Russia’s hockey stars will go home empty-handed from the Vancouver Olympics after Vyacheslav Bykov’s team lost 3-7 to the hosts.
We all know how much hockey means to Canadians, and the build-up to the quarter-final clash with Russia captivated everyone. Possibly only the grizzly bears in the nearby forests were oblivious, and only because they are hibernating.
Getting in to see the match was close to impossible. We are still to hear the triumphant stories of those who managed to snap up a ticket at the last minute, but before the match a story circulated about one punter happily paying two thousand dollars for a ticket. In interviews with Russian biathletes, speed-skaters and skiers the talk soon turned to their desire to somehow get in to see the big event. Everything else in Vancouver was pushed to the background, even the nasty crash suffered by alpine skier Lindsay Vonn. On another day her broken finger may have triggered a big controversy, but today the world only had eyes for hockey.
The Canadians were at full strength, all emerging unscathed from their ‘practice match’ qualifier against Germany. Things were not running so smoothly in the Russian camp. Right up to the game it was unclear whether the injury Sergey Zinovyev picked up against the Czechs would rule him out. He trained, of course, but his condition was surrounded by the kind of secrecy that would be the envy of any country’s secret service, with only the doctor really knowing Sergey’s fitness level. In the end, the forward did make an appearance on the ice, and one day he may tell us what good it did him.
The Canada of the Olympic games is a completely different team to the one in the World Championship, and it is a long time since they produced hockey like this. They ran around as if their own lives, the lives of their nearest and dearest, and even of their friends, were all at stake. In the first half of the opening period they completely overran the Russians. Our team could not produce a single chance, and were second best in combination play, in battles of strength, and in defense. With barely a minute gone the Canadians had already threatened the Russian goal twice, and in the third minute Ryan Getzlaf beat Nabokov to start the rout.
As always, Alexander Ovechkin tried to turn the game Russia’s way, confronting the opposition where he could, and where no one else could, but he did not get any support from his partners. One moment summed it up: when Russia was given the man advantage and finally managed to launch a serious attack, Alexey Morozov lost control of the puck.
After 13 minutes it was already 0-3, the Canadians scoring twice in 45 seconds. First Anton Volchenkov’s dismissal was punished by defenseman Dan Boyle, and then Rick Nash coolly finished off a swift counter-attack
Kalinin hits back
After this Russia started to get it together and for a while managed to take the initiative. Roberto Luongo had been called to action more and more often, and he could do nothing to stop Dmitri Kalinin’s powerful strike from the blue line. However, the Canadians were not rattled, and scored again to go into the break with their three-goal advantage restored.
The Nabokov puzzle
It is hard to fathom why Vyacheslav Bykov did not change the goaltender during the interval. There are many doubts about Nabokov, illustrated by the fourth goal, and it was clearly not going to be Evgeny’s day, yet the change did not come until after the sixth goal had been conceded. Ilya Bryzgalov, considered by many to be the better of the two, held the Canadians at bay for nearly five minutes and was not to blame for Russia losing the second period, 2-3. By this time everything was settled. In their climb toward the Olympic summit, Russia stumbled at the quarter-final stage.
Alexei Shevchenko, Pavel Strizhevsky, khl.ru