated pro hockey game you’ve seen in a while, I do not want to see your hockey games.
When players managed to escape the hungry vacuum of the penalty box, the game was lobsided. Despite having a competent offense, the Canadians did not mount a successful attack until Islander John Tavares beat a couple defenders to score halfway through the third period. Colorado Avalanche Center Matt Duchene snuck one past a screened Semyon Varlamov in the waning seconds, but that was the entire story of the Canadian offense– far short of their opponent’s output. The Russians offensive array struck five times: twice from Penguin (note to self: link to disreputable trade rumor posts here) Evgeni Malkin (one on the PP, one against an empty net), once from Thrasher Maxim Afinogenov, once from Red Wing Pavel Datsyuk, and once from Capital Emeritus Sergei Fedorov. Canadian goalie, Chris Mason of the Blues, simply didn’t have the defensive resources to withstand the Russian onslaught.
The present-day Capitals, Alex Semin and Alex Ovechkin, were silenced aside from a signature high-sticking call from “Sam.” Ovechkin did have a couple fun scraps with goal-scoring leader Steven Stamkos, but it wasn’t anything that would merit ink on any site not actually named after the dude.
Let’s do note that all of Russia’s output came from NHL players (Sergei is still a Cap in our hearts!). RMNB was not alone in dishing out heavy criticism against Russian coach Slava Bykov for stocking his Olympic team with players from the KHL before their dismal loss. Has Bykov learned his lesson, or are the NHL players just outshining the Kontinental contingent? Either way, we feel pretty good about it.
As I said before, the game was a ugly, lightly sauteed in a salty mix of roughings and stick penalties. Sergei Fedorov had a particularly heated exchange with Tampa Bay’s resident dickbag, Steve Downie, but managed to maintain the dignity of hockey’s elder statesman. The loooooong list of infractions on today’s summary sheet will likely raise questions about judicial overreaching in the IIHF. The “let the boys play” approach that NHL refs are notorious for was wholly absent here.
So Team Canada’s jaunt to the world championship ends, and Russia’s continues. Russia is now the heavy favorite to win the gold, but that should be cold comfort for the Russian Capitals, who had a different trophy in mind for the Spring.