Monday, September 10, 2007

Game 8: Canada-Russia Super Series - Canada unbeaten!

It’s the final game of the Super Series and Canada has long since won the competition. Canada seemed to do everything right, while the Russians seemed to do everything wrong. You have to give the Russians credit for the past 2 games, especially in Red Deer, for actually showing up to compete. I had to wonder if this competitive spirit would remain with Team Russia for Game 8, or would Canada pull off a convincing win in front of 18,000+ fans in Vancouver.

I would have to answer ‘yes’ to both of those questions.

Russia did play hard, and they seemed to have some spirit in their game, but Canada still outscored them 6-1. Ouch.

Leland Irving made his third start in goal for Canada, and he was stellar. Up until about 17 minutes into the third period, it looked as though Irving would earn a shut out, but a goal by Dodonov shattered that goose egg. Nevertheless, Irving made some spectacular saves and robbed the Russians of goals on many occasions. His Russian counterpart, Bobrovsky, was almost as good, despite being beaten six times. If his game had been more shaky (like, say, Varlamov’s), then Canada could have easily scored 10+ goals in this game. Both goalies were the reason why there was no score after the first period.

Canada’s offence came flying out of the gate at the beginning of the game, and they didn’t stop until the final buzzer sounded. They had an incredible 7 shots on goal on their first power play, but Varlamov kept Canada scoreless. However, Canada’s power play was not idle in Game 8: they scored an amazing five power play goals, bringing the series total to 19 (compared to Russia’s five PPG).

So here’s my daily Sutter rant: Brandon Sutter scored his third goal of the Super Series in as many games, but that wasn’t the great part. What was great about it was that it came on the power play about one minute after he was high-sticked in the face (in the eye area, no less). Add that to the fact that he does all the little things perfectly, and you get one special player.

Turris is another player who dominated in Game 8, adding 2 power play goals in the third period in front of his home crowd. He continually shows that he never quits on the play. One year in Minnesota and he’ll be ready to join Gretzky’s team in Phoenix.

Add to this list a highlight-reel goal by Boychuk, who scored from his knees while on the power play. Wow.

Canada’s D-men played a hard game tonight, continuing to block shots all game long, and they also created some offence. Drew Doughty made a great play when he went from behind his own net, darted around Russian traffic, went hard to the net and almost scored. And congrats to Alzner, who finally scored a goal in this Super Series when he put the Canadians on the board in the second period.

As much as the Canadian offence is a big story in this game, the physicality of this game is what really stood out, and no game in this Series has been as nasty as Game 8. Sure, there were huge hits coming from left, right and centre, but it was the absolutely dirty play from the Russians that will be remembered.

I can understand that Team Russia has been humiliated in this Super Series, that the press called their play shameful after the second game in Ufa, and that everyone in Russia is beating their own team upside the head for their performance (or lack thereof). That being said, they put themselves in that position and they did not have the right to attack Team Canada in Game 8. Two Russian players in particular (Voynov and Chudinov, who both wore full face masks due to their age) were running around with their sticks, smacking Canadian players in the face at every chance. Tempers boiled over in the third period when Voynov speared Lucic twice in the midsection and Lucic responded by roughing him up (and picking up the extra penalty, for some reason). Minutes later, after an offside call, Chudinov delivers an elbow to Giroux’s head and causes a melee that got the Vancouver crowd on its feet. I cannot believe the absolute undisciplined play of these two individuals, and they’d both be nailed to the bench if I was their coach.

Overall, Team Canada played a great game with few mistakes. I guess this statement could apply to the Super Series as a whole.

My stars of the game:
* Kyle Turris
** Brandon Sutter and Leland Irving – two-way tie
*** Zac Boychuk

I will be writing a ‘post-Super Series’ wrap-up of sorts in the next couple of days. Stay tuned.

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