Going into the 2014 Winter Games, Russia appeared to have a questionable defense and arguably lacked the depth of the other major hockey nations. But they were loaded with so many world-class scoring threats that they had to be taken seriously.
By the end of the tournament, the talk had shifted from if Russia would be able to overcome its defensive shortcomings to why they couldn’t get anything going offensively.
- The Russians’ attempts to blend KHL and NHL talent together bred, at best, mixed results. Attempting to put KHLer Alexander Popov on a line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin didn’t help. Not only did it weaken the already struggling top line, but the KHL forwards — with two notable exceptions — combined for just one goal for Russia.
- Those two exceptions were a pair of NHLers that bolted for the KHL in Alexander Radulov and Ilya Kovalchuk. They were two of the nation’s best players, even if Radulov came under fire for taking bad penalties.
- The NHL talent didn’t exactly live up to expectations either. Pavel Datsyuk was the only Russian NHLer to score more than one goal. Alexander Semin, Vladimir Tarasenko, Nikita Nikitin, Nikolai Kulemin, Artem Anisimov, and Fedor Tyutin finished the tournament without a single marker.
- Alex Ovechkin did find the back of the net — 77 seconds into Russia’s Olympic opener — and then never scored again. Something that Russian coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov brought up without prompting during his quarterfinals’ postgame press conference.
- Similarly, Malkin had three points in Russia’s opener versus Slovenia and failed to record another point for the remainder of the Olympics.
- Further discounting the notion that this was purely an issue of KHLers dragging down the offense was how the team did with the man advantage. The Russian top power-play unit needed to be their strong point and it certainly looked up to the task with an initial composition of Ovechkin, Datsyuk, Kovalchuk, Radulov and defenseman Andrei Markov. Eventually Radulov was swapped out in favor of Malkin, but in the end the team managed just three power-play goals.
- Prior to Russia’s game against Norway, Malkin harped on that point, saying that the team’s power play was the shortcoming they needed to address “first and foremost.” They spent a fair amount of time working on it without results.
- In the end, Russia scored 12 goals in regulation time in five games, but nine of those markers came against Slovenia and Norway. Not including the Russians’ shootout goals, they scored just three times in three contests against the U.S., Slovakia, and Finland.
- In closing, here’s what a dejected Ovechkin had to say about his team’s scoring woes after they were eliminated: “That’s a big question. It’s tough. It’s the second Olympic Games that we lost in that kind of game and it’s bad. Team fight, team play ’til the end and nobody gave up, but we didn’t score second goal and it was pretty hard.”
Five theories why the Russians lost
Times have been tough for Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers fans lately, even if they’ve been frustrating in different ways.
Saturday’s 5-1 Habs win highlights a few things, but the most tantalizing thought for those fans is that it’s likely that we’ll see more great things from P.K. Subban and Connor McDavid … sometimes against each other.
Perhaps this will be a confidence booster for Montreal. More than anything else, it directed attention to Subban, who’s quietly been absolutely fantastic for the floundering Canadiens.
Consider how much of an offensive burden he’s currently carrying:
From one current All-Star to someone who could be a perennial one: McDavid certainly seemed to grab Subban’s attention.
Then again, when you make moves like these, who won’t notice?
The Oilers did lose, mind you, so it’s not surprising that Todd McLellan mentioned that the team can’t depend upon McDavid for everything.
That said, the funny thing about that quote is that McDavid might just carry the Oilers for two decades, at least if health and other factors go the right way.
If that’s true, Subban vs. McDavid could be a fun matchup to watch a few times per season for a long, long time.
The New York Rangers got a big divisional win on Saturday afternoon, but it came at a price.
Captain Ryan McDonagh was knocked out of the game after he took a sucker-punch from Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds.
McDonagh wasn’t innocent here. He delivered a cross-check to Simmonds’ head moments before the punch.
To watch the entire sequence, click here.
Getting back to the game…
With the Flyers leading 2-1 in the dying moments of the game, defenseman Keith Yandle beat Steve Mason to force overtime.
Philadelphia’s struggles continued in the shootout.
They missed on both their attempts (Sam Gagner and Claude Giroux) while the Rangers converted on both their attempts (Mats Zuccarello and Derek Stepan).
After the game, both sides addressed the Simmonds/McDonagh incident.
It’ll be interesting to see how the NHL’s Department of Player Safety handles this situation. Both McDonagh and Simmonds are at fault here, but Simmonds’ action caused an injury.
The shootout loss puts an end to Philadelphia’s three-game winning streak. The Flyers are three points behind the Red Wings for the final Wild Card spot in the East.
The 2015-16 Washington Capitals always seem to find a way to get the job done.
That’s exactly what they did in Saturday’s matinee against the New Jersey Devils.
The Capitals opened the scoring when Andrei Burakovsky beat Cory Schneider in the second period, but the Devils answered with back-to-back goals by Joseph Blandisi and Adam Henrique.
Washington got the game-tying goal from an unlikely source as Paul Carey scored his first career goal with under six minutes remaining in regulation.
In overtime, Ovechkin dished out this huge hit:
And in typical Ovechkin fashion, he finished the game off in the shootout (top of the page).
The Caps have now won back-to-back games and they remain 15 points ahead of the Rangers, who beat Philadelphia 3-2 in a shootout this afternoon, with two games in hand.
For the Devils, the loser point allows them to move ahead of the Islanders for third place in the Metropolitan division, but New York still has four games in hand.
Here’s an updated look at the division standings:
Some rough stuff in Saturday’s matinee between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers.
Wayne Simmonds was thrown out of the game after he punched Ryan McDonagh.
As you can see from the video at the top of the page, McDonagh nails Simmonds with a cross-check to the head before the Flyers forward went after him.
McDonagh left the game with a possible concussion.
Here’s how the referees handed out the penalties:
Simmonds received a five-minute major and was tossed from the game while McDonagh received two separate two-minute penalties.
The Rangers were unable to score on the ensuing power play, and that’s when more weird stuff happened.
Here’s how the New York Daily News described the moments after the penalty expired:
The Rangers were already upset with Simmonds’ sucker punch, but then Alain Vigneault lost his mind all over again at the end of the Rangers’ unsuccessful power play: The Flyers had forgotten to put a player in the penalty box, with Simmonds having been sent off.
Illegally, during the flow of play, forward Jake Voracek just jumped off Philly’s bench as the power play expired and was sprung on a breakaway. Lundqvist made the save but the Rangers were flabbergasted at the officials’ lack of control or apparent knowledge of the rule book, which would require the Flyers in that situation to wait until a whistle to put their fifth man back on the ice.
By the way, the referees for this game are Dave Lewis and Kelly Sutherland.