Canada v. Russia Post-Game: Unbelievable

It was supposed to be epic.  It was supposed to be a classic.  It was supposed to be close!  Yes, it was supposed to be the tournament's two best teams, meeting unexpectedly in the quarterfinals, fighting tooth and nail to the bitter end to determine who would march on as favourites for gold and who would leave Vancouver with nothing.  But after five minutes it was 1-0.  After fifteen minutes, 3-1, and by the end of the first period, 4-1.  Nervous giddiness spread through the crowd.  A 4-1 lead is not insurmountable but it wouldn't be easy.  Everyone knew it.  Then less than five minutes into the second the Canadians led 6-1 and the party was on.  Maxim Afinogenov's second Russian goal didn't stir the kind of fear you expected from a Russian goal before the game.  It wasn't just the four-goal margin but also the way it had been built.  The Canadians were physically dominant, hitting, winning battles along the boards and in open ice.  The Russians couldn't break enough cycles, couldn't block enough shots, couldn't stop enough cross-ice passes.  The goal didn't stir fear because the 6-2 score was a fair reflection of the play.  The Russians were outscored 3:1 because, improbably, they were outchanced 3:1 and Evgeni Nabokov couldn't make the big save.  Heck, he couldn't make the small save.  Before the seventh goal entered the net he couldn't make any save at all, having been relegated to the bench.

And then it happened.  "We Want Swe-Den! We Want Swe-Den! We Want Swe-Den!"  With five minutes left the Russians were treated no different than the Germans - the Germans! - as the fans looked forward to the next game (for the record, I want Slovakia).  They were as nothing, like a Barry Horowitz-level jobber, a mere stepping stone in a larger more important storyline.  With five minutes left they were of no consequence.  The Russians were of no consequence.  The Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk Russians.   Unbelievable. 

For more detail-oriented analysis on Canada-Russia, including play-by-play and line matching, it's after the jump.

Today I decided to pay a bit more attention to matchups but didn't think I'd be able to note everyone on both clubs, so I noted two (or three) of the Russian forwards that the Canadian line faced for most of their shift.  It should at least give us some idea of what the coaches were doing.  To make things easier on the eyes, the Canadians are marked by their jersey numbers and for the Russians I used their initials.  I have a guide for both before the data.

2 - Duncan Keith
6 - Shea Weber
7 - Brent Seabrook
8 - Drew Doughty
10 - Brenden Morrow
11 - Patrick Marleau
12 - Jarome Iginla
15 - Dany Heatley
16 - Jonathan Toews
18 - Mike Richards
19 - Joe Thornton
20 - Chris Pronger
21 - Eric Staal
22 - Dan Boyle
24 - Corey Perry
27 - Scott Niedermayer
37 - Patrice Bergeron
51 - Ryan Getzlaf
61 - Rick Nash
87 - Sidney Crosby

AM - Alexei Morozov
AO - Alex Ovechkin
AR - Alex Radulov
AS - Alex Semin
DZ - Denis Zaripov
EM - Evgeni Malkin
IK - Ilya Kovalchuk
MA - Maxim Afinogenov
PD - Pavel Datsyuk
SF - Sergei Fedorov
SZ - Sergei Zinoviev
VK - Viktor Kozlov

First Period

61-16-18 and 27-06 NZ FO v. AO/EM/AS
61-16-18 and 27-06 NZ FO v. AO/EM
21-87-12 and 02-08 v. PD/IK/MA
15-19-11 and 20-07 OZ FO Icing v. AM/SZ/DZ
10-51-24 and 20-22 v. ??/?? ends in Cdn. GOAL

61-16-18 and 27-06 NZ FO v. AO/EM
21-87-12 and 02-08 v. PD/IK
15-19-11 and 20-07 v. AM/SZ
10-51-24 and 02-08 v. AR/SF/VK
10-51-24 and 27-06 DZ FO v. AR/SF
61-16-18 and 27-06 v. AO/EM
61-16-18 and 27-06 OZ FO v. AO/EM
21-87-12 and 02-08 v. PD/IK
15-19-11 and 02-08 v. PD/IK
21-87-12 and 20-07 OZ FO v. AM/SZ ends in Cdn. penalty in DZ

37-10 and 27-06 DZ FO
16-18 and 27-06 DZ FO
37-10 and 02-08
11-61 and 02-08
16-18 and 27-06 DZ FO
11-61 and 27-06
37-10 and 02-08 DZ FO penalty ends

