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
The Pittsburgh Penguins will head back home with a split of their second-round series with the rival Washington Capitals.
Former Capitals forward Eric Fehr came back to burn his hold team, as he scored with under five minutes remaining in regulation to help lift the Penguins over Washington with a 2-1 victory in an eventful Game 2 on Saturday. Evgeni Malkin threw the puck toward the net and Fehr was able to re-direct it by Braden Holtby.
Oh, this was an eventful game, indeed.
It started early in the first period with Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik catching Penguins blue liner Olli Maatta with a late and high hit that warranted — at least for now — only a minor penalty for interference. Maatta, clearly in distress following the hit, didn’t play another shift and saw only 31 seconds of ice time in total, as Pittsburgh was reduced to five defensemen for the remainder of the game.
It continued in the third period. Kris Letang was furious after getting called for a trip on Justin Williams, and even more ticked off when the Capitals tied the game on the ensuing power play.
For two periods, the Capitals couldn’t get much going. Only four of their players had registered a shot on goal through 40 minutes, while the Penguins held the edge in that department and held the lead.
Washington came out with more jump in the third period, testing rookie netminder Matt Murray with 14 shots in the final 20 minutes. But the Penguins got the late goal to break the deadlock.
Kris Letang watched from the penalty box as the Washington Capitals tied up Game 2 with a power play goal in the third period. The Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman was called for tripping after he appeared to muscle Justin Williams off the puck as he entered the zone.
Letang let his disagreement with the call be known at the time, and was furious after the Capitals capitalized on a goal from Marcus Johansson.
The Capitals started the period down a goal and being outshot 28-10 by the Penguins, who need a win to even the series.
Also, it seems this is worth mentioning:
In their quest to even the series, the Pittsburgh Penguins had done a nice job through two periods of suffocating the Washington Capitals, while gaining the lead on a beautiful goal.
Carl Hagelin took advantage of a vast amount of space that opened up in front of the Washington net, finishing off a nice pass from Nick Bonino, burying his shot just under the cross bar on the glove side of Braden Holtby.
Through two periods, the Penguins were outshooting Washington 28-10. Only four Capitals players — Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Matt Niskanen — had registered shots on goal.
The Pittsburgh Penguins were without defenseman Olli Maatta for most of the first period of Game 2 after he was on the receiving end of a high, late hit from Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik.
The hit occurred early in the first period, well after Maatta had gotten rid of the puck on a rush into the Washington zone.
Maatta, who nearly fell over as he tried to stand back up, was in obvious distress as he went to the dressing room. Orpik was given a minor penalty for interference on the play.