Friday, August 31, 2007

Canada-Russia series not so super

Canada has taken a 3-0 lead over Russia in the not so friendly Super Series. The eight game exhibition is to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the 1972 Summit Series.

In '72, Canada stepped up the physical play, to put it kindly, when they were on the verge of losing the series to the Cold War Ruskies. Flash forward to '07 and it's not enough to just win the series. Coach Brent Sutter obviously feels it's unacceptable to lose a single game to Russia, and his players haven't stopped hitting since the drop of the first puck in game 1.

And by hitting I mean not being afraid to check a Russian in the numbers after they've clearly moved the puck. Good thing Team Canada wears those stop signs on the back of their practice jerseys.

Russia has already lost their two best players - Alexei Cherepanov and Artem Anisimov - to dubious hits. As they're both Rangers property, coach Sutter may want to tell his prospects to keep their heads up when the Devils roll into MSG for the pre-season. (Update: Anisimov returned for game 4.)

It would be rather comical to watch Canada try to run Russia if their victims didn't make it so easy to be checked on international ice. Critics of coach Sergei Nemchenov want his team to be more physical in response to the 'Nucks hard hitting ways. Personally, I'd like to see them move the puck quicker and stop admiring the play after they finally do dish it. (Apparently passing in Russia is only in response to your own time and space being taken away, not to move the puck quicker up the ice.) Whatever the answer, Russia better figure it out quick because it will only get worse when they hit the small ice for the final four games in Canada.

Even without Brandon Sutter, Colton Gillies and Milan Lucic vying for the Booby Clarke Award, Canada is clearly the better team. Russia has been unable to handle Canada's cycle and forecheck, buttoning them in their own defensive zone for what seems minutes on end. Team play is a cornerstone of the Hockey Canada program and coach Sutter's team is executing perfectly.

In a whistle heavy game 3, Russia finally started to show some confidence. When they get the puck on their sticks, Russia's an exciting team to watch. They attack with speed, are hard to knock of the puck and it seems every one of their players can dangle.

Team Canada is more methodical, working the puck on the cycle, winning battles on the boards and creating opportunities. The fact that Russia's defense doesn't organize well also helps. The line of Kyle Turris, John Tavares and David Perron have been incredible, although most of the credit goes to Turris and Tavares who are perfectly in sync.

If you're in the States or simply refuse to wake up at an unholy hour to watch Pierre McGuire wax poetically about Hockey Canada, Broadband streams the games on demand and commercial free.



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