Tag: Alex Semin

Ice Hockey - Winter Olympics Day 6 - Slovakia v United States

In routing Slovakia, Americans display the ‘kind of depth’ that ‘you need to have’


SOCHI, Russia – It may not be blessed with a superstar like Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin, but the United States men’s hockey team showed Thursday what four solid lines with a healthy mix of talent, tenacity and chemistry can do.

A dominant 7-1 win over Slovakia was how the U.S. opened its 2014 Olympic tournament. Paul Stastny scored twice while skating between wingers Max Pacioretty and T.J. Oshie on a line that was technically the Americans’ fourth, but sure didn’t play that way.

Not that the trio’s effectiveness surprised head coach Dan Bylsma.

“We talked about it going into the game,” said Bylsma, “that the line of Stastny, Pacioretty, and Oshie could be our best line in this game, and it turned out to be that for us.

“Not only did they find themselves on the score sheet, I think every time over the boards they made something positive happen with their shifts, with their offensive zone time. That’s the kind of depth throughout your lineup that you need to have, that we do have.”

Phil Kessel had a big game as well, finishing with a goal and two assists while showing off his already-proven chemistry with Toronto teammate James van Riemsdyk, who assisted on Kessel’s second-period tally.

“He is on fire,” van Riemsdyk said of Kessel. “It is fun to play with him and the game is coming really easy to him right now. He is working hard and creating a lot.”

The pair of Maple Leafs, centered by Joe Pavelski, also combined to set up John Carlson for the game’s first goal.

On top of all that, Patrick Kane and Ryan Kesler – usually on opposite sides of a fierce (or at least once-fierce) rivalry in the NHL – seemed to click, with the former setting up the latter for the one-timer game-winner early in the second period.

“He’s always looking for you,” Kesler said of playing with Kane. “He’s always dangerous when he gets the puck. For whatever reason, we seem to be reading off each other well, and I like playing with him a lot.”

And remember that finding chemistry in rapid fashion is especially important in a short tournament like the Olympics, where there’s so little time to gel before the win-or-go-home games begin.

“You need to figure out each other’s lines quick, get chemistry,” said Kesler. “If you do that, you’re going to be successful.”

Next up for the Americans? A date Saturday with the host Russians in the showcase contest of the preliminary round.

Alex Ovechkin. Evgeni Malkin. Pavel Datsyuk. Alex Semin. Ilya Kovalchuk. The Russians may not have the kind of forward depth the Americans showed off today, but Bylsma – who coaches Malkin in Pittsburgh – doesn’t know if any team can match the hosts’ top-end skill.

“Their team is very talented,” said Bylsma, “maybe the most talented in the tournament, with some of the star players they have. Evgeni Malkin, I’ve seen him do things that I don’t know what he’s going to do next, and how he does it offensively and with the puck.

“So to have a game plan, or to tell someone what to expect, you might have to expect the unexpected against a player of that ilk, how talented he is. … It’s not just going to be one or two players on their team that we have to be concerned with. We may have a little more information on how to get to Evgeni Malkin, but I’m not sure it’s going to be the full story.”

Ovechkin: Russians got ‘casual’ after early lead vs. Slovenia


After scoring twice in the opening four minutes against Slovenia on Thursday, Russia looked like it was primed for a blowout win.

Just one problem — the Russians took their collective foot off the gas.

Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk acknowledged as much following the 5-2 win, saying a combination of the quick start and frenzied home crowd had an effect on the remainder of the contest.

“We started really well, but after when we got the lead 2-0, we played more casual,” Ovechkin said, per the Olympic News Service. “We can’t play like that in the future.”

Kovalchuk, who netted the eventual game-winner on a late second-period power play, said Russia was guilty of whipping the puck around too much and a hesitancy to fire away.

“In the second period we got too relaxed, but we gathered ourselves back in the third period,” he said. “We started to pass more in the second period, that is why we were told to shoot more during the break.”

The Russians out-shot Slovenia 18-4 in the first period, but just 17-10 over the final two frames. Slovenia gradually worked its way back into the game and trailed by just one goal heading into the third period, before Valeri Nichushkin and Anton Belov scored to put the contest out of reach.

It does have to be said, though, that Russia displayed tremendous energy and tenacity to start the game, led by the Ovechkin-Evgeni Malkin-Alex Semin line. The trio was responsible for both of the opening goals — Malkin set up Ovechkin for the first, Ovechkin set up Malkin for the second — and clearly fed off the electric atmosphere at the Bolshoy Ice Dome.

