Domination, from start to finish
VANCOUVER — Before there was even a game, there was noise.
Before there was the unanticipated and utter dominance — as surprising as it was breathtaking — there was noise in the morning on the streets of Vancouver. Nothing, though, that compared to the noise on the streets at night.
Maybe the noise across an entire nation.
Team Canada came out to play Wednesday night — actually afternoon here in Vancouver — and left no doubt. They were that dominant. They were that absolute. They were that spine-tingling and inspirational to watch. This was Canadian hockey at its very best, fast and physical, emotional and opportunistic.
The message clear Tuesday night for the first time this Olympic tournament. This is our game. This is our home. And now, after the perfunctory angst and over-analysis, this can be our time.
Team Canada didn’t have to own the podium Tuesday — they owned the puck. And in doing, so blew the famed Russian national team right out of the building — so completely that they never really saw it coming.
And almost all the questions about Steve Yzerman’s team — save for the goaltending issue with the not very busy Roberto Luongo — were answered. There was offence. There was defence. There was a physical nature right from the drop of the puck. Canada dominated on the boards and in the cycle game, and managed to supply the kind of offence no Olympic team of NHL players have ever showed at this stage before.
This was one game for everything — until the next one comes Friday. Team Canada had a difficult road to gold after round-robin performance, but the top medal seems attainable now.
This is really where the Olympic tournament began for Canada, and ended for Alexander Ovechkin and his Russian pals. Ovechkin had let it slip not long ago that he wanted to kick Canadian butt right here in Canada.
Yet on Tuesday night, Ovechkin was just another guy in red, not celebrating with the fans wearing the same colour at GM Place.
This was another Ovechkin loss to Sidney Crosby, but in every conceivable way it was far more than that. What looked dismal just a day or so ago, now looks a whole lot more like gold. There is another game to win, against the winner of Sweden and Slovakia, and then the game the whole country was hoping for, waiting for.
Sixty minutes of hockey changed everything; sixty minutes of drive-the-opposition into the boards, drive wide on the Russian defence, a night of all kinds of driving in a building named for a car company.
Right form the start, with the Canadian fans building the moment up to crescendo, the Canadian players came out brilliantly, executing a Mike Babcock game plan that was evident from the first shift, when Mike Richards and Jonathan Toews drove Russian defencemen into the boards. By the time the game was two-and-half minutes old, it was apparent what Canada had come to do.
They put pucks deep. They hit everything. If there was a chance to go wide, they went wide. Team Canada knew exactly what it was doing. Russia had no answer and when it tried to find out, it found that a bunch of individuals were no match for a team.
This ends 50 years of losing to the Russians at the Olympics. Losing with different teams, in different ways. But there has never been a game like this before. With this much on the line — and this kind of Canadian response.
A night to cherish for now. The next game, that one with medal implications, is a day away.
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