Canada vs. Russia Postgame: Collapse

Three games were played tonight, one in each period. In the first, we saw the Canadian team we had seen throughout the tournament: a powerhouse, offensively capable and much too busy threatening to allow opportunities against. In the second we saw relatively boring hockey, punctuated by the occasional flurry.

Finally, in the third period, we saw either one of the greatest come-from-behind events in tournament history, or one of the greatest collapses.

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The stars shone for Canada early on. Nashville prospect (and team captain) Ryan Ellis was in fine form in both ends, a performance best exemplified by one shift midway through the first period where Ellis stymied multiple Russians behind their own net, moving at will and retaining the puck despite their ineffective efforts to stop him.

Brayden Schenn tied Dale McCourt’s record as the highest-scoring Canadian player in a single tournament, first setting up an Ellis goal with the man advantage and then converting on a beautiful cross-ice pass in his own right. Mark Visentin handled the puck with aplomb and turned aside everything directed at him.

Scoring chances piled up, from a variety of players: a Kassian backhand here, a Johansen deflection there. Along the way, Carter Ashton scored a truly remarkable goal with almost no space at all.

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Things started to turn in the second period, as Canada’s dominance gave way to more tentative play. Ryan Ellis fell into the boards awkwardly and struggled through the remainder of his shift; he would return but stopped being the difference maker he had been early on, though of course it is hard to determine whether that was a consequence of the injury or whether he simply slowed along with the rest of the team.

The power play, so effective in the first period, struggled to generate chances. Mark Visentin was called upon to stop a shorthanded breakaway. Still, despite the disappearance of Canadian dominance, the Russians were unable to seize the game themselves. Things still appeared relatively calm, and when Russian star Vladimir Tarasenko took a skate to the head while trying to poke the puck out of his own end – staying down for some time – it was easy to think the Russians wouldn’t wake up, or wouldn’t be able to do much even if they did.

Then things went sideways in the third. In a 13-second span, Visnetin surrendered two goals while veteran defencemen (Cowen in the first instance, Ellis in the second) watched impotently. The Russians poured the pressure on, skating the puck into the Canadian end where they’d struggled to clear their own zone previously. Finally, Yevgeni Kuznetsov made a brilliant pass despite tight checking that found the stick of Tarasenko.

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In front of Tarasenko, defenceman Jared Cowen was caught flat-footed and he did all he had time for – dropped to the ice to block the shot. Tarasenko had the puck off his stick and behind Visentin before Cowen hit the ice. Canadian coach Dave Cameron, who had elected not to use his time-out when the score was 3-2, used it then to calm down his charges, though to little avail.

Time passed, and as the third period approached its final quarter, Canadian forward Louis LeBlanc made an unfortunate choice, dumping the puck into the offensive zone from the wrong side of centre ice. The fourth line was forced back to their own end, where they found themselves unable to clear.

Errors abounded; even the normally solid Erik Gudbranson coughed up the puck to the opposition. The fourth line, along with Gudbranson and Simon Despres, never cleared the zone but instead watched the Russians score the go-ahead goal.

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The minutes ticked down, and the Canadians found themselves painfully unable to replicate their early-game success. They began taking more chances, attempting to tie things up before the clock ran out. Those efforts ended in disaster, as the puck came out of the offensive zone.

Tyson Barrie, who had made a spectacular diving poke check earlier in the game, desperately tried to make it back but couldn’t close the gap with Russian Nikita Dvurechenski. Dvurechenski had no trouble putting the insurance marker past the clearly rattled Visentin, and Canada’s three goal lead had become a two-goal deficit.

The uncontainable jubilation on the Russian bench started even before the final seconds ran out on the clock, and stood in stark contrast to the reaction of the Canadian players. This is a team doomed to be remembered as a failure, this game as one of the worst collapses in Canadian hockey history, but there could be no doubting the desire of the players involved.

