Three points against Slovakia would’ve given Russia a much better shot at earning a bye to the Olympic quarterfinals, but it could only manage two in a 1-0 shootout victory — a result Alex Ovechkin says is a slight disappointment.
“It was a pity we didn’t win in regulation,” Ovechkin said, per IIHF.com. “We had opportunities. (But) it doesn’t matter how many games we have to play in the Olympics.”
Russia came into today’s contest with four points, thanks to a win over Slovenia and shootout loss to the Americans. A regulation win over Slovakia would’ve given Russia seven points from the group stage, greatly improving its chances for a top-four finish and the automatic quarterfinal bye that comes with it (Canada and Finland entered today with six points each — should the game be decided in regulation, Russia would’ve moved ahead of the loser.)
Instead, Russia seems destined for fifth place and a qualification playoff game against No. 12 Norway. Not the ideal result, but not a horrible one — as Brough mentioned in Sochi Notes, getting the extra game can sometimes work in your favor:
You may recall Team Canada didn’t exactly come flying out of the gates in 2010 either. A mere shootout win over Switzerland and a loss to the United States in the preliminary round meant the Olympic hosts would have to play Germany in the qualification playoffs, instead of advancing directly to the quarterfinals. You know how it ended — Roberto Luongo replaced Martin Brodeur and Canada won four straight, including the gold-medal game.
Sure, it would be nice to get the rest. Yes, there’s always the risk of injury. And of course there’s always the possibility you could, you know, lose. But there’s something to be said for the additional time a qualification game provides to come together as a team.
The Russians seemed to be thinking along similar lines.
“In principle, it makes no difference,” Ovechkin said, per the Olympic News Service. “Each team is now in the peak of its form. Of course, we’d want to play one match less, but this way we’ll stay in good form.”
His KHL-based teammate agreed.
“Playing is better than training,” said Ilya Kovalchuk. “We’ll go out and focus. Now we can’t lose, all the games could bring elimination.”