Canuck picks Russia over Canada

Sets up quarter-final meeting with Russia

By CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency


Canada's Sidney Crosby congratulates goalie Roberto Luongo after beating Germany at GM Place in Vancouver, B.C., Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2010. (ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY)

VANCOUVER - Just about every red-blooded Canadian believes Team Canada can take down Russia in sudden-death Wednesday.

But there’s one Canuck who’s picking Alexander Ovechkin and his buddies.

German defenceman Christian Ehrhoff, who plays for the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks, is picking the Russians to beat Canada Wednesday in the Olympic quarterfinal.

Minutes after Canada blasted the Germans 8-2 to punch their ticket to that game, Ehrhoff didn’t hesitate when asked who would win.

“Russia,” he said. “They bring skill, but they also play very hard and physical. They have a great goalie and I think they have the complete package to pull it off here.”

Ehrhoff agreed Canada isn’t yet at the level of team play the Russians and Americans have shown so far.

“I was a little surprised. But it can happen in a tournament,” he said. “You’ve got to get together quick as a team and so far the Russians have done that.”

Canada and Russia will renew their storied rivalry with Canada looking for their first win over the Russians in Olympic play since hockey gold at the Games was spelled CCCP.

Canada hasn’t beaten the Russians at the Olympics since 1960 — 50 years to the month — in a medal-round game on Canada’s way to winning silver.

“That’s a big rivalry, we all know it,” said Canada’s Sidney Crosby, who looked to finally find some chemistry with Eric Staal — his fifth winger of the tournament — and Jarome Iginla. “It’s something that everyone was talking about before the Olympics and whether they thought it would happen in the quarterfinals or whenever.

“The fact is we’ve got a big quarterfinal game and the fact that it’s them just adds more to it. I expect it to be a pretty incredible atmosphere.”

The reality Wednesday is either Crosby or Ovechkin — the two leading faces of the NHL — is going home far short of a gold medal.

The Canadians dominated the Germans, but the question remains: is their game good enough to beat the Russians?

Ehrhoff obviously doesn’t think so. But don’t tell that to the GM Place crowd that chanted “We want Russia” after Rick Nash, with the first goal of his 10-game Olympic career, made it 8-1.

Be careful what you wish for, perhaps?

There were some encouraging signs for Canada in the game. Staal, with three assists, seemed to find some chemistry with Iginla and Crosby.

The fourth line of Brenden Morrow, Mike Richards and Jonathan Toews seemed to find its legs and scored a goal. Young defenceman Drew Doughty just continues to get better with each game.

Defenceman Shea Weber was a force with a goal that literally ripped through the net, making it 2-0.

“They’re a great team,” Weber said of the Russians, “but so are we.”

Roberto Luongo will be back in goal for Canada.

“Everybody says he hasn’t won this, hasn’t won that. His bank account shows he’s a pretty good goalie,” said Team Canada coach Mike Babcock, who replaced Martin Brodeur with Luongo for Tuesday’s game. “Every time we play him, he’s this big wall.”

Canada looked better against the Germans.

But a big question looms: was this a genuine uptick in the quality of the Canadians’ game or just a function of the quality of the opponent?

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

POLL