Be you a loyal countryman, (or woman for that matter), Caps fan, or very much of both, (even better!) you have much to be very happy about after day one of hockey at the Vancouver games.
First we witnessed the United States 3-1 victory over Switzerland with Bobby Ryan scoring first on an absolute howitzer off a rebound that was perfectly targeted for the upper corner of the goal.
The U.S. scored next when David Backes made a very strong move from the corner boards to the front of the net before tapping the puck through to give Uncle Sam and company a 2-0 lead.
Ryan Malone finished the U.S. scoring with a power play and although the Swiss came back for a goal, team Red White and Blue had more than enough to guide them through.
Overall it was a well played game that saw a lot more hitting then I expected.
The Swiss also played much more competitively then I would have thought, yet in the end they could not match the punch of this relatively young U.S. squad. Goal scorers Ryan, 22 and Backes, 25 had very strong games, as did 25 year old forward Zach Parise, and 24 year-old center Ryan Callahan who played a great end-to-end game.
Russia 8 Latvia 2
Alexander Ovechkin, as has been the case in the past, will not fully answer which he considers to be more important — Stanley Cup or Olympic Gold. They both perhaps simply matter too much to make a judgment call one way or the other. Know this though, Ovechkin’s love for his home country of Russia extends far beyond his love for their supermodels, (check out the congratulatory text message he sent to a non-hockey gold winning Russian athlete for proof of that) and tonight he played like it, scoring two goals the first of which came from a little Alexander Semin aggression in the offensive zone.
Lurking behind the Latvian net, Semin went behind a defender who was moving the puck up ice and stole the puck from him before feeding it to the other Alex in the lower middle slot. Ovechkin, who wisely was being paired with Semin, knew exactly what to do after barely missing on a chance down low in his last shift, he sent the puck five-hole past Latvian goaltender Edgars Masalskis to give the fast charging Russians a 3-0 lead with 35 seconds left in the first.
Ovechkin’s goal perfectly capped a period in which the Russians came fast, came hard and really never looked back. In a big way it was former Capital, and game 7 miracle worker, Sergei Fedorov, the timeless 40 year-old leading the charge with two primary assists in the first period.
The first assist was pure classic Fedorov. Sergei had the puck on the lower right side near the goal line and waited for the Latvian defender to charge at him. Naturally, he did (you figure out a thing or two in two decades plus of playing the sport) and this left Russian forward Danis Zairapov wide open near the goal crease. The pass was made and Zairapov would score the goal to give Russia an early lead.
Moving past Ovechkin’s goal near the end of the first, Russia would score one more goal in the second period to make the score 4-0 but for the most part this was a surprisingly even period, and things risked getting, well,..even a tad uninteresting as Russia was still leading but not doing as well, while Latvia was making it patently obvious that they just didn’t have the counter-attack ability to even try to come back.
Thoughts though of boredom were abruptly roundhouse kicked to the side in the third as the two teams would combine for five goals on the opening five shots of the period.
Latvia scored only 33 seconds into the period, but far from helping the small former Soviet state, it actually hurt them. Why? Russia was mad; the sleeping bear had finally been woken up!
And who else to lead the charge then Alexander Ovechkin who on the left boards fired a shot high, that even while unscreened, Masalskis had no chance at as it whizzed by him to give Russia a 5-1 lead less than a minute into the third.
Russia would then score two more goals in the next 2:05 and the rout would fully be on.
As for Ovechkin, well two goals in your first Olympic game in this tournament isn’t too shabby a start, but we should expect nothing less of the man who says on the road he enjoys playing Madison Square Garden and in the Canadian cities where hockey matters. Alex loves the big stage, which may account for why he has six goals in nine Olympic Games to lead all Russian players, a fact Caps media relation pro Nate Ewell tweeted tonight.
Someone tonight asked Mr. Ewell how much on a scale of 1-10 Alex was enjoying himself. “Easy, 10.” Nate wrote. Caps fans should feel much the same way right now.
For more info: Check out Ovechkin’s two goals and the Russia-Latvia highlights by clicking here. Check out the US-Switzerland highlights by clicking here.