Canada romps past Russia

Russian firepower fizzles

By CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency


Canada's Jarome Iginla fights for the puck with Russia's Konstantin Korneyev in front of Evgeni Nabokov. (Andre Forget/QMI AGENCY)




Canada crushes Russia in quarterfinal

VANCOUVER - He was a player the coach said had been thinking too much.

Now, Canada’s Dan Boyle has helped give a whole country something to think about.

The Ottawa native was one of many Canadian players whose games, missing in action, mired in indecision, suddenly flourished Wednesday night in a brilliant opening period, kicking Russia to the curb in a game that was even more lopsided than the 7-3 score would indicate.

The win sends Canada to Friday’s semifinal, against the winner of the Sweden-Slovakia game late Wednesday night.

After things looked bleak following the loss to Team USA Sunday — and Team Canada executive director Steve Yzerman had asked for patience for the “good people who want to do Canada proud” — Canada is now just two wins away from a men’s hockey gold.

Hands up everybody who saw this coming.

The Canadians were overwhelming in their effort against the Russians, who looked nervous and disorganized, driving the GM Place crowd to new levels of energy. This is Canada’s first win over a Russian/Soviet Union team at the Olympics since 1960.

Boyle, a riverboat gambler of a defenceman who was on this team for his deft puck-handling and pure instincts, had a goal and two assists when the game was fresh and still looking for definition, helping Canada set a pace the Russians could not match.

That Boyle did it in just two minutes and 27 seconds of ice time in the first period made it all the more remarkable.

“I told myself to relax and play the way I can. The first goal kind of got me going,” Boyle said. “It just made it that much easier the rest of the way.

“It’s hard not get butterflies and I thought we handled the butterflies as well as we have all tournament. I thought we played fairly stress-free in the first. That was the key to winning.”

Boyle is an instinctive player, said Canadian coach Mike Babcock, and needed to play that way.

He might have been talking about most of the team.

Ryan Getzlaf, who also had his best game of the Olympics, finished off a brilliant Boyle rush before the game was three minutes old, igniting the flag-waving crowd.

Boyle scored one himself near the 12-minute mark and just 46 seconds after that, Rick Nash made it 3-0 off the rush against a shaky-looking Evgeni Nabokov, who would finish the night on the bench.

The Canadians were off and running, playing one of the most impressive periods of hockey in recent memory.

“We were slowly boiling and once the puck dropped to start the game, we were ready and we were firing,” said Canadian forward Eric Staal. “We got that goal right away to get it started. We had a lot of passion. The atmosphere was unbelievable. It was a lot of fun out there.”

Babcock created a checking line of Nash, Jonathan Toews and Mike Richards and Russian coach Vyacheslav Bykov didn’t try and get his top line of Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Semin away from that group. Bykov’s inflexibility, despite having the last change, will no doubt be a key point in the criticism he will face in the wake of his team’s defeat.

Ovechkin wound up pointless with just three shots and was minus-2 on the night. He was mocked by the chanting crowd.

“As long as we kept the puck, that was defence to us. They really don’t want to go after you and get it back,” Toews said.

As the third period ground down, the crowd chanted for Sweden.

Canada, a country that thinks hockey is its game, lives to get another chance to prove it.

“It’s going to be one country’s game, but we try to prove on a regular basis it’s ours. I’m a bit of a redneck,” Babcock said, “and think it’s ours.”

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

POLL