- Jesse Rogers, ESPN Staff Writer
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On second thought, you won’t see the three Hawk Olympians on Team Canada at practice when the Blackhawks resume work on Thursday -- at least not for a few more days. Their Olympic team finally came to play, avoiding elimination for the second straight night and advancing to the semi-finals on Friday.
Canada woke up from its tournament slumber, pasting what was thought to be a dangerous Russian squad 7-3. The emotion Canada showed compared to previous games was night and day. From the drop of the puck, the host country’s team simply would not be denied. They scored 2:21 into the game and never looked back after a four-goal opening period. Russia looked stunned, if not shocked by the onslaught.
Again, Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews was one of the better players on the ice as his international star continues to grow. Toews had assists on two of Canada’s seven goals. In the first, he incited a Russian turnover, then moved up ice and received a pass only to feed Rick Nash for an easy goal. That put Canada up 3-0. In the second, he took a loose puck, entered the offensive zone and found Shea Weber to extend the lead to 6-1. Toews has been nothing short of fantastic on both ends of the ice in his Olympic debut. He played 15:50, finishing with those two helpers and a plus 2 rating. In the five games Canada has played, he’s a team-best plus nine with a team-high seven assists. That’s right, Toews is helping lead the way on one of the most talented teams Canada has ever assembled.
Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook had solid efforts as well, though again Seabrook played limited minutes. Keith had two assists in 22:54 of ice time and if Toews has been the most consistent forward, then Keith has done the same on the back end. Seabrook played well in only 7:49 of ice time.
Speaking of defense, Canada’s seven blueliners made the difference between this game and previous ones in the tournament. They played with aggression and passion, jumping into the offensive play and putting more pressure on Russia than they could handle. On this night, they combined for two goals and five assists. Those are more like the numbers Canada expected when its team was put together.
Canada may have found its game, but their next contest will certainly confirm or refute that. But for now, they’ve put their stamp on this tournament with their biggest victory yet. The U.S. and Canada are one game away from the ultimate rematch. On to the semifinals.