Chicago, IL — Heading into the Semi Final games today there were some classic rivalries scheduled with Team Russia taking on Team Canada and the second tilt Team Sweden taking on Team Finland. Now you could not ask for any better match-ups as far as rivalry goes.
The best of these was the Team Russia vs Team Canada match-up. It featured the classic opposite styles with Team Russia playing the European puck possession game vs Team Canada and their straight ahead north south North American style physical game.
Although I thought Team Canada would win simply because Team USA seemed to handle Team Russia pretty well and they really did not match up well against the North American game I was still rooting for Team Russia because of Artemi Panarin.
Sorry Team Canada you don’t have any Chicago Blackhawks on your team it’s nothing personal.
Panarin was on the third line with Nikita Kucherov and Evgeni Kuznetsov. Namestnikov was in the game but Russian coach Oleg Znarok decided to stick with the same line that ended last game when Namestnikov was replace due to injury.
Canada was the home team and thus had last change so Jon Cooper pitted a line of Alex Killorn, Sean Couturier and Matt Duchene to keep in check Panarin’s line as they were the only true NHL line.
The Canadian line did a pretty good job of keeping the Kurcherov, Panarin, Kuznetsov line in check but with all that skill you knew it would only be a matter of time til they busted through.
Watching the Russian passing plays is like watching the Bolshoi ballet it is so rhythmic and beautifully orchestrated and on this day the choreographer was Artemi Panarin.
There was a gorgeous tic tac goal play from Kucherov to Panarin who went cross ice to a waiting Kuznetsov by the side of the net for easy tap into an open net to get the scoring started.
Team Russia had a lot of chances on the power play early and were stopped however they finally broke through when maestro Panarin got things rolling into the Canadian zone setting up another tic tac goal play. This time it was Panarin to Shipachyov to Guzev and just like that it was 2-0 Team Russia.
The third period however was all Canada as they mounted what has to be a heartbreaking comeback for Russia to win the game 4-2 in regulation. The partisan Russian crowd looked very disappointed and can you blame them Russia led through most of the game.
So Team Russia will now be relegated to playing for the Bronze medal tomorrow against Team Finland. Team Russia should be favored in this game but you never know.
Panarin added two more assists to his total which keeps him in the lead in scoring but I’m sure Artemi would’ve rather won the game.
So Panarin ended the game with 2 apples, 2 SOG and 16:45 TOI. Panarin has 4G and 12A so far in the tournament with one more game to go. Panarin was named one of three players of the game for Team Russia.
His ice time was limited in the third period with all the penalties Team Russia took while Canada did not score on them they did however keep out of the game their more skilled offensive players as they were forced to penalty kill.
Seven penalties is too many and this is something Team Russia needs to clean up as they ran into the same problem against Team USA.
The second Semi Final game saw Team Sweden easily defeating Team Finland 4-1. This game was a typical Sweden vs Finland game tight checking and defense first type game. Yet Team Sweden managed to close this out pretty easy.
Marcus Kruger got on the score sheet with an assist on old buddy Joakim Nordstrom’s goal. Kruger and company have now punched their ticket for the opportunity to play Team Canada for the Gold medal tomorrow.
The Bronze medal game will be first at approximately 9:00 Am Chicago time and then the Gold medal game will be 1:00pm CT. You can catch these games on either NHL Network or the NBC sports app.
Good Luck Artemi and Marcus!
Video taken from YouTube IIHF