WC Game Seven: Canada 2 Russia 5
Well that's that then. Having successfully lowered expectations, Canada has been eliminated from the 2010 World Seniors after being thumped 5-2 by Russia in the quarterfinal round Thursday. This is the earliest exit for Canada since also losing in the quarterfinal round in 2002, not so coincidentally the last time Canada won the Olympic gold medal earlier in the season. The 7th-place finish was the worst finish by our nation in 18 years, while the 3-game losing streak that ended the tourney and the overall losing record (3-4) were the first in memory.
5-2 seemed like a bit of a let-off, truth be told. The way this game set up had the makings of a perfect storm: a stacked, motivated Russian team playing a Canadian squad that quite simply wasn't good enough to beat anybody of significance in this tourney. Hearing stats like Russia having 14 returning Olympians, Canada just 1, had me a tad concerned that the final scoreline might look something similar.
In reality, Canada played a decently strong game with an excellent effort, but were clearly the second best team on the ice. Team discipline was an issue in a mean-spirited affair as Canada took 48 minutes in penalties to Russia's 30, including 14 minors to 10 and 2 misconducts to 1.
No surprises as to who led the way in the penalty department. Canada had three guys who stood out from the outset for their well-known douchebaggery. Here's the rap sheet from today:
That's 38 of the 48 PiM right there. Perry - Canada's lone Olympian - was sitting in the box for two Russian goals, joined for one of them by Steven Stamkos who took a brutal boarding penalty at the 20:00 mark of the first. Downie simply made an ass of himself - again - spearing Alex Ovechkin in the groin, slewfooting Alexander Semin, and fighting Sergei Fedorov. The ugly Canadian. Did I mention that team discipline was an issue today? Sigh.
(Edit: It was Corey Perry who speared Ovechkin, not Steve Downie. "Credit" where due. Can't imagine how I could have confused them.)
Score by period:
CAN ...... 0-0-2 = 2
RUS ...... 1-2-2 = 5
Shots by period:
CAN ...... 4-10-13 = 27
RUS ...... 11-10-9 = 30
Another slow start, which plagued Canada all tournament, and another strong third period driven by score effects. Canada missed a number of ten-bell scoring chances earlier in the game, and by the time John Tavares finally beat Semyon Varlamov just 6 minutes remained and Russia had a comfortable 4-0 lead. Canada gave up a late empty netter before Matt Duchene scored an even later consolation goal to bring the final count to 5-2 which was probably a fair score on balance. Russia was clearly the better team, even on a day when Ovechkin didn't have much going at all (0-0-0, just 1 shot). Ilya Kovalchuk, last seen puckhogging his way right out of New Jersey, turned playmaker, distributing three assists over the course of the game. The guy plays about 100 times better for Russia, esp. against Canada, than he ever seems to in the NHL. The KHL beckons.
Chris Mason played another middling game in the Canadian net, making a number of fine saves including one miracle pad stop but allowing a couple to find holes. Max Afinogenov's shot in the last minute of the first which worked its way through the 7-hole was a particular killer, ruining what had been a period of survival to that point. Mind you the Russians had enough shots from point-blank range that a couple were bound to make it through. Nothing less than a superlative game from Mason would have done in this situation, and these last two weeks it just wasn't in him.
So it ends for a team with a lot of Oiler connections, and more than a few regrets:
- GM Mark Messier, who picked Downie;
- Coach Craig MacTavish, who posted a 5-6 record for Canada in two trips to Europe this year;
- assistant Billy Moores who I won't be blaming for anything since I'm not sure what it is he actually does;
- Captain Canada Ryan Smyth, who wrecked his ankle after Game One and whose veteran savvy and tournament experience was sorely missed by the young Team Canada
- replacement Captain Canada Ray Whitney, former Oiler stickboy and (briefly) player, who led the squad in scoring with 8 points in 7 games;
- young hotshot Jordan Eberle, who in 10:05 TOI found himself on the ice for both Canadian goals;
- backup backup goalie Devan Dubnyk, who I'm not sure if he ever even dressed but certainly didn't play a minute
Not good enough in 2010 ... nowhere near good enough. With seven players born in the 90s it was a young team that was always going to be overmatched against the Russians, but they were beaten fair and square by the Czechs, the Swedes, even the Swiss for goodness sake, with all 3 wins coming against minnows. Hopefully some of the young 'uns got some good experience, especially Eberle and Dubnyk. To my eye the best of the youngsters was Duchene, who did something to impress in each and every game (4-3-7). Tavares popped 7 goals, but seemed to run out of bullets when Canada really needed one.
Elsewhere, the host Germans pulled a major surprise, topping Switzerland 1-0 in another mean-spirited affair (121 PiM) to reach the semis for the first time in their history. Their reward? The Russians, followed by a berth in the bronze medal game.
In the morning games the Czechs beat Finland in a nailbiter, 2-1 in the shootout, while Sweden dispatched rising power Denmark 4-2 to set up the other semi. Linus Omarkplayed a strong game and scored the clinching goal for Sweden, while Magnus Pääjärvi-Svensson was held off the scoresheet for what I believe was the first time in the tourney.
The other major news of the day concerned the NHL's recruitment and signing of Swedish referee Marcus Vinnerborg. He'll be the first Euro zebra to cross the pond. This prospect would have been scary a few short years ago, but I have to say I've seen a lot more bad officiating in North America in recent weeks than I did in the 2010 World Championships. So it's good to see the NHL beating the bushes for upgrades.
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Next up: Lufthansa Flight YYZ, crack of dawn