Russia claimed their third straight victory in the World Championship in Germany with a 3-1 triumph over Belarus. Artem Anisimov struck his first goal at this level, and after the match the press asked him to show off the lucky puck, but to no avail.
“It’s already in the changing room,” Artem smiled. “Straight after the goal I got the puck from the referee and put it on the bench.”
And then, maybe for the thousandth time, he tried to tell the story of his goal.
“I thought Sergei Mozyakin was going to score himself, so I just skated up to the goal,” he cheerfully explained. “Then the puck rebounded straight to me, and all I had to do was make sure I didn’t miss.”
No-one could criticize the victorious Russian side after such performances. As always, they faded a little in the third period, but this is only to be expected. In the first two periods they ran their opponents ragged.
Vyacheslav Bykov shared his thoughts about those weaker displays late in the games.
“I’m pleased with the way we played in the first two periods, we played great in defense, but we allowed ourselves a few mistakes in the third. Mikhail Grabovski and his linemates were very lively and created a few moments when they threatened our goal. You can’t lower your guard against those guys.
“I’m happy with the performance from the team, and Semyon Varmalov played well,” Bykov continued. “The guys from the KHL also had a good game; OK, they slowed toward the end, and we must put a stop to that.”
Semyon Varmalov’s assured debut gives the coach a selection headache: in three games he has iced three goaltenders, all have conceded a single goal, all look solid and reliable, so which one should be entrusted with the number one spot?
“Guys, let’s not go into that now,” Bykov pleaded. “We need to do some serious thinking.”
The head coach added that Pavel Datsyuk will join up with the team this Friday, but it was not so easy to give answers about Evgeny Malkin.”
“When am I supposed to call him? He played yesterday - we’ll let the man get some sleep.”
Those in the Belarus camp had no complaints about the result, and head coach Eduard Zankovets made a point of lauding his players.
“My guys deserve nothing but praise,” he said. “Goaltender Andrei Mezin played very well, as did all the others.”
Defenseman Ruslan Salei was not so optimistic.
“We thought you would give us a real contest, but it didn’t happen.”
“Sadly, we couldn’t manage it. Russia outplayed us in pace, movement, keeping possession, in every department. We didn’t produce the performance we wanted.”
“Was the opposition just too strong, or did you simply burn out?”
“I think it’s a bit of both. But Russia played really well, they have their leaders in every line. They made it difficult for us to compete.”
Germany, Denmark and Finland now await Russia in the second stage of the tournament.
“Both Germany and Finland are very good, very fast outfits,” noted Bykov. “And of course Denmark is the revelation of this championship.”
Alexei Shevchenko, Cologne