CALGARY - Somewhere in D.C. Alex Ovechkin is smiling.
You bet he is. Evgeni Kuznetsov looks like the real deal. Already fans and analysts are talking about him being Alexander Semin's replacement for the Capitals. He just had four points in Russia's dramatic win versus Canada yesterday night...Ovechkin has a reason to smile. (That, and it looks like he's finally regained his scoring touch.)
That gap in his grin is gaping like Team Canada's net seemed to be early Tuesday night in what will go down as one of the most shocking losses in Canadian junior lore.
WAS, not seemed. WAS. The net was gaping. Russia was leading 5-1 at the end of the second. They finished with six goals.
After a perfect roundrobin, the Canadians were denied a trip to the world junior championship final for the first time since medal-round play was introduced 11 years ago, thanks to a spectacular 6-5 loss to Russia at the Dome.
The Washington Capitals forward, who is only starting to recover from the legendary 7-3 beatdown Canada laid on Russia in the quarterfinals of the 2010 Olympics, had to have been watching his Russian juniors semifinal win with glee.
I'm pretty sure he's recovered, and yes, he likely was in glee over the win. Carry on.
Fitting then that the man who did most of the damage was 19-year-old Capitals prospect Evgeni Kuznetsov, who will no doubt join Ovechkin in Washington next year to follow in the Gr8 Eight's footsteps.
Not only did the kid drafted 26th overall in 2010 score three times and add an assist in a game that was 5-1 Russia by the end of the second (only to end as a one-goal game, thanks to Canada's heart), he also factored in on some of the shenanigans that made both teams look bad for a time.
He's 19 years old playing in a tournament in which the media, mostly the Canadian media, glorifies every success and mistake these kids make. A tournament in which kids celebrate like they won the Stanley Cup after scoring to put their team ahead 8-0. Remember that.
As a frustrated Canadian squad began its meltdown late in the second period with a series of penalties and goals against, Russian Ildar Isangulov decided to lash back with a vicious elbow to the face of Boone Jenner.
As the groggy Canadian slowly got up Kuznetsov went over to say something to him.
The contents of the discussion will clearly never be relayed accurately but whether he was rubbing salt in the wound of an injured player or offering sincere condolences, he should have known better.
That was a large section to quote, but are you kidding me right now? So in the NHL, after a big and possibly controversial hit, NO ONE goes over an talks to anybody? Granted he talked to the player who was hit, but evidently Jenner was feeling good enough to talk, let alone spear him.
He had no business being around the fallen player.
He was fallen for a short time, and got up. I haven't seen a replay of the aftermath except for a quick one after the hit, but it's not like Kuznetsov stood over him while Jenner was on the ice.
Granted, although provoked, Jenner should have known better than to attempt to spear Kuznetsov (and receive a game misconduct for his effort).
As the only returning player from last year's gold medal-winning team, Kuznetsov wears the C on a team it appears at times he wants simply to carry on his back.
God forbid the most talented player on the team want to carry the team on his back against tough competition.
After scoring his second goal of the game, Kuznetsov refused to embrace any of his four teammates, instead soaking up the limelight himself while showboating and then making his way over to the Russian bench for high-fives.
While I don't particularly like that, this is different than the Canadian kids showboating during an 6-1, 7-1 game? I'm being vague, but come on.
After setting up the Russian's fifth goal with a brilliant pass of his own, Kuznetsov was again content to celebrate alone.
For those unfamiliar, Kuznetsov made a name for himself earlier in the tourney when he threatened a tourney record with nine points in a 14-0 win over the Latvians.
They were the only points he scored in the entire tourney until last night.
Yes, he picked a perfect time to show up again and participate.
He's a heck of a talent, but not much of a teammate.
So that's why he was named team captain...that's why he has seven assists in the tournament so far...that's why this happened:
When Russia was on a 3 on 5 PK in this World Juniors, Kuznetsov would at times be the sole forward the coach would put on the ice. #Selfish— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) January 4, 2012
Because he's a bad teammate. As if Francis knows what exactly goes on in the Russia locker room and on the ice. Right.
I also like this, courtesy of Scott Wasilewski:
Forget the fact that if Jaden Schwartz or any other Canadian would have done it, he would have been touted as a great leader — the fact remains that this is just another point of Eric Francis ignorance and the fact him being a columnist is a bit of a joke, especially considering he took the time out to focus on the bad side of Kuznetsov's game rather than the Canadians melting down as they did.
He was the one who selfishly tried to score on the empty net in the final minute by icing the puck and giving Canada another shot at tying the game.
Smart, team players don't do that.
Players trying to pad stats do.
REALLY? It was the end of a shift, Canada had crazy pressure on the Russian's, and he had a pretty good chance at the empty net to seal the game. He didn't miss by much. I guarantee any other player on the ice for Russia would have done the same thing.
He was also the one who showed little humility while accepting his player-of-the-game award by putting his hands up to his ears to encourage the booing that rained down on him.
Some call it being a character.
Yet the wonderful and passionate Canadian fans are in the clear to boo Kuznetsov and head for the exits during the Russian anthem. Okay.
Others call it being classless -- the kind of thing a kid who scores nine points on midget players would do.
Hahaha. While not Canadian, I guess Peter Forsberg is on the same level as Kuznetsov for scoring 10 points for Sweden against Japan in 1992. I bet it was perfectly okay when Canada's Gabriel Bourque padded his stats with seven points in a 16-0 rout of Latvia. Mike Cammalleri and Dave Andreychuk are also classless for scoring so many points in one game against "midget players."
He's 19 and he has lots of growing up to do.
Then why does this article even exist. He's 19. You could have just ended there.
But that didn't make it any less painful to watch on the juniors' biggest stage last night.
You know what was more painful? Watching Boone Jenner embarrass himself by spearing Kuznetsov, Jonathan Huberdeau get kicked out for mouthing off to the ref (presumably) and Brett Connolly somehow getting away with a punch to the throat of a Russia player.
In a Washington organization that also houses Ovechkin and Alex Semin, somehow we think Kuznetsov will fit right in.
As a potential lethal offensive forward. Got it.