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SURVIVING THE SLOVAKS
Michael Farber
March 11, 2010
THE GAME WAS IN HAND, VICTORY ASSURED. THEN CAME THE HEART-STOPPING FINAL MINUTES
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March 11, 2010

Surviving The Slovaks

THE GAME WAS IN HAND, VICTORY ASSURED. THEN CAME THE HEART-STOPPING FINAL MINUTES

THE OFFICIAL Olympic clothing that was all the rage during the Games was designed and sold by the Hudson's Bay Co., whose superstore in downtown Vancouver was jammed from 9 a.m. to midnight. So maybe it figured that if Hudson Bay clothes were ruling the Olympics, the last two minutes of Team Canada's semifinal victory would be played under Hudson Bay Rules. As a Canadian hockey fan, you know that Hudson Bay Rules basically means there are no rules at all...anything goes. And as pucks and bodies flew, as Slovakia jammed the net, as the seconds seemed like minutes in the mayhem in front of Team Canada goalie Roberto Luongo, pretty much everything went. Fortunately for Canada, nothing went in behind him.

Canada earned its rematch with the United States the truly hard way, clinging to a 3-2 win over the Slovaks in a meltdown that began shortly after the leather lungs at Canada Hockey Place began a "We Want USA" chant in the third period. In classical Greek drama this would be called hubris. In Freudian psychology it might be known as premature jubilation.

Canada had gotten tip-in goals from Patrick Marleau and Brenden Morrow in the first period, Ryan Getzlaf had scored in the second, and the team had dominated Slovakia, a country that, in our Know Your Olympic Opponent segment, is a leading manufacturer of pucks. The Slovaks make them; they just didn't seem to like shooting them on Luongo until Lubomir Visnovsky made a daring play. The defenseman likes to join the rush, and as he brought the puck toward the Canadian goal on his backhand, Canada's Chris Pronger, perhaps wary of taking a penalty, left him to Luongo. Visnovsky had an acute angle and almost no ice, but he squeezed the puck between the goalie and the post.

Some 3½ minutes later, on a sequence that began after Patrice Bergeron lost a face-off in the right corner, Slovak center Michal Handzus flipped a backhand rebound past Luongo.

Funny, noted coach Mike Babcock: After allowing the goals, Canada couldn't seem to make a pass. But he wasn't laughing when he said it.

There was much to admire about Team Canada during the concluding mad scramble, including blocked shots by Mike Richards and Drew Doughty and a point-blank glove save by Luongo on Canucks teammate Pavol Demitra with nine seconds left. But the nerve-racking coda came about in part because the callow defensive pair of Doughty and Duncan Keith got trapped on the ice after the Slovaks pulled goalie Jaroslav Halak; they were unable to find a way to clear the zone and go for a change.

"That's just part of getting whiskers in the [sport]," Babcock said. "You've got to see some situations, be chasing your tail a few times, to figure out exactly how to stop and play with some poise and [know] the puck's actually going to come back to you if you play in the inside...our whole group came a little bit unraveled at the end."

As they prepared to face the quicksilver and confident U.S.—"We've got something to prove against them," Morrow said—a chastened (and relieved) Team Canada knew poise was one thing not for sale at The Bay.

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