February 17, 2010
We're still trying determine if Iginla scored three goals or just two in Canada's 8-0 whitewash of Norway – right now, it depends whom you ask – but either way Iginla was the player who woke up the host country from its early-game funk.
Iginla began Tuesday night on the fourth line and hardly played during the scoreless first period; meanwhile, his mates weren't able to solve Norway goaltender Pal Grotnes. Head coach Mike Babcock shuffled things in the second, putting Iginla next to Sidney Crosby(notes) and Rick Nash(notes), and the new trio was electric, teaming up on three goals.
The first Iginla tally was a blistering one-timer on the power play; Crosby set it up with nifty stickhandling and a soft pass while Nash provided a monster screen in front. The second Iginla score was the result of a gorgeous game of tick-tack-toe with his linemates through the Norwegian end. Iginla's apparent third goal – it's been credited to Nash in some places – came on a rebound from the crease. Babcock is no dummy; look for the Crosby-Nash-Iginla line to stay intact for Thursday's grudge match against Switzerland (the team that dashed Team Canada's hopes four years ago).
You've probably seen Backes's highlight-film goal by now – the most impressive individual rush of the day, an end-to-end beauty – but he was just as important doing the little things in the 3-1 victory over Switzerland, throwing his weight around, working the corners. His forechecking led to Bobby Ryan's(notes) game-opening score (though it was an unassisted goal), and Backes seemed to make an impact during just about every shift.
Watching the best player in the world notch a couple of goals against a heavy underdog like Latvia hardly qualifies as stop-the-presses news, but nonetheless Ovechkin was the standout during Russia's 8-2 victory. He probably could have scored a third goal had he really wanted to, but he spent most of the third period looking to set his teammates up. Ovechkin's second marker was the only score that really mattered in the nightcap; it provided an immediate answer to Latvia's first goal and made it clear that we weren't going to see an upset during the first day of the tournament.
Honorable Mention: Wouldn't it be a treat to see Rick Nash play with world-class teammates every night, and/or on a team that favors an up-tempo style? Nash is capable of beating you so many ways – with his size, his speed, his hands, his competitiveness – and all of these things were on display in the opener. … Sidney Crosby might not give the most dazzling interviews, but his passing (three assists) was fantastic. … Dany Heatley potted a couple of goals for Team Canada, and it's a wonder the netting was able to corral his second one, an absolute rocket. … Let's give it up for Norway keeper Paal Grotnes, who stopped 28 of 32 Canadian shots and kept the game competitive for longer than anyone expected. He was eventually lifted in the middle of the third period (for some inexplicable reason), much to Canada's delight – the hosts pumped in four goals on just 10 shots against Andre Lysenstoen. … Team USA is going to cause a lot of havoc over the next two weeks with its physical forwards. Bobby Ryan started the scoring for the Yanks with a laser from the high slot, and Ryan Malone(notes) was a handful for Switzerland all afternoon; he eventually capped the scoring with a crash-and-convert rebound from the crease. … A host of former NHL players flashed on our TV screens as the Russians took care of Latvia in the nightcap. Sergei Fedorov(notes) recorded two assists, Alexander Radulov(notes) had the game's second goal, and team captain Aleksey Morozov had a goal and was plus-3. … Roberto Luongo didn't do much heavy lifting (15 saves), but hey, a shutout is a shutout. … Patrick Kane missed the score sheet for the Americans, but he did have a team-high four shots, and his 18:22 of ice time was tops among the team's forwards.
Did You Know? The host country has captured the gold medal in men's ice hockey just twice; the United States did it in 1960 and 1980.
Dishonorable Mention: For all the offensive firepower the Russians boast on their roster, the power play was a washout in the opener (just 1-for-8, too much passing). … Patrice Bergeron was on the Crosby line before the Iginla switch came to pass; Bergeron might spent the next two weeks kicking himself for how things went down. … Joe Thornton picked up an early assist for Team Canada but was otherwise invisible; no shots (his teammates fired 42 of them), and a mere plus-1. OK, it's a stretch to call that dishonorable, but you certainly didn't notice No. 19 out there. … A pair of Latvian defensemen combined to go minus-10 – Rodrigo Lavins and Guntis Galvins – and it all happened despite modest time on the ice (14:07 for Lavins, 12:49 for Galvins). … Norway's defensemen were absolutely gassed (and thoroughly embarrassed) during the third period against Canada, and that was never more evident than during Ryan Getzlaf's(notes) score at the 4:29 mark. A delayed penalty was called on Norway and the Canadians extended the play for at least 12 to 15 seconds before Getzlaf put an end to the suspense by burying the puck in the net.