In a shocking development in Sochi, the Russian men’s ice hockey team have fallen to the determined Finns. Russia may have opened the scoring, but it was the Finns tight defensive game that allowed them to down the more talented Russian squad.
The Russians were the first on the scoreboard when Ilya Kovalchuk put one past Finnish goalie Tuuka Rask on a power play in the first period. Up until that point, things didn’t look too bad for the Russians, but the Finns received a break soon after the Russians scored when Finn Juhamatti Aalotonen drove hard to the net and put one past the Russian goalie. Not long after that Finnish legend Teemu Selanne added a goal for Finland. On a power play in the second period the finish added a third goal to their tally and from there on out the score remained the same. The Russians had a power play in the third period but could not convert.
With the stunning exit by the Russians the blame game has already begun with the Russian coach unable to give media an answer of why Alex Ovechkin didn’t score more. In a surprising upset, Ovechkin was the only player to stop to talk to media after the loss, the rest of the Russian squad instead swarmed through the media area without a word. There are many questions to be answered now that both the Russian men’s and women’s hockey team have been eliminated before the medal games.
The Russians didn’t impress during the round robin ice hockey event, but it was expected they would pick up their game once elimination rounds got underway, that didn’t happen. Instead, the Russians have Fallen. Why? Some point the finger at the coach who refused to allow his stars more ice time, instead opting to roll his lines methodically and without preference. Others may point the finger at his choice of goalie, the Russians alternated their goalies throughout the tournament, Semyon Varlamov started in net against the Finns but was pulled in the second period and replaced by Sergei Bobrovsky. Many believe Bobrovsky was the stronger choice and should have started. Some will no doubt point a finger at their two NHL superstars, Ovechkin, and Evgeni Malkin, who were both silenced from the scoreboard after the first game. Others still, will debate what many perceive to have been a rift in the dressing room between Russia’s NHL players and those from the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), Russia’s equivalent to the NHL. There’s been speculation that the two groups did not gel into a single force.
The point for many now, however, is that it does not matter. A defeat is a defeat. The Russian ice hockey squad underperformed in the round robin, but was expected to rise to the challenge in the elimination rounds. It did not happen. A team with so much talent was expected to bring home the gold, the fact they did not goes to prove that nothing is assured in the Olympics and talent alone does not guarantee success. Fire under pressure, will, grit, determination, are all also factors that have a say on who takes home the gold. It is a tough pill for the Russians to swallow, as the Olympics will continue with two occupying nations vying for the ice hockey gold on Russian soil. Unfortunately for many Russians, the Olympics are now, with the defeat at the hands of the Finns, already over. The Russians have fallen.
By Scott Wilson