If there were any doubts as to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s priories, they were erased during an unannounced Friday night visit to Canada House, the sporting embassy on the Sochi Olympic grounds. He came in peace: “let us wish to meet our hockey teams in the final,” he said through a translator, wishing Canada luck: “except in hockey.”
Well, that would be a game for the ages, unlike Canada’s predictable 6-0 shelling of the Austrians Friday at the Bolshoy Ice Dome. It wasn’t exactly the St. Valentines massacre, but the outcome was never in doubt.
Coach Mike Babcock had demanded more traffic in front of the opposition net after Thursday’s tentative outing saw Canada beat Norway by just 3-1 in their first outing. Jeff Carter of the L.A. Kings was obviously listening. He planted himself in front of keeper Mathias Lange and batted in three rebounds: ratta-tat-tat. A natural hat trick.
“It just kind of happened,” he said. “ I was in the right place at the right time for pretty much all of them.”
If Carter was expecting a blizzard of hats to shower from the stands he was disappointed. Russians hang onto their rubles, so did the frugal Canadians and Austrians in the crowd. “Someone told me that Olympic gear is pretty expensive,” he said, “so they didn’t want to lose it.”
Carter did hang onto his hat-trick puck, however, though not for want of trying to give it away to goalie Roberto Luongo, who got the shut out in his first start. “He didn’t want it,” said Carter.
Luongo shrugged afterwards, saying Carter deserved the disk. “He got the hat trick so I was trying to give it back to him,” he said. “I’ve got plenty of pucks back home so I wanted him to keep that one.”
What Luongo would really like to hang onto is the role of starting goalie. He was solid in net and the speedy Austrians did have a few quality chances, but neither he, nor Carey Price, have had a serious test under fire.