Russia ended a fifteen-year championship drought by beating Canada for the gold medal at the 2008 World Championships. Ilya Kovalchuk’s overtime goal put Russia back on top of the hockey world at long last. Russia is more determined than any time in recent memory to stay number one.
Who to Watch
Who needs Alexander Ovechkin. Ilya Kovalchuk has been spectacular. Kovalchuk is making a case for tournament MVP with his play. In two playoff round games, Kovalchuk has tow goals and four points, including the game winning marker against Belarus in the quarterfinals. Kovalchuk is one of those players who want the puck when everything is on the line. In the semifinal against Team USA, he dominated play whenever he was on the ice. Kovalchuk is a threat that the Canadians must deal with.
Keys to Gold
Keep Canada on its heels. One key to Canada’s success has been that teams are in awe of their skill or simply unable to contain their best players. Russia has to show a healthy respect for Canada, but not so much that it keeps them from pressing forward. Understanding these Russian players are far from reserved in their style of play and on-ice celebrations, they won’t be in awe of Team Canada.
Focus. Russia has a task ahead in playing 60+ minutes of quality hockey with the Canadians. This should not be a problem for Vyacheslav Bykov, who will make sure his team is fully in tune with all aspects of today’s game. Whether or not they score first or find themselves behind, Russia must continue to do what has made them successful throughout this tournament.
Canada took the silver last year on home ice in Quebec City, losing a heartbreaker to Russia. This is the perfect finish to the tournament, where the two strongest teams once again go at it for the gold medal. Canada is primed for this game, especially for those like Martin St. Louis who were part of last year's silver medal team.
Who to Watch
Quietly, Shea Weber has been the best defenseman in the tournament. Weber has four goals and 11 points. Beyond the statistics, Weber is playing some of his best hockey. He’s good from the point on the power play, but also a big body on defense that doesn’t mind mixing things up. Weber is third on the team with 29 shots on goal. Weber has shown throughout his brief NHL career that he’s capable of scoring goals from the blueline. This season, Weber scored 23 goals for the Nashville Predators, including four game-winners.
Keys to Gold
Canada might be the most penalized team in this tournament but they must stay out of trouble today. Any chance for the Russians to get their attack going with the man advantage is one that increases their chances of gaining chances for their big game players to score.
Canada has been rotating goaltenders throughout the World Championships with much success. But whether it is Dwayne Roloson or Chris Mason who gets the nod, this will be the most explosive lineup they face here. Either will have to be alert at all times.
And a rookie shall lead them. Steve Stamkos has proved he is ready to play elite level hockey. He’s tied for the tournament lead in goal scoring with seven. He’s done everything asked of him, and the ultimate capper on what’s been a busy first full year of professional hockey for the Markham, Ontario native would be a gold medal.