I'll go all-junior this morning and a bit long, after Canada defends its world under-19 title, their 5-0 win over Russia a matter of execution over aesthetics -- although they weren't exactly deficient in the latter category as the night went on, generating good scoring chances and ending up virtually even in shots.
|Justin Pogge tastes victory, and victory tastes good.|
But it all started with fundamental hockey: Finish your check (and finish it hard), frustrate future star Evgeni Malkin, get a perfect night from goalie Justin Pogge, and never take a shift off. Everything worked from there, and not even the blemish of a disallowed Russian goal at a critical time in the game turned out to be a factor in the result.
Wish I could say the same for the Vancouver crowd, who continued with their classless ribbing of the Americans in the bronze-medal game. Or the refereeing, that missed goal in the second period the most glaring screwup on an overall night of cheesy calls and no-calls, interference being pretty much ignored in favour of touchy-feely stick infractions and dives.
Bob McKenzie at TSN is calling this a triumph for Brent Sutter, and it's hard to argue. Sutter's game plan and its implementation were just about perfect:
How did he want them to play? Go way back to the 1987 Canada Cup when he played against the Soviet Union.
With Canada down 3-0 to the Soviets, it was guys like Sutter, Rick Tocchet and Doug Gilmour put out on the ice by head coach Mike Keenan to make things happen. That was the spark plug - the deciding factor - needed to win the Canada Cup.
Even when the Russians looked to be ready to run them out of the rink in the first period, the Canadians got big stops from Pogge and never stopped taking the body, and were rewarded late with two critical goals when Russia wilted. The visitors looked to deflate again midway through the second, taking a couple of dumb penalties that led to a pair of power-play goals a good seven or eight minutes after that goal that no one saw until too late.
The IIHF shouldn't be crowing too much about a tournament that, as Damien Cox notes, ended up a $10 million winner at the box office. Cox figures this tournament is now the equal of the Grey Cup in Canada's consciousness, and those revenues, the television numbers and the timing around the holidays have made it a huge hit here:
Having become rich in history and national lore, this tournament has become, for a country addicted to strappin' on the blades, hockey's Grey Cup.
There's a little bit of myth-making involved, sure. Some of these boys already have pro contracts, but they are presented as unspoiled, fresh-faced teenage hockey players who, when told by farmer/coach Brent Sutter to get a haircut if they wanted to play on his team, did so.
Seven of 10 provinces were represented on this year's team, and like every other year, kids from a variety of social and ethnic backgrounds became national celebrities over the past two weeks.
Now if only the IIHF could do something about adding another referee, improving the officiating standards, and fixing replay.
Some other reaction:
Hey Leafs fans, how about a good old fashioned goaltending controversy? Pogge in one corner, and Tuukka Rask, named No. 1 goaltender for the tournament -- one's signed with the Leafs, and the other is their drafted property.
With two successive gold medals and a perfect 12-0 record at the helm, is Sutter ready for the NHL? Not yet, he says. Ken Campbell reports.
And the Globe's Eric Duhatschek dissects pesty Steve Downie's shadow job on Evgeni Malkin.
I've been looking around for some Russian reaction, with no luck. If anyone has any links, send 'em along. Oh, one last thing: That bouncing beer truck commercial, the video equivalent to fingernails on a blackboard. Did we really have to see it FIVE TIMES?