Canada-Russia: Sidney Crosby vs. Alexander Ovechkin, with Medals on the Line

Kristian SiutaCorrespondent IIFebruary 24, 2010

WASHINGTON - MAY 13:  Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals and Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins shake hands after Pittsburgh's 6-2 victory in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinal  Round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center on May 13, 2009 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Hockey fans have seen this duel a few times before, but never on the world's stage at the Olympics.

Today, a rivalry will be renewed once again. Not just Crosby vs. Ovechkin, but Canada vs. Russia. 

Only one team, one superstar, and one country can win. 

Normally, this matchup takes place in the medal round, with a gold medal on the line. Sure, today's game will not reward either country with a medal around the neck, but as fans, we knew that this historic rivalry would be renewed once again to write a new chapter in the history books. 

The winner today goes to the semifinals. The loser goes home, without a thing to show for their efforts.

And for both of these countries, a loss will not be tolerated or accepted. 

Crosby and Ovechkin are tied with 42 goals thus far in the NHL season, and after last nights' Canadian onslaught against Germany, which resulted in an 8-2 win, the Canucks might have found their stride once again.

The question is, how much energy will they have left, playing two games in a 24-hour period? 

For Canada, a victory would provide some redemption after a crucial loss to the United States on the weekend, and a so-far disappointing performance in the medal count.

So much for the Canucks' phrase "own the podium."

But we all know that hockey is the big draw in the Winter Olympics, and Canada-Russia is as big as it gets. Another gut-wrenching loss, in front of their countrymen, to another longtime bitter rival, would be heartbreaking. 

To be ousted from the Olympics on their soil without a medal would be similar to Team USA losing in basketball in their gym to any other country. Plain and simple, Canada faces a must-win game today, and hearts will stop if a loss is notched. 

But Alex Ovechkin will have something to say about that. Ovechkin has scored twice and has two assists thus far in the Olympics.

On the grandest of stages, "Alex the Great" has now scored seven times in two Olympics for Russia, but his contributions are not limited to only tickling the twine. Just take a look back at Ovechkin's hit on the former NHL Superstar and current Czech Republic forward Jaromir Jagr. 

Canada's game against the United States was the most-watched sporting event in Canada's history. Nearly one third of the country's population was glued to the television. 

For today's game, the biggest event of the Olympics thus far, millions will be watching again in Canada, in the United States, and in Russia, where the start time of the game will be 3:30 am. 

The spotlight will be on the first Olympic battle between Crosby and Ovechkin, but which one will help their country take the next step towards winning the coveted gold medal?

After today, one team, one country, one superstar will still be alive to win the gold medal; who will it be?