Anger, sadness, devestation, bitterness: to a man, the players sporting Canada’s colours reflected some mixture of those emotions. I saw a group of very young men crushed, because they failed to live up to the lofty expectations inherent to the Team Canada jersey.

And that’s what I’ll remember. These players gave their best, but still lost to a talented – though almost certainly inferior foe. There was no failure of will, no loss of desire, nothing save perhaps a complacency bred of excellence, followed by desperation as things went south, both of which led to a series of on-ice errors. Despite those errors, I can’t help but feel empathy for this team, and a hope that fans don’t condemn them too severely.  

Besides, our condemnation can’t possibly compare to that inflicted by those players upon themselves.

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  • Quicksilver ballet

    I think we did pretty well. We all knew there were a couple question marks going into this tournament, goaltending as well as the forwards were iffy at best. To make it to the gold metal game is actually pretty good consideriing the issues we had.

  • These players will remember this, and hopefully next year we have more returning players than we had this year (was it 3?).

    The feeling that they have of last night will make sure that this doesn’t happen again next year.

  • DoubleJ

    Lander looked like a good face off winning two way center and could be here next year.

    I also wasn’t that impressed with Hamilton, but I think he was actually playing the way his coach was telling him to. He was the defensive forward on his line. It looked like to me that he was the forward who was supposed to stay high on the forecheck. Just my opinion.

    I think Roy was the better choice for net. I don’t think either goalie was good enough though.

    I still believe that Sweden was the best team in this tourney. They had goalie trouble as well.

  • Crap happens , and we ran into a stretch in the third period where we seemed to play kitty bar the door hockey and fell victim to it . We just could not get momentum back after a second easy goal went in on us . I was in a game where we we up 5-0 going into the third period against an inferior team . We wanted to run it up to 10 if we could . We didn’t back off , nothing changed but the score and our goalie who couln’t seem to stop a beachball in the third . By the ten minute mark we were down 6-5 , and that ended up being the final score thanks to their goalies incredible saves over last ten minutes . Everything they did for ten minutes came up roses for them , puck luck and poor goaltending can do that occasionally . Maybe we should have changed goalies after the second goal ? Momentum can be fleeting and disasterous for those who lose it . What a hollow feeling the players must be feeling .

  • Sorensenator

    A few points..

    – Yep, those damn Gatorade commercials are/were unbearable. I seriously don’t want to drink that crap just because of the overplay of commercials.

    – The Russians are an extremely homely bunch who love the camera. Every time one of them oaf’s shoved their toothless face into the camera screaming some gibberish my wife would recoil in disgust and fear and said “damn, those guys are ugly!”.

    – Even the Russian coaches are homely. And they can’t figure out how to wear a ball cap or how to fit it on their fat head. Either way I got a decent laugh looking at the coach with his cap perched on the crown of his head with the tags showing in the back.

    – Pierre McGuire and his “explosion” off the stick or “erupts” with a flurry references are starting to creep me out.

    – Bobkov made Scotty Bowman look like a Roloff when got his POTG trophy.

    – I used to work with a hot waitress (this was about 10 years ago) who told me that her and her friend lured (a TSN guy, not PM) to a hotel room in Edmonton with the promise of good times only to get him naked and them to leave him and high and dry. I still feel sorry for the guy.

  • These players are 18 years old still playing JR. what do we expect…gold we all want our boys to win and show the world we are the best but are we not watching a team in Edmonton that can’t put a 60 min effort together yet and there are vets on this team. I think we put alot of pressure on our young boys when there are other good teams in the tourny, just think 10 straight years in the gold medal game can any other country say that. It’s to bad but congrats for making the gold medal game 10 straight years.

  • Sorensenator

    Be the FIST to think of an idea that’s different, funny, not old, tired and beaten like a dead horse. I just zoom past comments here. For those of you that what to actually have discussions there’s another board, but I’ll keep it on the LOWE down for now, and maybe some of the fine folks can discuss articles written here, over there. FIST really gets to me apparently.