Friday, February 26, 2010

Fifty years of ghosts chased away in one night

Wednesday nights total domination of the once feared Russian hockey machine provided no shortage of instant therapy for the ever anxious Canadian hockey fan. For those with particularly long memories, Wednesday night's victory brought to an end a fifty year drought in Olympic hockey, giving Canada it's first victory over a Russian squad since the 1960 Olympic games, the unofficial beginning of the long running Cold War of the ice.

Beyond soothing the jangled nerves after last Sunday's disappointing loss to the USA and a too close for comfort match with the Swiss earlier, Canada's 7-3 victory in the quarter final has finally put down those undercurrents of panic among the Canadian fan.

Canada's performance on Wednesday was about as perfect a game as one could ever hope to find, the first twenty of the sixty minutes among one for the ages as the Canadians came rushing off the opening face off, leaving the Russians reeling by the end of the first period.

Line after line played the body, took the shots, made the passes and absorbed and delivered the hits, a text book example of all that Canadians hold dear when it comes to how they want to see the game played. For a bonus as though to remind the hockey world that reports of our demise were premature, Canada finally found it's scoring touch after a preamble of games had proven to be more frustrating than instructive.

If Hockey had the knock down count, the game would have been over by the mid point of the second period, a wobbly Russian favourite clearly overwhelmed by the onslaught. The names of the stars of the NHL silent on the scoresheet and on the ice as Ovechkin, Malkin, Kovalchuk, Datsyuk were all but invisible, contained and dominated by Canada's forwards and defencemen who shut down some of the most impressive names on paper, who couldn't bring all that potential to the ice when it was needed the most.

Canada's ability to shut down the powerful Russians while turning on the offence should banish the talk of "what's wrong with our game" for at least a few years now, such is the faith that Team Canada has shown towards it's rising stars in this tournament, many of whom played a key role in Wednesday's victory.

It was a night for a complete team to shine, from the youngest of players eager to show that the decision to select them to the team was a wise one, while the oldsters on the squad reaffirmed the faith of Steve Yzerman with their own stellar performances.

The speed of Team Canada was astounding, the hits punishing,  those twin pillars of Canadian hockey played in a fashion that found favour with the Canada Hockey Place crowd who came perhaps nervously ready to party and by games end once again had dreams of Gold medals dancing in their heads.

There's no doubt that Canada saved their best game for when it was needed the most, when survival was on the line, and now two more dates with destiny beckon, each offering the chance for reward or the bitter bile of disappointment, from Wednesday night's performance the early money should be on reward.

The night brought a team together as an imposing unit with a clear mission in mind and focused on how to get there. At the same time, it was a night that united a country in revelry, reassured that all was well in the land from where the game has come.

When the television numbers come in, we suspect that CTV will find that they controlled the nation's television sets for a good chunk of time, a captive audience more engaged with the night as each of Canada's 7 goals lit up the scoreboard.

Canada next plays the Sovakian squad on Friday night a 6:30 start in Vancouver, over confidence at these times is a as dangerous an opponent as the one on the ice, but one gets the impression that Canada has learned that lesson from the early rounds, with the realization that only with hard work, dedication and an adherence to our style of play, will a gold medal be provided for the homefront medal case.

That work ethic was in full view on Wednesday, we expect nothing less than a repeat performance on Friday and if all goes according to plan, another on Sunday afternoon when a gold medal will be but sixty minutes away.

Globe and Mail-- The noise and the glory
National Post/CBC-- Still much work to be done

This item first appeared on the Hockey Nation blog

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