There's a lot on the line today as Canada is set to face off against Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and the Russians. There's the gold medal, and a way for Canada to back up it's 2014 Olympic Gold Medal (won on Russian ice), there is (unfortunately) the political overtones, as you know our PM and the CONServatives will try to exploit a victory for their own political gain. And then there's the money. Wait, what?
Yeah, so there's money on the line here, and it's not just Kiwinuck's gambling habits :p There's a new feature to the World Championships this year, where there is a prize of 1 Million Swiss Francs awarded to the team that can go all the way through the tournament by winning every game in regulation. There's only one team left that can achieve this, and it's Canada. The money would go to Hockey Canada is the understanding that I have from reading the article over at the IIHF's website.
Canada hasn't played for gold since 2009, when it lost to... the Russians. Time for some payback. And that team from 09 wasn't that bad either. Weber, Vlasic, Hamhuis and Doughty on D, Stamkos, St Louis and Spezza. But they also had guys like Joel Kwiatkowski, Ian White, Colby Armstrong. And in goal? Josh Harding, Chris Mason and Dwayne Roloson. Woof. And let's face it, I would be a HELL of a lot more confident going into this game if we had someone besides Mike Smith in between the pipes today. Not to dog Smith, he's played well, has a shutout streak of over 137 minutes and counting, and has a pretty decent set of D men against him. But these are the Russians, the 'let's play possum through the tournament til the real games start before we begin kicking ass' Russians. They're also the 'We better win, because all y'all that play in the KHL, you have to go home and explain to Putin why we lost, right after he shows you footage of how North Korea deals with guys who disappoint dear leader...' Russians.
The best thing about today, it's a winner takes all head to head battle against the best two players in the game. Sure, there was a lot of sentiment towards seeing Jaromir Jagr play for gold, and thank the hockey gods we're not seeing the US, because the Jack Eichel hyperbole would quite likely break the internet. No, we have the best two nations in hockey, battling for bragging rights. Does this tournament mean more to them than to us? Sure. But that is exactly why Canada has to win. Russia is, and will always be the enemy when it comes to hockey. The rivalry with the US is nice, but you go back through time, through the Summit Series, the Canada Cups. The best games, the biggest goals, hockey history. It's always been Canada/ Russia. Today is a special day, so enjoy it.
And in another afternoon affair, one that's been scheduled to go shortly after the gold medal game starts (Once again, great job of looking after the Canadian fanbase, NHL!) The Chicago Blackhawks are in Anaheim to take on the Ducks. As far as this series goes, you've got Chicago with a higher talent level, but Anaheim edging them out with their douche factor. If there's an edge here, it's to Chicago with goaltending. Corey Crawford is more experienced than Frederik Andersen, and that could be the difference. So plug your nose, and cheer on the Hawks, because Ryan Kesler does not deserve anything but a crippling, soul-crushing loss for his selfishness in bailing on this team. I cannot respect a Canucks fan who cheers for the Ducks. It's just wrong.