Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Team Canada mauls Russian bears

Hoser hockey just the ticket for taking out Ovechkin & Co.

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VANCOUVER -- Attention, world: Hockey's sleeping giant has awakened and it is now not only in an extremely foul mood but is hungry to kick some serious butt and take names.

Serving up the kind of performance so many in this country have desperately craved since the Olympics opened, Canada's men's Olympic hockey team absolutely pulverized the Russians 7-3 in a quarter-final slaughter Wednesday night that was textbook hoser hockey.

It began with Shea Weber hammering Maxim Afinogenov in the first minute and continued with a relentless attack that came from all over the ice in arguably this country's most complete Olympic effort since defeating the Americans in Salt Lake City in 2002 to capture gold.

Think about that for a moment: Canada 7 Russia 3.

And, remember, Russia entered the Olympics ranked No. 1 by the International Ice Hockey Federation and as winner of the last two world championships, and Canada hadn't beaten them in Olympic play since 1960.

Yowza.

Canada is now just two wins shy of a coveted gold medal and will likely play Sweden in the semifinal, depending on the result of their late quarter-final Thursday against Slovakia.

If they can get by the Tre Kronor, it could set up a gold-medal rematch with the United States, who handed Canada its only loss of the tournament in the round robin.

"We definitely wanted to get the crowd involved right away, and that's one way: getting physical on one of their top guns," Weber said. "This has been a great experience so far, but we're not done yet. You dream as a kid growing up of (a crowd) like that."

Based on Wednesday's performance, they're not done by a long shot.

Among the developments within the game that these eyes found encouraging:

"ö Winnipeg's Jonathan Toews continued to be one of Canada's dominant players, setting up two more goals -- he now has seven assists in five games -- and standing out in both ends of the rink. Toews and his linemates Rick Nash and Kenora's Mike Richards were buzzing from the opening whistle and were matched up against Russia's top line of Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Semin.

Chew on these numbers: Ovechkin, Malkin and Semin had combined for 11 points in three games, but against the Toews line... nada. Ovechkin had three shots, but the high-powered trio were completely shut down and were a combined -6 against the Winnipeg product.

Ovechkin blew off reporters, including Russian journalists, in the post-game mixed zone, but offered this to a post-game TV audience:

"We were not surprised about how they were going to start," Ovechkin said. "I think we were not ready for the first five minutes of the game When we woke up, it was too late. It was 3-0."

Toews, Nash and Richards, meanwhile, combined for four points of their own.

"You've got your work cut out for you when you play against a line like that," Toews said. "We knew what to expect. We watched video on them and did the job we had to."

"ö Defenceman Dan Boyle, who had been criticized for his indifferent play, was spectacular, and his first period was as dominant as any stretch in his hockey career. Boyle had a goal and two assists, all in the first period.

"ö Goaltender Roberto Luongo, making his second straight start after replacing Martin Brodeur, made several key stops, kicking out 25 of 28 shots, including blanking Malkin on a breakaway that had the crowd chanting "Luuuuuuuuuuuu!"

"ö Canada, whose previous three wins were against lightweights Norway, Switzerland and Germany, got goals from six scorers: Corey Perry (2) and singles by Boyle, Nash, Ryan Getzlaf and Brenden Morrow and Weber. Interestingly, the offensive explosion came with Sidney Crosby not registering a point despite some outstanding work.

By games' end the rabid crowd of 17,740 were chanting "We want Sweden!"

"When your backs are against the wall and it's do or die, sometimes that brings out your best," said Team Canada forward Brenden Morrow.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

 

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 25, 2010 C3

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