This afternoon, a half a world away, four of the Capitals' finest will be on the same ice - as fierce opponents. The historic, and often ugly, rivalry between Russia and Canada will come to a head once again as the two teams meet at 2:15 p.m. in the quarterfinals of the IIHF World Championships. Representing their respective countries are Washington's Brooks Laich (Canada) and Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Semyon Varlamov (Russia). Russia took the crown last year, but it is always a heated battle when these two highly talented teams meet. When interviewed about facing his captain Ovi in today's game, Laich said, "There will be no friends today." This will not be the same Brooks that stops to change a tire for stranded ladies in distress when he meets his Russian NHL mates later today, that's for sure. Meanwhile, several NHL players (including Sidney Crosby, our own Nick Backstrom, and fellow Swedes Henrik Zetterberg and the Sedins) have been called out in a controversial Web posting by Szymon Szemberg, the International Ice Hockey Federation director of communications, for not participating in this year's World Championships (despite all playing in the Olympics and the NHL's post-season). Sorry Szymon, but Backstrom was busy signing his long-term phat contract with the Capitals and resting up for next season. Hockey Canada came to King Crosby's defense of course and many in the hockey world are calling the accusations by the IIHF unfounded and ridiculous. In any case, hope the players that didn't participate are getting some much-needed R&R and best of luck to all of our Capitals still competing.
In other hockey happenings, a Hockey Mom high five to one of my faves, Henrik Sedin for being named The Sporting News Player of the Year. Sedin recorded a career high 112 points this season and is up for the Hart Trophy alongside Ovi and Crosby, despite being without the magical services of his twin brother for a long stretch of the season. Sorry my #33 Sedin shirt didn't bring you any more luck in the second round Henrik, but congrats on this latest accolade!
And Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals goes down tonight. The Canadiens hope to get on the board quickly in front of their loyal fans at a raucous Bell Centre after being shut out by the Flyers in the first two games. Flyers' net minder Michael Leighton has apparently stolen Jaro Halak's hot hand thus far, making 58 stops to this point in this series. Meanwhile, the Flyers' Ville Leino's third period goal on Tuesday was a result of one of the ugliest non-attempts to stop a puck I've ever seen from a goaltender. The Habs are trying to regroup and return to the form that helped them take down the powerhouse Capitals and Penguins - don't count Cinderella out yet folks.