Tretiak eagerly anticipating latest Russia-Canada matchup
VANCOUVER — If there was any doubt about the megawatt electricity of a Canada-Russia Olympic quarter-final, Vladislav Tretiak re-confirmed it Tuesday.
Tretiak, the legendary goaltender for the Soviet Union’s Big Red Machine in the 1970s and ’80s and Team Russia’s general manager for these Olympics, said he looked forward to a matchup with Canada — although it’s bittersweet that it should happen so early in the competition.
“In our opinion (Canada) is one of the best teams in the tournament and we really respect these guys,” Tretiak, 57, said through the translation of Russian journalist Sergey Averiyanov.
“It’s a pity that one of these great teams can’t get a medal. It’s not very good that teams like this should meet each other at this stage. Just imagine that one of these teams will go home (after Wednesday).”
Tretiak, the president of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, said there is always something special about playing the Canadians.
“It doesn’t depend on the level, it’s been a rivalry since 1972,” he said. “It doesn’t even depend on the role of the team in the tournament, if one is favoured or not. Even if Russia doesn’t have a chance to win a medal, a game against Canada is special.”
While Canada hasn’t played up to expectations, the Russians won their pool — their only hiccup a shootout loss to Slovakia. Team Canada coach Mike Babcock, on the other hand, was forced to change goaltenders midway through the tourney — replacing Martin Brodeur with Roberto Luongo.
Tretiak said he didn’t see the goalie change as a concern — although he’s not the one doing it.
“It’s not a big deal to change the goalie for a game versus Germany, but it’s still a question who will play against Russia,” he shrugged. “Brodeur is still a very experienced goalie. They are both very good goalies. They play with different styles but both are very good.”
Tretiak confirmed that Evgeni Nabokov will start against Canada, although that’s seems a little strange. Nabokov, who plays in San Jose, has two starts to Ilya Bryzgalov’s one, but has inferior numbers (2.00 to 1.85 goals-against average and .911 to .939 save percentage.
Tretiak’s team is filled with game-breaking forwards, but he knows that winger Alex Ovechkin, generally considered to be the best player in the world, can be a difference-maker against Canada. But he also knows that Canada’s Sidney Crosby can play the same role for his country.
His interesting view of the two is that Crosby plays more like a Russian than Ovechkin.
“In terms of style, Crosby is a more European player and Ovechkin is more North American,” he said. “Ovechkin resembles (Eric) Lindros. He doesn’t play a pure Russian style. Why does he play like this? It’s very difficult to say because we don’t have an example like with Russian players, especially veterans. He’s a unique player. Maybe he took something from North Americans.”
Tretiak was also asked if he’d heard that Paul Henderson — who scored against him with 34 seconds to play to win the Summit Series in what’s regarded as Canada’s greatest sporting moment — has been diagnosed with leukemia.
Tretiak nodded slowly as the question was asked in English. “I would wish for Paul to be healthy,” he said.
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