If you, like me, are still basking in the glow of U.S.A. Hockey’s victory over Canada, you’ll take a Monday puck fix any way you can get it. So, the following are game notes from Sunday’s Olympic match between the Czech Republic and Russia. Thanks for sitting tight, hockey. You’re about to get some major SC love… In the words of Hannah Teter and Sports Casualtists everywhere, Let’s do this.
Should this post go over well, I’m not changing my underwear until it reaches 1,000 hits… Little Stanley Cup joke for all you Canadians and Eastern Europeans out there. So here’s the setup: Russia is 2 points back of the Czech Rep. and needs to win outright to secure its division and a quarterfinals bye. The Czechs earn a bye with a victory as well. The loser waits to see if it has to play in a qualification round.
For all of you international hockey novices (i.e. Everybody), you should know that both Pittsburgh winger Evgeni Malkin and two-time reigning NHL MVP Alex Ovechkin of Washington skate for the Russians. Malkin and Ovechkin loathe each other. Think Bonds/Kent circa 2002.
Apparently the Czech team takes the Amare Stoudemire approach to defense. This is to be expected when Jaromir “He Shoots! HE SCORES!” Jagr is your team’s heart and soul.
Random observation: Alex Ovechkin would be the baddest man on the planet if the Russians were still rocking those hammer and sickle uniforms. Look, I’m no fan of Commies, but their sweaters freaking rock.
The first major scoring opportunity for either team: Ovechkin breaks free into open ice, skates in all alone only to be Cheech and Chonged by Czech/Panthers goaltender Tomas Vokoun. I mean, “stoned.”
I just heard the name “Federov.” Am I to believe that former Red Wings great Sergei Federov is still alive? He was an absolute monster in NHL 96.
We got a Russian power play at 9:14. I was under the impression that Olympic hockey wasn’t the most physical affair, but Big Red is flying around like a group of ICBMs…
Seriously, bring back the Cold War. This post would be so much more edgy.
Pavel Datsyuk, Sergei Gonchar and Viktor Kozlov are apparently all Russian as well. Both of these teams are stacked with NHL talent, though you couldn’t tell from the Russian power play. Total disaster. On an unrelated note, I blame my parents that you’re not reading the analysis of “Pavel Nabokov Hilson.” Bad job by Terri and Robb.
We got an icing call and a commercial with Beyonce. Not a huge overlap between Beyonce fans and Patrik Elias fans.
During a second Russian power play, Malkin puts back an easy wrister at an angle after a scramble in front of the Czech net. Ovechkin comes over and sucker punches Malkin in celebration. 1-0, Big Red.
A Google search at the 3:35 mark reveals that, yes, Sergei Federov is not only alive, but anchoring a Russian line at center. More surprising, he’s only 40 years old, or – to put him in perspective – 37 years younger than Chris Chelios. JK, JK, Chris. We kid because we think you may be from the Mesozoic era.
While I was busy poking fun at old Russian dudes, old Russian dudes were busy cheating. The Czechs start a 5 on 3 with 1:40 left in the first. You know what happens when you’re playing 2 men down? Goals, y’all. Czech Thomas Plekanac of the Montreal Canadiens spins around from the right circle and puts a wrister past Evgeni Nabokov of the San Jose Sharks. 1-1.
A couple of things that might add to your cultural awareness: Evgeni is pronounced “Jenni.” So, uh, be aware of the hot girl/scraggly bearded man confusion when you head to Moscow. Also, Evgeni is apparently the “John” of Russian names. So, uh, the opportunities to confuse a hot girl with a scraggly bearded man are many.
Through First Period:
Shots On Goal: RSA 12 CZE 5
Scoring Chances: RSA 9 CZE 6
Hits: RSA 9 CZE 7
Power Plays: RSA 1/2 CZE 1/1
An observation on play-by-play guy Mike Emrick: he has an epic combover that puts him in the same Bad Analyst Hair League as Tony Kornheiser and Chris Berman. Thank goodness for Mike he’s calling an indoor sport. Let’s just say wind is not this guy’s best friend.
Russian Alexander Semin of the Washington Caps whiffs on an easy scoring op – he misses an open net on a spin around chip shot. The Russians pick up another power play as a consolation prize.
You know what’s great about high sticking? They check the high stick-ee for blood. If he’s cut, the refs double the penalty. Let me ask you, what keeps a player from pulling a Randy “The Ram” Robinson and stashing a razor blade in his socks? I’d bet anything Bret Hart used this move in his Pee Wee years.
Russian fans are chanting “Rew-Cee-Uh! Rew-Cee-Uh!” Emrick says, “We like to translate chants, but we don’t know what that one says or what it means.” Let me help you out, Mike: “Russia! Russia!”
We’re at 11:29 in the second and still knotted at 1-1. I’d like to point out that the arena’s PA guy just blasted some Tom Petty in between breaks. Apparently he’s not aware of the proxy war between Gainesville and all of Canada. Or maybe Bryan Holt has infiltrated Canada Hockey Place’s sound system.
