Former Toronto Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin won a gold medal with Team Sweden in 2006, so he knows a bit about what it takes to win on the international stage.
That’s why when Sundin sounded off to TSN Radio in Toronto about the performance of Russia, it’s worth at least paying attention to.
“I was almost disgusted by their performance when they played Finland,” said the 43-year-old who played 18 seasons in the NHL. “I look at the Finnish team and they’re missing key players. They don’t have any of their big stars and now [Rask] is hurt and that Russian team is stacked with great players and to come out and have that performance they had in the quarterfinals. It was an absolutely heartless performance.”
Sundin went on to question the Russians desire further saying if the presence of Russian president Vladimir Putin couldn’t inspire them, he didn’t know what else could do it.
As Sundin mentions, Finland had a host of key players missing including Mikko Koivu, Valtteri Filppula, and Aleksander Barkov. Russia’s key players like Pavel Datsyuk, Alex Ovechkin, and Evgeni Malkin had less-than stellar performances in the Olympics but for the most part their offense didn’t do enough to help them win on the whole.
Still, when retired players are coming out of the woodwork to pile on, it’s a sign things in Russia need to change if they’re going to win a medal in 2018.
Team Russia’s failure to win a medal on home ice in Sochi is a disappointment for Russians all over, especially those who didn’t get to represent their country.
New Jersey Devils forward Andrei Loktionov was asked about his feelings on the Olympics and didn’t hold back. Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger shares the story.
“It’s happened way too many times in the last three Olympics. A lot of star players. I think they can’t play with each other. Too many leaders,” said Loktionov. “Everybody was waiting for something. Hockey is the (most important) medal.”
Direct and to the point.
That said, were there too many stars on the Russian team? Outside of the top six forwards (Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk, Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Radulov, Evgeni Malkin, Alexander Semin), the Russian lineup was filled with either young, upcoming potential stars or guys from the KHL.
Chemistry, on the other hand, is a good point. Throwing everyone together and expecting them to jell immediately can be asking a lot. In Russia’s situation, goals were hard to come by and they did look out of sync in the five games they played.
As for having too many leaders, well, there are a lot of captains on the Canadian and United States rosters and they’re playing tomorrow for a shot at gold.
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.