I think we all maybe saw this coming—even if we didn’t want to admit it. Russia hasn’t been playing well during this tournament, plagued with scoring problems and a lackluster defense. Finland, meanwhile, has rallied in the face of mounting injuries and become a serious contender.
The game started well for Russia after Ilya Kovalchuk scored during a power play. But if that goal hoped to wake up the Russian team, all it proved to do was really light a fire underneath Team Finland.
Russia got out-maneuvered left and right, up and down, and all over the ice. Finland picked apart Russia’s already struggling defense and left nothing but hockey pads and bones by the time they were done. Granlund in particular showcased some expert puck handling and quick movement—he made Russian Defenseman Slava Voynov look like a boulder on skates, slow and clumsy.
Finland’s backcheck was on point throughout the game. Watching the figures in blue dart collectively down the ice to flood their own defensive zone and pick off the puck from the Russian offense was like staring at a swooping flock of birds in the sky. They moved very well, and all together, and it was a kind of cohesiveness in their play the Russian’s could only pray for.
Finland won 3-1 and Olympic hockey is over and done for Russia.
A lot kicking and screaming and finger pointing is bound to follow, and indeed, it’s already started. And while many of the names we recognize from the NHL maybe didn’t play their absolute best during this tournament, any blame for Russia’s less-than-stellar showing in Sochi lies squarely with the management and the coaching staff of Team Russia.
Starting Varlamov was a mistake. We can’t really blame Varlamov for his performance—I think it’s pretty clear the D-men for Russia weren’t helping him, but the coaches made a crucial error opting to go with Varlamov over Bobrovsky.
A more thorough discussion of Team Russia’s problems will follow as part of a larger article. For now I’ll just say—Ovechkin has nothing to apologize for.
Team Finland goes on to face Team Sweden in the Semifinal on Friday in what promises to be a game between teams that, um, well—may make history. They’re not fond of one another let’s leave it at that. And me thinks Team Sweden’s Coach may have some apologizing to do. What do you think?