Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Point/Counterpoint: The Red Threat

russia ivan drago hockey
It’s time to introduce a new segment here at 5 Minutes For Fighting. We’re calling this Point/Counterpoint (What? 60 Minutes already has that? Who cares about that two-bit operation, it'll never catch on). We’ll have a debate on certain subjects. Sometimes the debate will be between Rick and I (hopefully these don’t descend into me calling him stupid for all my counterpoints) and other times we’ll have special guests on to give their opinions. This time the point/counter-point will feature only myself. This is because I’m having an internal battle over one topic of importance: Russia’s vast superiority at the 2010 Olympics. One side of me is examining their team rationally and finding overwhelming evidence to suggest they will cake-walk to the gold medal. The other side of me is desperately grasping at any sort of counter argument to this. My Canadian patriotism is taking over. I’m about ready to go Joseph McCarthy on everybody’s ass. Ring the bell.

Point: The Russian team has the most dynamic offense in the tournament. Their top-6 feature Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuck, Pavel Datsyuk, Alexander Semin, and Maxim Afinagenov.

Counter-point: Yes, Ovechkin, Malkin, and Kovalchuck are a terrifying combination, but there’s only one puck. How do you expect both Ovechkin and Kovalchuck to share one puck? Each player holds onto the puck for an inordinate amount of time, which will draw the ire of the other player.

Point: It seems to work fine when Ovechkin and Semin play together. Speaking of Ovechkin and Semin, there’s nothing to suggest they won’t play together with either Malkin or Datsyuk as the centre. You’re just assuming the three most dynamic offensive players will play together, but I’m sure the Russians are smart enough to balance their lines.

Counter-point: I can’t understand you; you’re speaking too logically for a commie. The Russian defence is weak. The top two defencemen who can actually play defensively are Andrei Markov and Anton Volechenkov. After that the calibre drops dramatically. Sure, they have Sergei Gonchar, but he can’t actually play defence. Canada is dynamic offensively as well and aside from Ovechkin they are much more physical. The Russian defence will be hammered so hard that they will weakly move the puck forward and compromise their attack. Plus, do you really think Sergei Gonchar is capable of handling someone as strong as Jarome Iginla or Ryan Getzlaf when the puck is down low?

Point: This is international hockey; the slightest Canadian infraction will result in a penalty. If Canada runs around playing like Bobby Clarke in ’72 then Russia will burn them on the power-play. If the Canadians play short-handed against the Russians then it won’t matter how good their defence and goaltending are, allowing Ovechkin, Malkin and Kovalchuck that much time and space will be lethal. Oh, and they also have someone named Sergei Gonchar who is known as somewhat of an offensive catalyst.

Counter-point: The games are not being played on Olympic style ice. The smaller ice surface favours Canada; it will benefit Canada’s physical style and will limit the room for Russian creativity. The smaller ice will benefit Canadian checkers and allow them to keep the gaps between them and the Russian snipers close. Plus, Canada will (hopefully) devote one line to solely shutting down the top Russian line. Let’s see how Ovechkin likes being shadowed by a hound-like Brendan Morrow. And when he crosses the blueline Pronger will be waiting.

Point: Penalties?

Counter-point: Don’t you understand I’m glossing over that subject? Even if Canada is weaker offensively than the Russians they certainly are superior in the coaching department. Mike Babcock is easily the best coach in the NHL and I’m sure the Canadians will be defensively prepared for the Russian attack. Who is coaching the Russians anyways? Pavel Bure? Isn’t he better off banging busty chicks and Candace Cameron?

Point: First, it was Valeri, not Pavel that married Candace Cameron. Second, the coach’s name is Vyacheslav Bykov. A quick Wikipedia tells me that he won a bronze coaching Russia at the 2007 World Championships and gold in 2008 and 2009. He also won gold as a player at the Olympics in 1988 and 1992. I know nothing else about him, but he said “even if we can rely on great forwards, we need to be able to count on that on both sides of the rink.” So, it looks like he knows a little about hockey. Also, does coaching even matter in such a short period of time? The tournament lasts less than two weeks. What sort of system can Babcock implement in this time?

Counter-point: He sounds like some type of vodka; I can only assume he’s placing the Russians on the Eddie Belfour diet. Plus, the world championships don’t count, Canada hardly even played the best defenceman of all-time last year (Luke Schenn), so that speaks to its prestige. Furthermore, Canada has the home town advantage. GM Place will be shaking. If the Russian defence are afraid of the Canadian forecheckers (and they will be), then they’re going to refuse to even go in the corners after the rafters erupt upon Canada’s first check. The atmosphere will be daunting.

Point: Joe Thornton is a selection. Having the Olympics in Canada after the disaster of 2006 will create an atmosphere of nauseating intensity. The pressure will be enormous. Pressure. Joe Thornton.

Counter-point: We’re doomed.

Note: I am on this Canada bandwagon so hard, even if Joe Thornton is too. In fact, I wish Joe all the success. I hope he proves me wrong. If Joe plays well then I’ll retract any negative comments I’ve ever made about him. Say YES to Joe in 2010!

Plus, I’m not even going to think about Canada’s potential weaknesses. In my blind eyes this is the most fantastic team ever assembled. Nothing can go wrong…unless somehow Todd Bertuzzi plays

Also, I fully realize that the tournament isn’t composed solely of Russia and Canada. Sweden is the defending champion for a reason. There are potentially six teams with a legitimate shot at gold. That said, fuck ‘em. C-A-N-A-D-A! CANADA!

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