Russia opened their Olympic challenge with an 8-2 win against Latvia

Morozov’s frosty reception
Several of the Russian players have been in Vancouver for some time, attracting considerable attention, and have already tired of talking hockey, grasping any opportunity to change the subject. Semen Varlamov and Alexey Morozov chose to heap criticism on the organizers, claiming the food in the Olympic village is so substandard they have resorted to visiting the nearest snack bar to get a decent meal. On top of this, the Ak Bars forward was taken aback to find that his room had no Internet, and the television placed on the floor.

But Pavel Datsyuk, who was also asked about the accommodation, simply answered, “Never mind the conditions, you should just adapt to them and think about the game.”

Incidentally, before the opening game the players were supplied with proper food, and Morozov was connected to the Internet.

Nabokov stands firm
One of the most interesting pre-tournament puzzles was of who will be between the pipes in Russia’s opening game, as Vyacheslav Bykov and Igor Zakharkin had a wealth of options. They decided to entrust Evgeny Nabokov with the first encounter and Ilya Bryzgalov in the next. Further selection will depend on results, but Nabokov staked an impressive claim with several displays of his skills. Until the third period, he had just the one shaky moment when he let the puck slip from his guards, but he survived and we can put this lapse down to Evgeny being cold from having nothing to do. At times he even resorted to wandering from his net in search of the puck just to keep himself active. But when the opposition unexpectedly took the initiative and seriously threatened, Evgeny looked assured.

The third period was merely a time for fun and merriment.

Fedorov looking lively
The liveliest player of the first period was Sergey Fedorov, who impressed everywhere, had a hand in the first two goals, and did not produce a single noticeable mistake. The Magnitka forward sent a stunning pass through a defenseman to Denis Zapirov, and five minutes later his pass set up Dmitry Kalinin for a powerful shot, which Edgars Masalskis could only parry into the path of Alexander Radulov.

Having shown us all he is in top form, Fedorov retreated to the shadows to conserve his energy for more testing games ahead. One should add that Fedorov’s defensive play was, as usual, the envy of all.

Best opening period
Today, Russia have enjoyed the best first period of all the favorites. It is not clear what the Canadians were playing at in the opening spell against Norway, and the Americans managed just a solitary goal against the Swiss, whereas Russia surprised a few by wrapping up victory in the first 20 minutes, scoring three goals without reply.

Latvia did all they could
Before the game Latvia’s head coach Oleg Znarok promised that his team would play like HC MVD, in that whichever five he uses they will stick to, and try to suffocate, their opponents, but his plans fell apart. Indeed, there were times when the Russians spent a minute or even more without leaving the Latvians’ zone, whereas the Baltic state’s defensemen hardly even managed to get possession in the central zone, and the first threat to the Russians’ goal did not materialize until the score was already 0-2, and the men in red were already easing down.

The Latvians did score twice in the third period, but by this time the Russians were already putting on a show for the crowd, even playing with no defensemen.

Goal galore
The teams came out for the third period with Russia already 4-0 ahead and simply planning to spend the final third holding on to their advantage, but the Latvians suddenly sprang to life. In 33 seconds they had pulled a goal back, and so began a crazy five minutes which saw five goals being struck. When the score reached 7-2 things calmed down, and one more Alexey Morozov’s goal ended the proceedings. Alexander Ovechkin and Denis Zapirov scored two apiece.

Alexei Shevchenko,

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