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IIHF 2015 Semis: Canada vs Czech Rep./ ECF Game 1 Rangers vs Lightning

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A showdown between the best player in the world and a timeless legend? Not a bad way to start the day. Winner takes on the US or Russia for Gold. Also, the Rangers and Lightning open their Eastern Conference final series with Game 1 at MSG, so barring OT, you should be able to nap around 3 once all the hockey is over...

OMG! Sidney Crosby!!
OMG! Sidney Crosby!!
Martin Rose/Getty Images

It's been a while since Canada's been able to get a shot at World Championship Gold, but then again they've never had a team quite like this one. Between some superstars on teams that missed the playoffs and some fortuitous early exits, they've put together a team that seems to be able to score at will. Their challenge is a massive one though, as they take on a Czech team looking not just to win Gold in front of their home fans, but get some revenge for a tough loss against the Canadians earlier in the tournament.

While we tend to view the Russians, and more recently the Swedes and the Americans as bitter rivals, there's a history with the Czechs that goes back a long way (and the IIHF's site has a great rundown of the battles these two countries have waged). The key for the Canadians is going to have to be first getting a couple goals to try and take the fans out of the game, and then do their best to keep Jaromir Jagr from doing what he did to Finland the other day. While the notion of seeing Jagr win Gold at home has a certain appeal, it's not gonna come at our expense.

One of the things that's helped Canada so far is scoring from the defence. Brent Burns had a couple goals against Belarus, and along with 9 assists in the tournament so far has him 2nd in D scoring, one behind Sweden's Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Rookie Aaron Ekblad's got 4 goals so far, and has looked strong in his first World Championship appearance.

After that, it's the Russians (with Alex Ovechkin in their lineup) taking on the Americans, and there's been smack talk in the media, with Russia's Artemi Panerin saying "We're in a fighting mood to play the Americans. We need to teach those college kids a lesson." Panerin recently inked a contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, and has the Chicago attitude down cold already.

Finally, it's Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, as the Tampa Bay Lightning are in New York to take on the Rangers. Given Sportsnet's special undying love for the Broadway Blueshirts, we can expect lots of Healy, Kypreos and Messier, waxing nostalgic about 94. So I will once again remind you that Alain Vigneault be damned: you are a traitor if you cheer for the Rangers.