Canadians folded, sure, but give Russians credit
07.01.2011. Cox, Damien. Toronto Star

For Canadians, it was the greatest hockey goal ever scored, an act of brilliance.

But from a Russian perspective, it was a colossal screw-up, a comedy of errors.

The only fact, of course, is that Paul Henderson put the puck behind Vladislav Tretiak, and Team Canada captured the '72 Summit Series. But did we win it? Or did they lose it?

Applied to the latest chapter in this storied rivalry, Wednesday's gold medal game at the world junior championship, the same question resonates but with the reverse juice. Did we lose it? Or did they win it? Let the debate roar on.

The correct answer always, of course, is that the result was caused by a bit of both. What Russia did and what Canada didn't - or couldn't - do.

These were two good, not great, national teams colliding on a world stage, neither able to claim they were the best junior side their country had ever produced.

So to win gold, one or the other had to overachieve. That turned out to be Russia, a deserving champion with three consecutive come-from-behind victories against the Finns, Swedes and, finally, the Canadians.

The side discussion over the post-game conduct of the Russians, well, that's really their business, not ours. It's up to Russians to decide if they approve of the taunting and the nonsense on the ice, and if they are or aren't disgusted by the fact a bunch of Russians, all under the New York state drinking age of 21, apparently managed to get so plastered that Delta Airlines didn't want to fly a commercial jet with them aboard.

Canadian teens and Canadian hockey players are no angels. But if our national junior team had conducted itself in such a manner, there would be outrage.

How Mother Russia chooses to view the conduct of her citizens is up to her. So let's confine ourselves to the game.

The Russians clearly had a team with more offensive pizzazz. That's hardly unusual. They always bring terrific solo artists to the party, and the question is how they fit as a group and whether they back off when things get rough or tight.

Well, Vladimir Tarasenko and Co. sure didn't back off. In fact, when Tarasenko went down courtesy of an inadvertent Marcus Foligno knee to the ribs late in the second, the Russians got their backs up and pushed back.

That feistiness, that attitude, seemed to fuel their comeback. They came out in the third ready to strut, and the flash of Yevgeny Kuznetsov, Sergei Kalinin, Maxim Kitsyn and Artemi Panarin left the Canadians befuddled and defenceless. The Russians, quite clearly, took the game to Canada when it mattered.

Canada panicked, as teenagers will under duress, and it's quite true that goalie Mark Visentin could have saved the day. With his team disintegrating around him, Visentin needed to be brilliant, but wasn't. By the time the fifth Russian goal by Nikita Dvurechensky slipped through his pads, Visentin's body language suggested he wanted to be anywhere but HSBC Arena at that moment.

Canada's goaltending throughout the tourney was spotty, just as it was last year in Saskatoon when Jake Allen and Martin Jones couldn't get the job done. The year before that Dustin Tokarski wasn't terrific, but was good enough when it mattered. So this is a bit of a worrisome trend here. Goaltending has become a Canadian question mark every year.

Some will point the finger at Canadian head coach Dave Cameron. Well, given that Canada played eight consecutive excellent periods in the playoff round and then one nightmarish period, it sure seems like this was a team that for the most part responded to Cameron's guidance.

You can question Cameron's player selection, as is always the case when gold doesn't materialize for Canada. Maybe there were better goalies. Perhaps Ryan Murphy would have added flair to the back end, or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins needed finesse to the front lines.

All that matters is when gold was on the line, this group of teenage hockey stars panicked and collapsed in a way that when Sweden does it, we laugh at them.

Could that have been foreseen? Probably not. What might have been foreseen was that Russia had the players to make Canada pay when panic set it. But nobody saw the hurricane coming until it was upon its victims.

Good for Russia. They won it as much as Canada lost it.

Финал. Канада - Россия.
За 3 место. Швеция - США.
Подгруппа А
США, Финляндия, Словакия, Швейцария, Германия
Подгруппа В
Канада, Россия, Швеция, Чехия, Норвегия
За 7-10 места
Чехия, Словакия, Норвегия, Германия.
1/4 финала
Канада - Швейцария
Финляндия - Россия

1/2 финала
Швеция - Россия
США - Канада
За 5-6 места. Финляндия - Швейцария
За 3-4 места. Швеция - США.
За 1-2 места. Канада - Россия

Первая страничка турнира
Молодежные чемпионаты мира (до 20 лет) 2011 года.
Первая страничка
Дивизион I. Группа А
Дивизион I. Группа B
Дивизион II. Группа А
Дивизион II. Группа B
Дивизион III