Russians get revenge on Canucks

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:01 PM ET

CALGARY — The rematch goes to the Russians.

Too bad nobody outside of Europe cares.

What happens at the IIHF world hockey championship is an afterthought in North America at the best of times.

The worlds rank lower than cricket in a year Team Canada has already been crowned the ultimate champion by winning gold at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

It’s a good thing the tournament so often takes place on foreign soil, if only to give Canadian broadcasters a shot at drawing an audience because the time difference means folks can flick on the tube while pouring their cereal or peak at the score during their lunch break.

It would have a hard time competing with syndicated Seinfeld reruns, never mind the NHL post-season, if games were aired in the evening on this side of the Atlantic.

Embarrassed by a 7-3 loss to Canada in the Olympic quarter-final a few months ago in Vancouver, Russian fans and dignitaries seem to believe they got their revenge.

They celebrated every goal in a 5-2 victory over those wearing the Maple Leaf Thursday afternoon as if it were ... well, the Olympics.

Truth is, the rematch was a complete mismatch, and the final score and competitiveness of the game might shame the collection of Russian stars as much as their disappointing performance in Vancouver.

While Canada’s roster included just one member of the gold-medal-winning squad — Corey Perry — the Russians were loaded with 14 of the players who made the trip to Vancouver in February.

All five of their goals came from members of that team — Evgeni Malkin with a pair, Maxim Afinogenov, Pavel Datsyuk and Sergei Fedorov.

But one was an empty netter, and a pair came on the powerplay as the young Canadian group did its best to intimidate the more talented Redshirts on the ice in a way it couldn’t manage on the scoreboard.

Essentially, the Russians beat the Team Canada farm team.

It’s become a trend in Olympic years for the Canadians to send young stars in the making overseas for the tournament.

Part of the reason, of course, is it’s difficult to convince veteran NHLers who already gave up their mid-season break for a chance to win the most-coveted medal in the sport to give up another few weeks to play for a title that pales in comparison.

Let the Euros have their annual flag-waving fight at the worlds. That continent has so many things backwards anyway.

They whistle instead of boo.

Many drive on the wrong side of the road.

And they, for some reason, covet a championship that rarely, if ever, includes all the countries’ best players. Most of those players are usually busy in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Canada, meanwhile, should continue to give its young up-and-comers priority at the worlds — Olympic year or not.

Assuming NHLers continue to be involved, imagine how even an eighth-place finish this year might help rookies Matt Duchene, Tyler Myers, Evander Kane, Michael Del Zotto and John Tavares, sophomore Steven Stamkos four years from now when they’re pushing to make the team that will defend Canada’s gold medal at the 2014 Games in Russia.

It did wonders in 2006 for the likes of Brent Seabrook, Patrice Bergeron, Mike Richards and Sidney Crosby, who all were part of the 2010 gold-medal squad.

As the Russians, Germans, Swedes and Czechs celebrated their semifinal berths in Germany Thursday night, North America got back to the only thing on ice that really matters in the months following the medal ceremony at the Olympics.

Watching the Stanley Cup playoffs.


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