Sidney Crosby and Canada vs. Evgeni Malkin and Russia offers Pens fans poison pills

Perhaps the game of the tournament is taking place tonight in the quarterfinals, as Team Canada meets Team Russia.  Coming into the Olympics the two teams were seen to be "#1" and "#1A" by all observers due to the strength of their rosters, yet both stumbled slightly in qualifications, so thus this matchup is not going to be the expected gold medal showdown.

It also offers Penguin fans a difficult choice: cheer for Team Canada and their first line center in Sidney Crosby?  Or cheer for Team Russia and their first line center Evgeni Malkin and top defenseman Sergei Gonchar?  Either choice has some poison pills: cheering for our neighbors to the north means you'd be hoping that Penguin-enemies Mike Richards and Chris Pronger advance.  However, if you root for Mother Russia, you're hoping to see Alex Ovechkin put a notch in his hat at Crosby's expense.

Vancouver is the latest battleground in the Crosby v. Ovechkin war for supremacy.  Crosby leads in head-to-head wins, playoff wins, Stanley Cups, while Ovechkin has more overall points, Rocket Richard's and MVP's.  Amazingly both have an almost identical NHL point/game average, with Crosby holding about the narrowest of leads (1.353 to AO's 1.346).  One of the two rivals will leave the 2010 Olympics medal-less because of this game, and the other may be one his way to another feather in his cap.

Evgeni Malkin's an interesting guy to watch in general, but especially since he's on the other side for a change in the Crosby/Ovechkin rivalry.  Always the man in the shadows, Geno's play could go a long way to determining the winner.  Quietly, entering the medal round, Malkin (5) was tied with Crosby in points, both of whom were one up on Ovechkin (4).

No matter the result, the Pittsburgh Penguins figure to get a disappointed center back for the rest of the season.  Hopefully it'll prove to be an extremely motivated form of disappointment to fuel another long playoff run.

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