Team Slovakia has a talent pool similar in strength to that of Team Russia, however, The Slovaks employed their resources better than the Red Army. Team Slovakia has elite forwards Marion Gaborik, Marcel & Marian Hossa along side old timers Ziggy Palffy, Jozef Stumpel, Richard Zednik (I still get shivers) & Pavol Demitra. They have giants Zdeno Chara & Milan Jurcina on D, along with several other NHL & KHL D-Men. The Slovak side, also includes current Sabre Andrej Sekera. In net they have Montreal Canadiens goaltender, Jaroslav Halak.
Slovakia witnessed Russia’s demise against Canada and took the free lesson to heart. For most of the game they played tight in their own zone & took very few chances. A re-direction 13:30 into the 1st by Patrick Marleau got Canada off to a 1-0 lead. 2 minutes later Brendan Morrow made it 2-0. Ryan Getzlaf scored the eventual game winner with 2:16 remaining in the 2nd period.
Miroslav Satan was the subject of criticism as he pulled up to avoid a hit in the offensive zone & lost the puck along the end boards. The Canadians proceeded take the rock 200 feet & bury it to take the 1-0 lead. The former Sabre was heavily criticized by the NBC announcers. The criticism was correct, but somewhat harsh, seeing that Satan’s teammates also failed to stop the play from developing into a goal against. I felt satisfied that Satan was long ago cast-off from Buffalo(These Satan references never get old). Stanley Cups (and Gold Medals) are won by players willing to get dirty, not the team with the cleanest uniform at games end.
Slovakia scored 2 in the 3rd period to close the gap. Lubomir Visnovsky scored 11:35 into the 3rd and Michael Handzus(who shaves at each intermission & is 1/8 Grizzly Bear) scored a few minutes later with assists from Satan & Zednik. It was Roberto Luongo who saved the day for Canada with a big glove save on Pavol Demitra as time was running out.
Canada is onto the next round and Slovakia can hold their heads high as they head into todays Bronze Medal match-up against a defeated Finland team.
Sabre Fan Note: I find it tough to hate Chara when he’s playing the under-dog role and also fighting for his nation’s pride. I look forward to renewing that hatred when the NHL starts back up in a few days.