What’s Wrong With Russia (and other Olympic thoughts)
On Wednesday, the hockey world was stunned when Russia fell to Finland by a 3-1 margin. On the surface, Russia is one of the powers of the hockey world. Hell, they (well, the Soviets) won gold 6 out of 7 Olympics, and won silver the other time. But that was a long time ago, and while reality has changed, the perception is dragging. Yesterday’s loss makes it now 3 straight games in which the Russian team will go home empty handed, and now 6 straight without capturing the gold. So what gives!?
Before the tournament, many in hockey media picked Russia to at very least reach the podium, if not take home the gold. Everyone at Puck Daddy save for Jen Neale picked Russia to take home something shiny, the majority of the experts(?) at ESPN had Russia winning medals, SI picked Russia to win silver, several of the ProHockeyTalk staff was on the Putin bandwagon, and on and on…
We’d like to take this time to direct everyone to the Cheaters Never Win podcast from last month where Mike’s predictions were:
Gold Medal Game: Sweden vs. USA
Bronze Medal Game: Canada vs. Finland
Also, neither of us had Russia taking home a medal. Not sayin… just sayin! But back to Russia, they have some of the best offensive talent in the world, and it’s easy to get enchanted with a top 6 that included Malkin, Ovechkin, Datsyuk, Kovalchuk, and Semin. That’s some damn impressive shooting and playmaking. The problem lies in the fact that hockey requires things called 4 lines, defense, and goaltending.
With a defense of Ilya Nikulin, Nikita Nikitin, Slava Voynov, Fedor Tyutin, Alexei Emelin, Anton Belov, Andrei Markov, and Yevgeny Medvedev, how in the blue hell could anyone make an argument that they would survive against other teams with talented forwards?! They’re not a physical bunch, they don’t have much scoring from the blueline, and they don’t have a prototypical shutdown guy like so many other countries can claim.
Are the 1950’s through 80’s so ingrained in folks’ minds that it seems blasphemous to NOT predict Russia to medal? Their glory days of hockey came when they were fielding teams of professional players who played together year-round against amateur players and college kids. Since every country has been allowed to use NHL players, Russia has 1 silver, 1 bronze, and 3 goose eggs. They’re now the Tiger Woods of hockey: brand name that casual folks know, and everyone still predicts to win the big one, but you can count on not being relevant come the big tournament.
Other Olympic Musings
-According to Igor Kleyner (of RNMB) on twitter: Semin was playing with serious back and wrist problems in Sochi. We’d heard that he was ailing earlier in the year, and the arm issues aren’t a surprise. But what’s up with the back problems? That doesn’t sound like a good thing. And Sasha will be staying in Russia to watch the closing ceremonies to complete the saddest trip ever.
–John Tavares is done for the season after tearing his MCL and meniscus yesterday. That doesn’t bode well for the Islanders or the chances of NHL players going to South Korea for the 2018 Olympics. It does, in all likelihood, make Garth Snow’s phone light up even more with GM’s asking about Vanek.
-Speaking of Vanek, apparently Austria was disappointed that they named him captain after the team’s admission that they were out drinking until 6 in the morning after beating Norway. Why so late? Did they not know they had another game? Were they in Snoop Dogg’s living room gettin’ it on?
-For those wanting to watch tomorrow’s USA-Canada tilt at a bar, Lucky B’s on Glenwood South will be open at noon tomorrow. Go cheer for America with former Hurricane and Amazing Race winner Bates Battaglia.
How have you enjoyed the Olympic hockey? What are your thoughts on Russia? Let us know in the comments!