Russia defeated their latest opponents in the World Championship, and this time it was Germany, the tournament hosts. But it was a close affair with Russia scoring three times but conceding twice, leading their head coach to complain that all was not well with the defense.
Some of the statistics after the first period were beyond belief; for instance, Russia won a mere 26 percent of face-offs, and no-one could put a positive gloss on such a figure.
“Yes, I agree,” Vyacheslav Bykov was also not happy with that result. “But there are two things to bear in mind. Firstly, in Russia we pay not too much attention to that component of the game.”
The coach was immediately reminded that Sergei Fedorov’s figures were also far from impressive, and he has spent his entire career on the other side of the ocean, apart from his one season in Russia.
“Secondly, the linesmen are allowing too much,” noted Bykov. “They let you block the stick. We tried to draw their attention to this, but to no avail.”
Despite having by far the strongest attack in the tournament, Russia are only scoring three goals per game, but this figure does not trouble Vyacheslav Bykov.
“We’re winning, taking all three points. So it doesn’t matter at all how many we score.”
But man of the match Nikolai Kulemin took a different view.
“We created a heck of a lot of scoring chances,” he said. “But as for finishing them off, we must take a much sterner approach to this than we have been.”
There will be two new players - Evgeny Malkin and Sergei Gonchar – stepping out onto the ice in the next match against Denmark. It is widely known that they will replace two existing forwards, and one cannot rule out a connection between this news and today’s nervous display.
“Everyone understands his place is under threat, so everyone is trying to prove themselves,” Kulemin shrugged. “It makes some play better, some play worse. But every player is trying his best.”
The first line of defense will also see a change, with Vasily Koshechkin between the pipes. After the game against the Danes the coaches will make a final decision about the first choice goaltender for the tournament.
And if the Russians get the better of the Danes, they could end up facing the Canadians in the semi-final. When this possibility was put to Vyacheslav Bykov, he reacted with surprise.
“And why should that worry us?”
Alexei Shevchenko, Cologne