The NHL has done it's best to build up a rivalry between the league's two biggest stars.
Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semi-finals last year was built up bigger than the Stanley Cup. Pens versus Caps. Crosby v. Ovechkin. And then what happened? The Caps got blown out on home-ice. After two periods, it was 5-0 Penguins. Pens embarrassed Ovechkin and the Caps winning 6-2 on their way to capturing the Stanley Cup.
The NHL has built up a Russia-Canada Matchup. They dedicated an entire day of programming to a Crosby v. Ovechkin Special. This was supposed to be the Gold Medal game. The two most highly-skilled teams in the World. The two biggest stars of the NHL.
The matchup came a bit earlier than anyone expected but it was going to be great none the less.
And then Russia took a big dump on everyone:. A big dump of "Euro-trash" according to Mike Milbury. Russia's biggest stars failed to show. Pierre LeBrun agrees. Once Canada went up 1-0, Russia's stars pulled off one of the greatest disappearing acts in sports history. Ovechkin, Malkin, Kovalchuk, Datsyuk and the rest of them looked overwhelmed. Too much one-on-one talent. No teamwork. No battle. No push-back. No Heart.
Evgeni Nabokov looked to be fighting the same demons that have kept his San Jose Sharks from getting past the Western Conference Semi-Finals in forever.
And Head Coach Vyacheslav Bykov. What in the world was this guy thinking? His line combinations early in the tournament were head-scratchers. He finally got them right after a loss to Slovakia. But his decision to keep Nabokov in for six goals was frustrating.
And the most frustrating decision of all: playing Alexander Ovechkin in-front of the net on the PP?! Really?! Has Ovechkin been working with Tomas Holmstrom and Ryan Smyth on his deflections and tip-ins? He's got the best shot of any player in the world. He'll take 5-6 shots on a Capitals power play. Yet on Russia's man-advantage, Ovechking doesn't even touch the puck.
Bottom Line: Canada owned Russia but the Russians surrendered this game to the hometown team before the game even started. Russia's decision to send nine KHL players and expect them to find chemistry with the NHL players was foolish. Their attempt to make a statement to the hockey world that the KHL is on-par with the NHL was idiotic.
If there was any doubt that the NHL's Russian Stars would be in Sochi in 2014, I think we can all guarantee that they'll be there with a HUGE chip on their shoulder after this embarrassment.
Crosby 2. Ovechkin 0.