“Crazy crowd, unbelievable atmosphere out there,” Ovechkin said. “It’s great. It’s unbelievable.”

Related: Russia opens with win, beats Slovenia 5-2

Canada’s Toews: ‘The Russians have a little more pressure’

Ice Hockey Quarter Final - Day 13 - Russia v Canada

Four years ago, it was the Canadian hockey team dealing with the expectation and pressure of an entire nation on its shoulder.

Now, with the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, the Russian hockey team is in a similar situation, although one could argue it’s even more magnified for the host squad this time around.

Canadian forward Jonathan Toews, who transformed into a pivotal member of Canada’s gold-medal team in Vancouver, has no problem recalling the pressures of playing on home ice in the Olympics and the anxious energy that can provide.

“Oh, yeah. I remember the first practice, pucks were flying off my stick,” Toews told Bruce Arthur of Canada.com’s 2014 Winter Olympics coverage. “I was nervous. I was excited. It was a pretty amazing thing to be there, at that age and have that chance.

“The Russians have a little more pressure, this time. I’d say that pressure’s still on us, but you don’t feel it as much. You don’t see everything on TV, you don’t have trouble going to sleep at night because you can hear Vancouver just buzzing all night. So we know that’s there, but it’s easier to block it out and just focus on hockey, because you’re not experiencing it firsthand.”

The Russians are certainly aware of the expectations on them, especially after losing in the quarter-final to Canada in the 2010 Games. They’ve had four years to think about it; for that memory to linger.

“I think our players, they have good experience,” said Russia’s head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov. “I don’t think they will feel bad, I mean will feel big pressure. They’re strong players, good players. I think they’re OK.”

They’re also very talented players, capable of changing the complexion of a game with their electrifying style. Think about it: A line consisting of Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin.

But there are also some injury issues, especially with Pavel Datsyuk, who has played twice for the Detroit Red Wings since the Winter Classic.

“He’s probably been preparing for this tournament for five or six years when it was announced that it was coming to Russia,” Red Wings’ general manager Ken Holland said recently of Datsyuk. “I’m sure if he couldn’t play, he won’t play.

“Is he 100 percent? Probably not, but there are probably other players in this tournament who aren’t 100 percent.”

Ovechkin-Malkin-Semin…that’s a pretty dangerous line

Alexander Ovechkin

SOCHI, Russia — Alex Ovechkin on one wing. Evgeni Malkin in the middle. Alex Semin on the other wing. That was one of the Russian lines today at practice, the team’s first here in Sochi with both KHLers and NHLers.

Not a bad trio, right?

Semin, of course, Ovechkin knows well from their time together with the Washington Capitals.

“I know him right away,” said Ovechkin. “As soon as I get the puck on the left side, I know where he’s going to be.”

As for playing with Malkin: “He likes to control the puck, control the game.”

Malkin probably won’t mind the opportunity to set up two of the top snipers in the game, either.

Meanwhile, Pavel Datsyuk (groin) didn’t practice today, and it’s still not known if he’ll be ready for Thursday’s opener versus Slovenia. Head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov was hopeful, but offered nothing definitive.

If healthy, Datsyuk will likely center wingers Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Radulov, based on what we saw today.

Related: Are expectations too high for Russia?

‘Canes chase Thomas with four goals on 14 shots


Florida goalie Tim Thomas didn’t last long into Friday’s start against Carolina, as he was yanked after allowing four goals on 14 shots in the opening 25 minutes of action.

It marked the first time the 39-year-old had been pulled since allowing four goals on 13 shots in an eventual 5-1 loss to Pittsburgh on Nov. 30.

The ugliness started early for Thomas and the Panthers tonight, as Riley Nash scored his eighth of the season at the 9:17 mark. Just over a minute later, Alex Semin made it 2-0 with his 14th of the year.

Nick Bjugstad and Brett Bellemore exchanged tallies to make it 3-1 Carolina at the end of the period, but the ‘Canes kept pressing early in the second and were rewarded just 4:36 in as Jiri Tlustly scored his ninth of the campaign.

That was it for Thomas. He was relieved by backup Scott Clemmensen, making his first appearance since Jan. 30.

The Panthers have not been playing well lately — they lost four of five coming into tonight, allowing 20 goals — and one wonders if Thomas could be moved when the NHL roster freeze is lifted after the Olympic break.