The Sochi Olympics turned into a nightmare for Alex Ovechkin and Team Russia.
The reigning NHL MVP had one goal in the opening game against Slovenia and was held scoreless the rest of the way, including today’s 3-1 elimination loss to Finland.
While Russia’s coach was quick to throw Ovechkin under the bus for his performance, Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates said it’s unfair to hang all the blame on one player as Chuck Gormley of CSNWashington.com shares.
“You can only control the way you play, right?” Oates said. “You can’t control the way the team plays or how it evolves. Obviously, it’s not the ending they wanted, but this is the third Olympics in a row they haven’t medaled, so it’s not on one guy. It’s on the group and at some point I’ll have a chance to talk to [Ovechkin] about that.
“That’s why you can’t criticize one guy. It’s easy from the cheap seats. In fairness to them, they had the most pressure because it’s the host country.”
Oates is right, what ails Russia is more than just one superstar not scoring goals. Ovechkin is the face of the Russian team, however, and with that comes fair and unfair expectations all around.
Scoring just one goal makes it a bad performance, but there’s more than enough blame to go around for Russia’s poor finish. Putting it all on Ovechkin isn’t close to fair.
It seems Canada isn’t the only team that has to deal with dissatisfied fans even in the face of victory.
Russia’s 4-0 win against Norway on Tuesday helped move them into the quarterfinals and a pair of goals in the closing minutes helped pad the lead. One critique they faced was that they weren’t fired up to face a non-rival like Norway.
Russian captain Pavel Datsyuk doesn’t agree with that at all as Russia’s RSport shares.
“Everyone played well, everyone did their job,” said Datsyuk. “A very tough game. I don’t agree that we weren’t fired up for the Norwegians,” he added, but conceded: “It probably looked that way from the back-row seats.”
Take that, people sitting far away.
You’d have to almost forgive Russia if they were looking ahead to the next round against Finland. Norway performed the worst of the 12 teams during the preliminary round and didn’t look thrilling doing so.
As it was, Russia outshot Norway 31-22 and poured it on in the second period by a 14-6 margin. They may not be succeeding with flash and dash with superstars scoring all over the place, but with the goal to win gold, the Russians keep marching along whether they look fired up or not.
Russia has made its call in goal for the qualification playoff round.
Team Russia announced Sergei Bobrovsky will get the start against Norway instead of Semyon Varlamov.
Varlamov was thought to be the favorite to get the start after he put up a shutout against Slovakia and was outstanding in two starts during round-robin play. Bobrovsky’s lone start came against Team USA, a 3-2 shootout loss in which he stopped 31 shots. While he didn’t play poorly in that game, Varlamov appeared to play better.
Norway is the lowest seed in the tournament after the opening round at 12th overall. Russia was the top team to not get a bye after they finished the round with six standings points. The Russians head into Tuesday’s game (7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN) as heavy favorites.
In case you didn’t know, Russian president Vladimir Putin is a big time hockey fan. He’s also all-in on seeing his country come away with the gold medal and beating anyone and everyone along the way to do it.
That’s what made the United States’ 3-2 shootout win against Russia all the more difficult to handle for Putin. From the disallowed goal in the third period to seeing T.J. Oshie score on four out of six shootout attempts to seal the victory, he’d have a lot to gripe about if he wanted to.
But he won’t do that as RSport out of Russia shares.
“Even referees sometimes makes mistakes, here I wouldn’t tar anybody with any brush, but I thought that we would win by a big margin,” Putin said. “You and I shouldn’t forget that sport isn’t only about skill but also about the athletes’ courage, and even a good slice of luck.”
The only thing better than a good slice of luck is a good slice of pie.
It’s likely a relief for referee Brad Meier that Putin said he wouldn’t “tar anybody” because of a bad call. Meier was the official who caught Jonathan Quick’s net being off the moorings thus disallowing what would’ve been Fedor Tyutin’s go-ahead goal.
Of course, as Puck Daddy shares, Russian fans aren’t as forgiving to Meier as their president is.
Heading into their game Sunday against Russia, Slovakia looked like one of the most disappointing teams in the Olympic tournament.
After a 1-0 shootout loss to the Russians, defenseman Andrej Meszaros had some regrets about how they opened play in the Olympics as Slava Malamud at IIHF.com shared.
“We talked about playing a full 60 minutes and putting up strong defense,” said Meszaros. “We should have done that two games ago but we didn’t. Our goalie was unbelievable and so was theirs. I wish we could have played that way against USA and Slovenia.”
The Slovaks were punished 7-1 by Team USA and shocked 5-3 by Slovenia. Slovakia lost in the bronze medal game during the 2010 Vancouver Games and appeared to be a country set to bounce back.
Instead, they’ve looked a step or two slow and the play of Jaroslav Halak and Peter Budaj hasn’t been exceptional. It was Jan Laco who stood on his head against Russia on Sunday to force the game to a shootout.
Slovakia can erase the memories of a poor opening round by beating their rivals from the Czech Republic on Tuesday. The only question they might have regards who to start in goal, but Laco’s play against Russia may have locked that up.