It’s finally here. With the Olympics getting under way and the hockey starting soon, it’s time to roll out our preview of each team between now and puck drop. May the best team win.
The Russian men’s national hockey team is currently ranked 3rd overall by the IIHF. They’re carrying 14 NHLers on their roster, they’re coached by Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, and finished 6th in 2010 at the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
|Member Since||April 1, 1952|
|Men’s World Ranking||3|
|Women’s World Ranking||4|
A, with Slovakia, Slovenia, and the U-S of A.
|Sergei Bobrovsky||Columbus Blue Jackets|
|Semyon Varlamov||Colorado Avalanche|
|Anton Belov||Edmonton Oilers|
|Alexei Emelin||Montreal Canadiens|
|Andrei Markov||Montreal Canadiens|
|Nikita Nikitin||Columbus Blue Jackets|
|Fedor Tyutin||Columbus Blue Jackets|
|Slava Voynov||Los Angeles Kings|
|Artem Anisimov||Columbus Blue Jackets|
|Pavel Datsyuk||Detroit Red Wings|
|Nikolai Kulemin||Toronto Maple Leafs|
|Evgeni Malkin||Pittsburgh Penguins|
|Valeri Nichushkin||Dallas Stars|
|Alex Ovechkin||Washington Capitals|
|Vladimir Tarasenko||St. Louis Blues|
|Alexander Svitov (replacement)|
|Denis Kokarev (scratched, injury)|
|Sergei Soin (scratched, injury)|
|Alexander Semin (replacement)||Carolina Hurricanes|
Alex Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeni Malkin.
Any team that can afford to leave guys like Sergei Gonchar, Nail Yakupov, Sergei Mozyakin and Anton Volchenkov (as well as Alex Semin, which has since been rectified) off their national team is pretty deep. They’re laughing in net with last year’s Vezina winner in Sergei Bobrovsky and Colorado Avalanche starter Semyon Varlamov. Their d-corps has six NHLers on it, and looks like a group that can move the puck. And if that’s the case, that’ll provide plenty of opportunities for guys like those in the “Biggest names” section to do their damage. While Russia’s depth falls off before teams like Canada, Sweden and the US, the KHL players they brought aren’t exactly jokes.
Firepower, dog. Straight firepower. If you love hockey, you have to be kind of excited to watch Pavel Datsyuk play with Ilya Kovalchuk. Ovechkin is the best goal-scorer in hockey and Malkin is one of the game’s biggest threats. Young guns like Tarasenko and Nichuskin can explode for a beauty at any minute, Alexander Radulov is a constant threat, and heaven forbid Alex Semin gets a puck in the slot. Their powerplay should be terrifying, but they’ll be a whole hell of a lot to handle 5-on-5 as well, especially on the big ice. Oh, and their goaltending should go in this category too.
Oh, Russia. It’s always the same thing here: two-way play. The Russian stereotype didn’t come *poof* out of the blue – many of their best players seem solely focused on scoring, which as you may know, is pretty darn fun. It’s not that they don’t have any two-way players (hell, Ilya Kovalchuk is great both ways, Datsyuk is a Selke winner), it’s just that you wouldn’t say the majority of their players make defense a focus. That puts a lot of pressure on the D-men to break up rushes and get the puck up the ice, and while that group of players is just fine, I don’t think your best bet is too lean to heavily on guys like Anton Belov, Nikita Nikitin, Yevgeny Medvedev, Alexei Emelin and Ilya Nikulin against hockey’s best offensive players. That means scoring chances against, and so, here we are: two-way play (general defense) is their weakness.
Route to the Olympics
Ranked third by the IIHF, top nine get in.
I’ve got Russia finishing in the worst possible spot for them this year, fourth. Anything can happen in a one-game elimination tourney such as this – they could just as easily win it all as not medal – but I really, really think the Americans are going to be tough to play, which means there’s not enough room in my top three for Russia.
Times are GMT+4, (MSK – Moscow Standard Time)