21-87-37 and 20-22 DZ FO v. ??/??
21-87-27 and 20-22 DZ FO v. ??/?? with 37 to bench on clear
21-87-12 and 20-22 v. ??/?? ends in Rus. penalty in their DZ

21-87-12 and 02-08 OZ FO
15-19-11 and 02-08
15-19-11 and 22-06 ends in Cdn. GOAL

61-16-18 and 27-06 NZ FO v. AO/EM ends in Cdn. GOAL

21-87-12 and 02-08 NZ FO v. PD/IK
10-51-24 and 20-07 DZ FO v. ??/??
10-51-24 and 20-07 OZ FO v. AR/SF ends in Rus. GOAL

61-16-18 and 27-06 NZ FO v. AO/EM
15-19-11 and 02-08 v. AO/PV
21-87-12 and 02-08 OZ FO v. PD/IK
10-51-24 and 27-06 OZ FO v. AO/EM and Cdn. make immediate change with wrong match
61-16-18 and 27-06 v. AO/EM
10-51-24 and 02-22 v. AM/SZ ends in Cdn. GOAL

15-19-11 and 20-07 NZ FO v. AR/SF
21-87-12 and 27-06 v. PD/IK
21-87-12 and 27-06 OZ FO v. PD/IK
61-16-18 and 27-06 v. PD/IK
19-16-18 and 02-08 DZ FO v. AO/EM with 16 taking faceoff

Second Period

61-16-18 and 27-06 NZ FO v. AO/EM
21-87-12 and 02-08 DZ FO v. PD/IK
15-19-11 and 02-08 v. PD/IK
15-19-11 and 02-08 DZ FO Icing v. AM/SZ
15-19-11 and 20-22 v. AM/SZ
10-51-24 and 02-07 v. AR/SF ends in Cdn. GOAL

61-16-18 and 27-06 NZ FO v. AO/EM
12-87-16 and 27-06 v. AO/EM ends in Cdn. GOAL

21-87-12 and 02-08 NZ FP v. PD/IK ends in Rus. GOAL (19 on for 87 in bad change)

15-19-11 and 20-22 NZ FO v. AM/SZ
10-51-24 and 02-07 v. EM/VK/AR
61-16-18 and 27-06 OZ FO v. AO/SF/AS
21-87-12 and 02-08 NZ FO v. AO/SF/AS
61-16-18 and 02-08 v. PD/IK
15-19-11 and 20-22 v. PD/IK
10-51-24 and 02-07 NZ FO v. AM/SZ
21-51-24 and 02-07 v. AM/SZ
21-87-12 and 20-22 NZ FO v. EM/AR
61-16-18 and 27-06 v. AO/SF ends in Cdn. penalty in DZ

37-18 and 27-06 DZ FO ends in Rus. GOAL

61-16-18 and 27-06 NZ FO v. AO/SF
21-87-12 and 02-08 OZ FO Icing v. AO/SF
15-19-11 and 02-08 v. ??/?? ends in Rus. penalty in their DZ

15-19-11 and 22-06 OZ FO
21-87-12 and 02-08
10-87-12 and 02-08 penalty ends

10-51-61 and 20-07 v. PD/IK
61-16-18 and 27-06 v. AO/??
15-19-11 and 27-06 v. AO/IK
15-19-11 and 02-22 NZ FO v. AO/SF
21-87-12 and 20-22 v. VK/EM
10-51-24 and 02-08 v. PD/IK
10-51-24 and 02-08 DZ FO Icing v. PD/IK ends in Cdn. penalty in DZ

16-18 and 27-06 DZ FO
37-10 and 27-06 DZ FO

Third Period

16-18 and 27-06 NZ FO
37-10 and 27-20
37-18 and 20-08
87-61 and 27-06 DZ FO penalty ends

21-87-12 and 02-07 OZ FO v. ??/??
61-16-18 and 27-?? NZ FO v. AO/SF/EM ends in Rus. penalty in their DZ

51-87-12 and 02-08 OZ FO with 51 replacing 12 who left ice injured on previous shift
15-19-11 and 22-06 NZ FO
10-51-24 and 20-22 penalty ends

61-16-18 and 27-08 v. AO/SF/EM
21-87-12 and 27-08 v. AM/SZ ends in Rus. penalty in NZ

