One day without Hockey was too much, today it returned back onto the agenda and my God it was good.
As Derby’s football season seems to be imploding back home, Im sat planning on where I want to move to, come my post degree years. Saturday’s in England consist of Football in the Winter and Cricket in the Summer. Over the pond it’s Baseball through the Summer and Ice Hockey through the winter. Now i’ll wait until after monday’s BlueJays fixture to fully make my decision, but the Canadian sports calendar seems much more appealing.
Waking up to the picturesque backdrop of the Great Lakes was worth the flight fee alone. Sharp rays of the uncovered sun, reflected crisply off the top of the calm, tranquil water. It was eight am, and the sun had his hat on yet again. A run felt like the perfect way to start the weekend so my daily Wi-Fi hour was put on hold as I took to the treadmill. Being a keen rationer of food, we had finally run out of things to eat, so another trip to the local supermarket was much needed. As I took to the fruit, Deans eyes were drawn to the sweet snacks. When I questioned what he was looking for, he replied with ‘Just a little sweet desert considering I haven’t been allowed any so far’ I can’t help being a healthy eater!
Dinner brought, so it was back to the hotel to catch the Premier League roundup on SportsNet. This led perfectly to the second game between the Jays and the Yankees. After starting off with a series win last night the BlueJays looked to keep things going with an earlier start time. Going into the eighth inning with the score tied at 0-0 we had to leave the Baseball behind and head back to the Air Canada Centre.
On a gorgeous day in downtown Toronto, the Goodyear airship offered a different perspective on the cities skyline as the streets were lined with thousands of sports supporters. It was the blue jerseys of the BlueJays and the red of Team Canada and Toronto FC that painted the city, as Toronto became awash with primary colours. The nation would be at a halt come seven o’clock as Mike Babcock would lead his troops into battle against the old foes that are Russia.
Alexander Ovechkin v Sidney Crosby. Andrei Markov vs Drew Doughty. Sergei Bobrovsky vs Carey Price.
On paper Canada win.
Boasting a roster full of NHL superstars and more importantly, winners, Canada had all the ingredients it needed to bake the perfect cake and top it off with a World Cup of Hockey cherry.
Up next to try and prevent World domination by the Canadians was Russia. Led by Alex Ovechkin, they are a team that have relied heavily on big offensive outputs from NHL studs Vladimir Tarasenko and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Not only this but Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has been stellar in between the pipes and will be seen as the main reason for the Russians making it this far. In the build up to the game the talk was all about Russia being the underdogs looking to take the opportunity of an upset, whilst the competition was Canadas to lose.
An almost sell out crowd expected and with the atmosphere growing, the game was only moments away from starting, meaning in 60 minutes times, one of these teams would be heading home.
A common theme through all Canada’s group games was there slow start out the blocks, so it was unsurprising when Carey Price was called into action early doors. Two chances fell to the stick of Nikita Kucherov who failed to beat Canada’s 31, before Telegin was tugged back by Jay Bouwmeester for a Russian powerplay. However a very aggressive penalty kill caught Russia on the back foot and created a handful of short handed chances to relieve the pressure. Minutes later, confusion on the Russian bench led to only four skaters being on the ice when the deadlock was broken. Again aggressive forechecking by the Captain, led to a turnover and after leading from the front all tournament, Crosby deked his way round Bobrovsky to put Canada on the board and settle any nerves they had. In a first period controlled by Canada, emphasised by the shot count of 7 to 18 in Canadas favour, through the first twenty, it was only for Bobrovsky’s heroics that the game wasn’t already out of sight.
Period two would begin just how number one ended. Russia were penned into their own zone, with every Canadaian forward line causing problems in the Russians defensive zone. Tavares, Stamkos, Getzlaf hitting the bar, Weber and Perry all had good chances to add to the score. With Canada failing to convert on their many chances created, Kucherov took advantage of some sloppy Canadian defending and expertly slotted the puck past Price. This was Russias first shot in the second period and it came a good twelve minutes into the twenty. It appeared to rattle Canada, and despite creating even more chances in reply, Russia against the play, took their first lead of the game. Some dogged work behind Price’s goal by Telegin paved way for Kuznetsov to score, as a bounce off a skate was swatted out the air and into the gaping cage.
Canada needed to reply, and quickly. Who better to turn to than you guessed it, Sid the kid, who’s silky hands slipped the puck through to Brad Marchand who made no mistake to tie the game at two. Air Canada Centre had jumped back into life and so it seemed had the players themselves.
Entering the third with the game tied at two, the result was there for the taking. As Canada pushed to take the lead, Bobrovsky was doing all he could to prevent it from happening, with a string of outstanding saves to keep Canada at bay. Again it would be Canada’s top line that would be the undoing of Bobrovsky’s hard work, as Crosby entered the zone before setting up Marchand again who beat the Russian netminder low under the glove. Corey Perry was rewarded for all his hard work, as some quick thinking to tuck a rebound between his own legs and up over the outstretched goalie to give Canada some much need breathing room. One of Canada’s brightest stars this tournament, John Tavares had been outstanding to date, but apart from his magical assist against the USA hadn’t been rewarded for his effort. Until now… with a well executed toe drag, Tavares made room to fire a high, quick wrist shot over the glove of an unsighted Bobrovsky.
At 5-2 that would appear to be that. A late Russia goal wasn’t enough for the red machine as the only machine rolling now was that of Team Canada. A professional and impressive display now means Canada will compete on home ice for the World Cup against the winner of tommorows semi-final. Sweden or Europe? My money is on Sweden but hoping Europe can do themselves proud.