Features

World Championships 2008: Semi Finals

Friday, 16th May 2008

RUSSIA V FINLAND

Russia have waited 12 months for revenge after Finland beat them in the semi finals in Moscow. They boasted the top two lines in the competition with the “Washington line” of Federov, Semin and Ovechkin and the Kazan trio of Morozov, Zaripov and Zinoviev. Finland had Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu. Both teams goalies were from the top drawer with Nabokov wearing the red of Russia and Backstrom the white of Finland.

A nervy start from both teams with chances at both ends. The capacity crowd were loving every minute of it with noisy chants for both teams. Russia scored first on 13.41 as the top line broke out of their own zone. A lovely 1-2-3 play from Ovechkin and Semin ended with Fedorov scoring high over Backstrom’s right pad. Finland’s best chance of the period fell to Jokinen after Ruutu fiercely won the puck behind the Russian goal to feed Jussi Jokinen but Nabokov was up to it. End of period 1 and 1-0 to Russia.

Russia started the second phase on top and the dream line of Morozov, Zaripov and Zinoviev, playing together for the first time in 3 games were looking strong every shift. It took them only 3.44 of the second period to double the Russian lead. Once again it was tic-tac-toe between the three of them and Zaripov ended the move with a quick shot from the face off circle to beat Backstrom. Finland came back at Russia after this and had a few good chances but Nabokov was in no mood to be beaten. The best chance came around the midpoint in the game when Miko Koivu jammed the puck goalwards and Nabokov dropped into the splits and sat on the puck. End of 2 periods and Russia were comfortable at 2-0.

A minute into the third period Ruutu crashed the net and collided with Nabokov. There were plenty of concerned looks on the Russian bench as the goalie took his time recovering. Finland were having their best phase of the game but Nabokov looked safe as houses. With 52.15 on the clock Russia closed out the game. There were 17 seconds left in the powerplay, gained by a too many men call on Finland, when Morozov let go a ripper from the right face off circle to flash under Backstrom’s arm for 3-0 and thoughts of a game on Sunday were definitely on Russian minds. Finland pulled Backstrom with just under three minutes left and on 57.56 captain Sushinsky scored an empty netter to complete the rout. Final score 4-0 to Russia.

Unfortunately coach Doug Sheddon just failed to take his charges to the final in his native country and he now hands over the reigns to Jukka Jalonin for next years competition.

A deserved win for the red machine and it will take one helluvan effort from Canada or Sweden on Sunday to stop them picking up the gold they feel they should have had last year.

CANADA V SWEDEN

The second semi final proved to be a totally different type of game from the first and the result was in doubt for most of the game. Canada dominated the early exchanges keeping the Swedes in their own defensive end for the first six or seven minutes. Canada took the lead on the powerplay at 5.35. Burns crossed the blueline on the right and put the puck into the slot for Heatley. Despite a physical check he managed to hit the biscuit past Lundqvist. Sweden took over for the rest of the period and Pascal Leclaire earned his corn, keeping out all but one shot. Sweden equalised with 44 seconds left on the clock when Anton Srtalman gained the slot and scooped a loose puck over Leclaire’s shoulder for 1-1 to end the period.

The second stanza provided the most entertainment seen at the championships with six goals, countless other chances and a shot count of 15-12 to Canada.

Sweden took the lead at 22.46 under somewhat fortunate circumstances. Canada’s outstanding defenceman Mike Green hit a cannon of a slapshot that beat Lundqvist all ends up but came off the post with such ferocity that it ended up at centre ice and created an odd man rush for the Swedes. After a bit of a scrum in front of goal Wallin managed to smack the puck home from close range. 1.12 later Getzlaf scored for Canada to tie the game as he skated down the left and cut in towards goal, lifting the puck over Lundqvist on the short side. The hosts took the lead at 28.31 when Jamal Mayers picked up on a defensive mixup by Sweden to find himself all alone in the slot and he beat the goalie stickside for 3-2. Back came Sweden to draw level 3 minutes later on the powerplay as he sent a shot high past a screened Leclaire.

The scoring frenzy continued 1 minute later at 32.29 when Rick Nash scored with a spectacular goal. He received the puck from Dany Heatley on the Swedish blue line and as two burly D men came at him, he muscled straight through them to crash the net and beat Lundqvist high on the stick side. Outstanding goal from Mr Nash to give Canada a 4-3 lead. One more goal to come in a mad, mad period and it gave Canada a two goal lead going into the third period. Sweden, a man down with Wallin in the box, took a 2 plus 2 for high sticks by Jonas Frogren to give Canada the 5 on 3. Mike Green moved up ice as the clock wound down moved towards the net. The single Swedish D man, Douglas Murray lost an edge and fell, giving Green a clear path to Lundqvist. The goalie committed too early and as he sprawled on the ice, Green lifted the puck over the glove side for 5-3 with 6 seconds left in the period. A crazy 20 minutes that had the capacity 13,000 crowd on their feet for most of it. Canada had certainly done their homework on Lundqvist as all five goals beat him high over the shoulder. Sweden pulled him for Mikael Tellqvist for the final 20 minutes.

Canada shut up shop in the third, inviting Sweden to come at them, holding the neutral ground for most of the period. Sweden pulled it back to 5-4 with 5.39 remaining in the game when Fredrik Warg scored. Sweden pulled their goalie with 30 seconds remaining but Canada held on for an amazing win in a fabulous game of hockey.

 

And so we are down to the final two. Arguably the best two hockey teams in the competition. Two teams who defend vigorously and attack with impunity. We are going to see Getzlaf, Nash, Heatley, Ovechkin, Markov and Semin pit their wits for 60 mins or more. And don’t forget the duel of the goalies with Cam Ward starting for Canada and the outstanding Nabokov for Russia. It is going to be a treat on Sunday.

Before that, we have the bronze medal game between near neighbours Sweden and Finland on Saturday night. Can’t wait!

More later

Tambo

Related reads

2008 IIHF World Championships logo

Russia play Finland and Canada play Sweden in the semi finals of the 2008 World Championships.


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