61-51-24 and 20-27 OZ FO
61-87-24 and 20-27
15-19-11 and 02-08 penalty ends

61-16-18 and 27-06 OZ FO v. PD/IK
21-87-12 and 20-08 NZ FO v. AO/EM
21-87-12 and 20-08 OZ FO Icing v. AO/EM
10-51-24 and 02-07 v. SZ/AM
15-19-11 and 22-08 v. PD/IK
61-16-18 and 20-07 v. AS/AR
21-87-12 and 27-06 DZ FO v. AS/AR/VK
61-16-18 and 02-08 DZ FO v. AO/EM
10-51-24 and 20-?? DZ FO v. PD/IK
10-51-24 and 27-06 DZ FO v. PD/IK
15-19-11 and 27-06 v. PD/IK
15-19-11 and 02-08 NZ FO v. AS/AR/VK
15-19-11 and 02-20 v. AS/AR/VK ends in Cdn. penalty in DZ

37-10 and 27-06 DZ FO
16-18 and 27-06
16-10 and 27-06
37-10 and 02-08 DZ FO
11-61 and 02-08 penalty ends

21-87-12 and 27-22 v. AR/AS/VK ends in both Rus. and Cdn. penalties

19-11 and 02-08 NZ FO
19-11 and 02-08 NZ FO
16-61 and 27-20
87-21 and 27-20 NZ FO
37-10 and 27-06 penalty ends

10-37-24 and 02-06 v. ??/??
15-19-11 and 02-08 DZ FO v. ??/??

End of Game

For the second straight game, it seems to me the most relevant data for how the Canadian coaches will act going forward comes from the first period.  Both coaches seemed to feel comfortable with the same matchups at first.  Crosby was kept away from Ovechkin and Ovechkin was kept away from Crosby.  Instead of Crosby Babcock chose to go with the Nash-Toews-Richards group and they were very effective in that "checking" role, especially considering the two guys with Ovechkin to start the game were Semin and Malkin.  That line (along with the revamped Ducks line) were put together at the end of the German game and looked good.  I thought they might start this game together so I'll just give myself a hearty pat on the back for getting that one right.  I get enough wrong that it's gratifying.  On paper, these guys are probably the softest match so I can understand (despite Pierre McGuire's incessant protest) why the Russian coach persisted for so long.  If you need to avoid this match, who the hell are you going to go after?  The question was answered once when the Russian coach put Ovechkin-Malkin-Semin against Getzlaf's unit with the Ducks out for an OZ draw.  Babcock got those guys the hell off the ice in a hurry which leads me to believe he doesn't think too much of their defensive chops.  Either that or the match he had was working so he wanted to just keep it going. 

Crosby's line, meanwhile, generally went up against Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk and Maxim Afinogenov.  Not your traditional checking line but Datsyuk is Russia's best defensive forward so giving him the Crosby match makes sense.  I was surprised the Russian coach gave him those two wingers but it's not like there are a lot of soft matchups to exploit against the Canadians, so maybe it makes some sense to have some counter-punch on the line and make Crosby think about playing defence.

That left the Sharks line and the Ducks line with easier pickings.  The all-KHL line probably wasn't the strongest unit to begin with and considering Zinoviev's injury they were very exploitable.  Sergei Fedorov, meanwhile, did not look very good in this game.  He's fine enough against most teams in this tournament on the fourth line but the Canadians had enough depth to make him look bad.  The Ducks line did a better job of making things happen than the Sharks group for the first time in the tournament.  Good timing for them.

Much like last game Bergeron was a faceoff/PK specialist which is fine.  You'd almost rather they bring in an actual specialist for the role but I guess Bergeron is a good enough player that he can fill in if there's an injury without a huge dropoff (depending on which player he needs to fill in for of course).

On defence they continued to go with the Niedermayer-Weber and Keith-Doughty pairings through the first.  They seem to have settled on Pronger-Seabrook as the third pairing and were rotating Dan Boyle (who had his best game by far) into the lineup here and there.  That looks pretty good to me and at this point those top two pairings might even be getting comfortable with one another.  That said, Niedermayer allowed another breakaway in this game.  He just doesn't seem aware of guys getting behind him without the puck.  A disturbing trend.  But on the whole he and Weber did a good job of playing "shut-down" against Ovechkin and co.

I introduced the day as a great day for hockey, and it certainly was that!  The four-line game is working well and I don't expect any significant changes two days from now.

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