It took some time, but Jarome Iginla finally found his game! The Calgary Flame exploded for two key goals, in Canada’s 5-0 defeat of Slovakia Wednesday night. As Team Canada played perfect positional hockey and let Lemieux, Sakic and Iginla play pass and shoot for most of the evening. The game was the final one of the quarterfinals and with the victory the Canadians move on to the semi finals of the World Cup of Hockey, taking on the Czech Republic on Saturday night in Toronto.
Vincent Lecavalier got things under way for Canada with a goal in the second period, which began a four goal avalanche on the Slovakian net minder Jan Lasak. Besides Lecavalier, there was one of Iginla’s goals, a goal by Joe Sakic and one by Ryan Smith, after the Smith goal, Lasak was replaced in the Slovak net as Rastilav Stana took over near the 12 minute market. While the entire team worked well on this night, it was the trio of Lemieux, Sakic and Iginla that looked amazing. The three are finally starting to mesh on a highly skilled line, they set each other up with pin point passes and seemingly Seeing Eye passes at times. The only thing left for this line to do now is get Mario a few goals, the Canadian captain is still goal less in the tournament though he had his chances again tonight and you sense he’s not too far away from goal scoring bonanza.
Slovakia had held tough in the first period, playing a strong defensive game and bottling up the play fairly well, shots on goal at the end of the first were 8-6 in favour of Canada. The Canadians took advantage of several miscues in the second period however, taking control of the game and from that point the end was near for Slovakia. The four goal splurge in the second sent the Slovaks back on their heels and they never really recovered after that. All that was left was a bid to end the shutout bid of Martin Brodeur and while they kept the shots close, ending the game at 23-26, Brodeur made the saves when he had to and never seemed to be over taxed, sealing the win for Canada. In four games, Brodeur has faced 102 shots and saved 99 of them, making for a very solid last line of defence. Brodeur's shut out Wednesday was his first of the tourney and the first of his International career. Iginla scored his second goal of the night in the third, knocking in the final marker in the victory.
While the Canadians are saying all the right things about the Czech squad, about not taking them lightly, not overlooking the talent on the roster, etc, the game should match up nicely for Canada. The Czechs have only recently put their game in order, there is still some backbiting on that roster and some of the Czech players are an enigma, one game they’ll look all world, the next all beer league. However, they are an old nemisis, ending Canada's Gold Medal bid in the Nagano Olympics. Canada should probably expect the quality of the Czech play to match that of its competition, making it this far in a tournament can give a team some hidden strength, especially in a tourney that features one game elimination matches
The message for the Czech Republic now will be simple; Keep up with the pace. Canada has four lines to roll over though the game, each one as dangerous as the last. If Canada can keep up the momentum and keep the big line scoring, then there is a very good chance that they’ll be taking to the ice next Tuesday in the World Cup final.