We knew this day would come. Canadians and Russians alike wanted this day to come. But wait... there's no medal on the line?!
Today - February 24 2010 - Team Canada and Team Russia will battle for a chance to make it to the semi-finals. Yep, this do or die game tonight, is only a quarter final game. That means one of the two biggest, greatest forces in hockey won't make it to medal contention.
And the question echoed around the world is "How the hell did this happen?"
My answer is Babcock. Mike Babcock is not coaching this team effectively and his decisions have been questionable at best.
Starting Luongo was okay in Game 1 because Norway wasn't a threat and it was Luongo's home ice. Both Brodeur and Luongo were in a slight slump in the NHL at the time the games were halted and they began this Olympic quest. Lou nailed a shut-out.
But we started slow against Norway - slower than we should have. The lines were being juggled but I understood, babcock was just trying to find the best fit. And he did when he lined up Crosby with Iginila. We took off. Iginila scored a hat trick! By the end of the game I felt like Team Canada had found their legs and lines. That we were starting the long haul for gold on the right foot.
Then is game 2 against Switzerland.... I couldn't find the Crosby-Iginla line that had worked so well. Babcock was mixing it up yet again. Why?! And Brodeur was in net. We started slow again. Too slow. It's like they're 3 year olds Babcock has awoken in the middle of the night and thrown them into skates and it's not until the 2nd period that they realize they're in the middle of a game. We took too long to get started and Jonas Hiller was too good. More importantly Brodeur was not good.
One of the 2 goals scored by Switzerland to tie the game, should never have gotten in. It was cheap and easy. Luckily Brodeur did stand on his head in a shoot out and Sidney Crosby - the best player on the face of the planet right now - finally woke up and scored on his 2nd shoot out shot. We won, but a tie isn't worth full points. Luckily, miraculously for us, Russia on the very same day also ened up in a shoot out with Slovakia and some how Alexander the Great, Number 8, didn't find the net. Russia lost.
My thoughts at that point were, okay, we'll kick the USA's Ralph Lauren wearing asses (really? Giant polo horses on your Winter Olypic gear makes sense?!) and move ahead of Russia and let them struggle for a medal shot.
But Kesler announced he hated Canadians (way to go douchebag, you still have to play IN Canada when this is done, for a team whose fans know ow to hold a grudge) and he wasn't kidding. The Americans came out full force and Ryan Miller was on fire. Babcock was switching lines like the players were icons on slot machines in Vegas. Crosby-Nash-Staal, Nash-Iginla-whatever. it was a gong show. Babcock had the nation fuming.
Brodeur sucked. No other words for it. Brodeur totally sucked. He spent the majority of the game flailing like a fish. And his "incredible puck-handling skills" landed a puck on the stick of a USA player who promptly put it in Brodeur's net. He should have been pulled after the 1st period but Babcock didn't do it. After a loss of 5-3 that shattered a nation's dreams, the chants could be heard throughout Vancouver.
"Luongo! Luongo! Luongo!"
Canada wants Bobby Lou. And as we fought German for a chance to stay in it, we got Roberto Luongo and he did great! His size, his flexibility and his experience in hard situations came through. For those who aren't a Canucks fan, here is why Luongo is the best goalie choice now that we're under the gun (why he should have stayed #1 goalie the entire series so far). Team Canada hasn't been playing to the best of their abilities. Luongo has consisitently gotten the Canucks to the playoffs and kept them in the playoffs - standing on his head, making save after save while the Sedin Twins fall asleep and the rest of the team shits the bed. It happens every freaking year. And he comes through.
Luongo is used to it. Luongo can do it.
Babcock seems to finally be sticking with what works. Crosby & Iginla were line mates once again against Germany and it worked. Luongo worked. Hell even Niedermyer showed up and made his presence known.
But Russia... was what we did against the Germans going to be enough against Russia? I can't say for sure. I know Russia has it's own weaknesses - defence primarily. I know that Ovechkin has had off days too in this tournament. I know Crosby has beaten Ovechkin more than once and can definitely do that again. I know Ovechikin is a dirty, sneaky son of a bitch who checks hard and dirty (Jager). I know if he pulls that again, we may actually have him ejected. Olympic rules are no purposeful hits to the head or neck. And no fights.
If Ovie doesn't get kicked out for an illegal hit, our boys (Pronger, Weber, Nash, Crosby) better keep their heads because Ovechkin will be pushing buttons as much as he will be making slapshots. No fights Pronger. No fights.
My dream would be that Ovie gets carried away and does something illegal and gets kicked out. That we come out and start the first period the way we've started the 2nd and 3rd in other games. Hard, fast, dominating. That Crosby and Iginla keep scoring together. That Luongo stands on his head. That Russia shits the bed.
That we win. Please hockey Gods may we win.
We can do it. It's going to be a dog fight but we can do it. I believe.