Canada 0, Russia 2
I remember February 20, 1998 vividly. On that date I watched Canada play the Czech Republic in the Nagano Olympics semi-final. I watched the game from Taryn's grandmother's condo in White Rock, British Columbia and I'll never forget that sinking feeling I had when Brenden Shanahan failed to score against Dominik Hasek in the shootout. Team Canada's best players were out and wouldn't be playing for gold. I was devastated.
Losing 2-0 to Russia yesterday has resulted in a very different feeling. This time, we were clearly not up for the challenge. In six games we were shutout three times. Other than brief spurts here and there, our best seemed totally uninspired. As soon as we lost 2-0 to the Swiss I knew in my heart of hearts that we weren't going to repeat as Olympic champions. A miraculous recovery was not to be.
For the next four years we'll be wondering what went wrong and working to ensure we don't embarrass ourselves at the 2010 games on home ice. As soon as the team was picked I questioned the ommissions of Eric Staal, Jason Spezza, Brendan Shanahan and Dion Phaneuf. What I failed to predict was the absolute ineffectiveness of dependable stars like Joe Thornton, Simon Gagne, Jerome Iginla, Danny Heatley and Rick Nash. When guys like this appear mediocre on ice, it's difficult to surmise precisely what went wrong.
The whole thing has me totally bummed. The crush of this premature defeat even brought this site down for a few hours last night, forcing me to sleep on this entry. The only cure for this hangover is improved play from my Maple Leafs and a birth in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Sadly, that too may be a miraculous recovery that's not meant to be.