Now we get a heavy dose of the Village People’s “YMCA.” Yeah, so strike off that Bryan suggestion.
Russian Semin takes a stick to the face of newly-bloodied Czech defenseman Jan Hejda (Blue Jackets). No call for high sticking, but ref Tim Donaghy calls a ticky-tack penalty away from the play. Power play Czechs, but they only get a couple of weak shot attempts off on a stingy Russian defense.
“Viktor Kozlov has broken the tie!” A proud former Panther pokes home a deflection right in front of the Czech net. 2-1, Russia. Kozlov used to play in front of a boozed-up Fort Lauderdale crowd chock-full of bad boob jobs and fake tans. Now he’s starring for the Big Red Machine in the Winter Olympics. I’d say lateral move.
A flurry of action includes a pileup in front of the Russian net that ends with the puck squirting through the crease and crossing the red line. Russian Ilya Kovalchuk of the New Jersey Devils closes his hand on the puck, but after the refs blow the whistle. No goal. No penalty shot. Dick Bavetta calls the centers together for another faceoff.
The Russians aren’t helping themselves, dishing out more ill-advised licks than Bruce Bowen at Bill Romanoski’s Cheap Shot Invitational. Fortunately for The Pride of Ivan Drago, the Czechs couldn’t score with a Kappa Kappa Gamma house and a full bottle of tequila. They squander two consecutive five on fours.
We got 20 minutes of regulation left. Still 2-1, Russia as we cut to an intermission commercial of a DreamWorks kids movie called – I kid you not – “How to Train Your Dragon.” If you’ve been following aerial skiing, you know that the male announcers would get a huge kick out of this.
British Columbia runs another one of its TV ads featuring, among others, Sarah McLachlan, Ryan Reynolds, and 53-and-starting-to-look-it Kim Cattrall. Advantage: America.
Through Second Period:
Shots on Goal: RSA 19 CZE 14
Scoring Chances: RSA 15 CZE 8
Power Plays: RSA 1/3 CZE 1/4
(Oddly enough, NBC got rid of their “hits” graphic between periods. The poor “hits” stat’s run lasted about as long as Conan’s “Tonight Show.” Despite it’s disembodiment, the “hits” statistic has threatened to sue NBC and will most likely reappear at 11:35 on Fox.)
“The Czechs don’t have enough fire power to overcome the Russians right now,” says color man Ed Olczyk. Again, bring back the Cold War!
I. Am. All. In. Alex the Great levels Jagr Jack Tatum-style at center ice. Semin picks up the loose puck, hits Malkin in-stride on a cross-rink pass, and Malkin zips a wrister past goalie Nabokov. It takes a grand total of seven seconds for the Russians to alter the course of the entire tournament and permanently rectify Sports Casualties’ once-embittered relationship with hockey. 3-1, Russia, as the Former Soviet Union formally joins the SC-America alliance.
The Czechs land another power play, but given their history, I’m debating whether to take a 2 minute nap or give you my quick take on hockey announcers… Okay, so here’s my take: Hockey analysts are great. They know the game and the players intimately, rarely stick a foot in the mouth and have a knack for gearing up the excitement when action picks up. On the other hand, the games move so fast that booth teams really don’t have time to say something stupid. I mean, Tim McCarver would kill at hockey so long as he could pronounce “Alexei Ponikarovsky.” Alas, Tim.
Surprise of surprises, the Czechs take to their last power play like Switzerland takes to invading countries. Ten minutes left. Still 3-1, Russia.
Malkin loses his defender with 6 minutes left and comes up short on his bid for a hat trick with a limp slapshot. Honest question: do they call it an “Ushanka trick” in Russia?
Did not see this coming. With about 5 minutes left, the Czechs, offended by my incessant heckling, cut the lead to 3-2 on a Milan Michalek (Ottawa Senators) hustle goal in front of the net. Jagr sets a screen in front of Nabokov, then turns to the camera post-goal shouting, “Vindication, Hilson! VINDICATION!”
Funny how momentum swings with an unexpected goal in the waning minutes. The Czechs are in the midst off their finest offensive performance since World War II (which, admittedly, was pretty lousy). They pull the goalie with a minute left after Vokoun makes a huge save on a Kovalchuk breakaway.
Unfortunately for the Czechs, pulling your goaltender makes it easier for the opposing team to score. Red Wing Datsyuk drills home a blue line wrister with 13 seconds left. 4-2 Russia, as Ovechkin bolts to the locker room to tape the 6 p.m. SportsCenter.
(Third Period statistical recap unavailable due to NBC sucking… Check here if you’re a stat geek)
Big Red wins both the division and my heart. It’s 5:35 p.m. on a Sunday, and for the first time in SC history, officially Hockey Night in America.