Hey Leafs Nation,
Wow. What a day.
Day 3 of Olympic hockey competition looked promising on paper, but in reality it turned out to be one of the finest days of hockey of my life.
I began my day by paying tribute to our Veterans at Vancouver's war memorial.
I figured it was a good way to earn a bit of karma heading into the afternoon clash between Switzerland and Canada. I still couldn't believe that I was going to get to see Team Canada live in person – I think a lot of fans were in the same boat as myself, as there was a definite, audible buzz around Canada Hockey Place as early as two hours before puck drop. I can't quite put into words what it has been like around downtown Vancouver before and after a Canada game – it's kinda like how it is during a Canucks playoff game, except I can actually join in on the revelry and not feel obligated to spit on every Canuck fan's cupcake.
Here is the scene from outside the arena:
I had a double Fatburger with cheese, bacon and egg (west coast hollah!) before the game and then I was off!
Let's just say that I was fairly confident that this game was not going to be a walk in the park. Switzerland may not have any top end scoring talent, but out-gunning Canada was clearly not their gameplan. The first Swiss game against the yanks, as I noted in part 1, was a closer game than 3-1. Had they banked in a puck like they did against Canada, they could have very well taken USA to overtime or better. I just really like the way the Swiss have designed their team gameplan – they take away passing lanes, get their sticks on pucks, are bulldogs behind the net, and just generally skate, skate, skate and work, work, work.
The surrounding Canada fans seemed to think this game was going to be a blowout but I was expecting a final score somewhere along the lines of 2-0 or 3-1 for the Canadian side. Many fans yelled out "oh c'mon – it's just the Swiss!" when Canada was still tied in the 3rd period – which I found quite rude. I think this reflects poorly on the hockey IQ of Vancouverites, but what else is new? I'd be interested to hear what you guys thought the result was going to be before the game.
Some quick notes on the game:
a) Drew Doughty gets too much ice time. He was responsible for Swiss goal #1.
b) Scott Niedermayer makes these soft clearing attempts up the boards that are going to burn us.
c) The Shark line was our best line by a wide margin.
d) Brodeur was awesome. Hiller was even better.
Another interesting note – some of you may remember those green clad weirdos who go to Canucks games and taunt the opposition when they're in the box. They were at this game! One section over. Dressed in red this time.
Anyway, I didn't take too many pictures at this game on account of the constant heart attacks, but here are a few I did manage to snap.
The third period, where Canada outshot the swiss 18-3, was just a phenomenal period to watch. My favorite part is where Crosby got mugged or high sticked or something (never did see the replay) and then he gets pissed off and almost goes end to end on the same shift. After that I just knew he'd get the winner – and his shootout winner, by the way, was perhaps the loudest crowd pop I have ever heard in person. Simply epic finish – what a treat to watch!
I was sitting behind a handful of Swiss fans – they seemed a little terrified of cheering on account of the rabid and rowdy upper bowl crowd – but after the game I gave them all high fives and told them to be proud, very proud. Their team played their hearts out.
I left the stadium and marched through the streets for a while, waving my Canada flag proudly. I needed some air after the Canada game. I think my heart rate finally came down to normal just before the Russia vs. Slovakia game began. Here are some neat pre-game photos:
Ilya Kovalchuk rips one.
Ovechkin with a sick tip from Sergei Gonchar at the point - you can see the blurry puck entering the net.
The Russians discuss what restaurant they're going to after they whomp the Slovaks 8-0.
After being so heavily emotionally invested in the previous game it was sort of nice to be a neutral observer again. Of course, intellectually, I wanted Slovakia to win – after watching Canada surrender a point to the Swiss, we really needed the Russians to cough up a point or two.
Speaking of which, the Sweden vs. Finland game may now decide who becomes the top seed in this tournament. I gotta think that Russia will bounce back and prevent the Czechs from going 3-0 – that really works to the advantage of the Swedes and Fins. And after seeing how shaky the Swedes looked against Germany, it could be the Fins that walk out of the preliminary round with the top seed. Wouldn't that be something?
Anyway, I wanted to see an upset, and this was the game. The Slovaks played a tremendous game and really kept the Russians from doing their "curl into the middle and fling a wrist shot" thing. Jozef Stumpel had a great game – as did Zdeno Chara and Lubomir Visnovsky. But the stars of the night were the goaltenders – I love Ilya Bryzgalov. I can't believe Phoenix plucked him off waivers – but lets not get into that. Jaroslav Halak (I hate to say it) was brilliant, but I was actually more impressed by Bryzgalov's overall poise and rebound control. Does anyone else think this man is a top-5 goalie right now?
Here are some pics from this game, including the Russian Sailormen who were sitting in front of me.
Evgeni Malkin loves Semin.
Alex Ovechkin circling before he takes his 2nd or maybe 3rd shootout shot.
Here's Pavol Demitra with the winner in the shootout!
Great, great day of hockey. I'm so happy for Slovakian fans for busting off that one.
And, of course, the night ends with a healthy dose of drinking. Woot!
Today I got Sweden vs. Belarus on tap. Cheers!