On the same day Russia had its first practice in Sochi, the president of the Russian Hockey Federation — and one of the country’s greatest netminders ever — said the team still needs to decide on a starting goalie.
“The most important thing for us is to take a good goalie,” Vladislav Tretiak said, per the Olympic News Service. “We now have two leading ones and we need to choose which one will start. It’s good that we have this choice.”
Russia’s No. 1 gig will either go to Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky or Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov. At Monday’s skate, the Russians weren’t tipping their collective hand as to who it would be — PHT’s man on the ground, Jason Brough, said there were no hints or suggestions leaning either way — and that’s not surprising, given both have been equally good in their respective NHL campaigns thus far.
Bobrovsky, the reigning Vezina winner, rebounded from a mid-season groin injury to compile tremendous numbers over the last two months, posting a .926 save percentage in 10 January games (with one shutout), then upping that to a .942 save percentage over four games in February.
Varlamov, who sits tied for third in the NHL in wins (28), has done very well lately in the face of some huge shot totals. He stopped 46 of 48 in a mid-January win over Chicago, 41 of 44 against Dallas in a victory on Jan. 27, and 34 of 32 in a loss to Philly right before the break — a game in which he was named the third star.
In terms of international experience, Varlamov is decidedly out in front. He represented Russia at a pair of World Junior tournaments (2006 and ’07) and a pair of World Championships, including the ’12 edition in Helsinki in which he backstopped his country to gold.
Bobrovsky, meanwhile, hasn’t suited up internationally since the 2008 World Juniors, when he won bronze for Russia. On Monday, the Columbus ‘tender said he hadn’t been informed who’s going to start when Russia opens the tournament against Slovenia in two days, and explained he’s just trying to focus on the basics.
“I try to keep it simple,” he said. “My job is to stop the puck, and I try to focus on that.”