Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Canada vs. Russia: Oh, baby...

Wow. So this is what it comes down to: Canada vs. Russia, and only the winner has a chance at a medal.

No point in waiting 700 words to get this out of the way: I really like Canada's chances.

I don't think I have anything different to say about Russia than I would have before the Olympics, except maybe that Nabokov looks more than adequate, so it's doubtful that their goaltending will cost them the game. (Unless it goes to a shootout: I really don't want to contemplate facing Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, Afinogenov & Datsyuk on breakaways, but Nabokov's 0.385 SV% in the S/O is some comfort there.)

I think the $64,000 question in this game, and the 3 other QF games as well, is, "Who's ready to play well in their 6th game in 8 days?" I think we'll see some results that will differ from what we would see if it was the 5th game in 12 days: how could it not?

And as much as "legs" will be a determining factor in the games as a whole, in games that are close or tied late (or go to OT), it'll be just about the only relevant factor. Who is going to be forcing mistakes, and who's going to be scrambling to cover for them?

The general answer is that the players with the comparative advantage will be the youngest, the freshest, and the fittest. Russia may have the advantage when it comes to youth, with Ilya, Ocho, and Malkin. The Canadians should be as fresh, or fresher: as far as I can tell, they've basically been rolling 4 lines and 6-7 defensemen for all 5 prelim games.

Who's fittest is a trickier question. When they test for it in training camp on the stationary bike, it always seems to be some 3rd-liner or goon that's the fittest player on the team, and yet late in tough, tight games, it's remarkably(!) almost always the most talented players who seem to still have the pep to make things happen.

The good news for Canada is that there's one player who has basically made his living over the past couple of years scoring 3rd period goals and running roughshod in OT, and I have the distinct pleasure of following him on a game-by-game basis, as he's the captain of the Flames.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but comparatively speaking, Jarome Iginla gets better as fatigue should be setting in. Obviously I have some home-team bias here, so I'll try to itemize some evidence:
He's not clutch per se, he's just live when everyone else seems to be sucking wind. I expect him to be noticeably tough in 3rd period tomorrow, not to mention for the remainder of the compacted NHL schedule.

Hopefully the refs aren't too picky, and we see a great game. Like most Canadians, my biggest worry is that the team is too distracted by Wayne Gretzky and his wife's gambling to play well (What? Oh.). I'm calling a 3-2 victory for the True North Strong And Free. Go Canada.


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God, you are such a homer. Iginla has sucked ass for a week, if not the whole season, and you are predicting he steps up based on the 2002 Olympics? The title of your post should have been "Whither/ Wither Iginla".

It's true. I'm a terrible homer. That said, "sucked ass" is a strange characterization for the top scorer on a 1st place team. Who was beating brains in during the Spring of '04 while your guys were pinching the cart girl's ass at the Derrick.

Maybe I'm wrong, and Jarome has simply passed his prime. We'll see.

Here's a question for all of you's: If 19-year-old Evgeni Malkin were a Canadian, would Wayne Gretzky have picked him for Team Canada?

It's a shame a couple non-producers like Nash and Lecavalier (from what I've seen anyway) can't go down and allow the fresh legs of Staal and Spezza to get out there. Those guys would be raring to go by this point.

That's kinda weird you're worried about Wayne's wife's gambling. I'd think that'd have nothing to do with this game at the Olympics.


Ah, should have used the [sarcasm] tags instead of the overstrike, whoops.

Thank god we had Iginla. Without a great player like him we might have lost in the quarterfinals.

Who is this "Iginla" guy you speak of?

Where is this "Gold medal chance" that I heard of?

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