That was quite simply one of the most remarkable nights in the history of Canadian hockey. We have never beaten the Russians that badly—not for 50 years, at any rate.
That’s as much a statement about Russian timidity and disorganization as it is about Canadian verve and aggressiveness: the Russians looked jittery from the start, particularly on defence, as the big, marauding Canadian forwards ran right over them. Russia’s defencemen left man after man unmarked, and the Canadians made them pay for it with slickly timed passes to the goalmouth.
Going into this tournament, I had thought the strength of the Canadian team was their defence, and certainly Shea Weber and Duncan Keith have emerged as stars of the team. But it’s the Canadian forwards that have proven to be the power on this team. Between them, they have scored nearly 6 goals a game. And, unlike the Russians, they have shown some balance on the attack: five of Canada’s seven goals tonight were scored by their third and fourth lines. Russia has relied throughout almost entirely on its big guns—Ovechkin, Malkin, Kovalchuk, Semin, Datsyuk—and an impressive battery they generally are. But shut them down—Datsyuk has been invisible, Ovechkin hot and cold—and there’s little left.
But that still doesn’t explain this extraordinary shellacking. I think psychology does. That was an angry, determined Canadian team we saw, their pride still smarting from the near-disaster vs Switzerland and the defeat at the hands of the Americans. They took it out on the poor Germans last night, but it was clear that wasn’t going to satisfy them. The Russians walked into a buzzsaw from the opening whistle, and it plainly unnerved them.
But: will this massive win take the edge off? Will they be as sharp, as ferocious the next time?