Russia dealt Finland a 5-0 thrashing and booked a ticket for a quarter final showdown with Canada in Cologne.
Before the game coach Igor Zakharkin shared his views:
“The Finns are not the most aggressive in attack, and we should take advantage of this. Of course, they will be well-disciplined and organized, but they have their weaknesses. What’s more, we are getting better and better in powerplay, and that could count for a lot.”
Russia’s players were not getting carried away when evaluating their own strengths. Maxim Afinogenov described his team as simply good, and Ilya Kovalchuk said the team would play for a win regardless of the events in the other group.
The game turned out to be a tense affair, and indeed tough in places. Ilya Kovalchuk was on the receiving end of some rough but fair attention, and then his collision with Juuso Hietanen was strong enough for the Finn to go off injured. The referee missed that one, but it mattered little as he was soon sending the Russia captain to the bench for fighting.
There were certainly far too many skirmishes in the game, and for no apparent reason. There was no need to treat this encounter as a win-at-all-costs affair, with an game against Canada looming for the victors. It must be said, however, that the Canadians’ form in Germany has been so strange that maybe they are seen as the easy option.
“Naturally we knew the results of the other group, and we understood that if we won we’d come up against Canada,” explained Viktor Kozlov. “But no way did that affect our mood. We went out there for a win and we achieved it.”
Kozlov was asked if the players had been reckless. Maybe it would have been better to take it easy?
“But how could our coach tell us to lose?” said the forward, a little taken aback. “That would have been very wrong from the psychological point of view.”
The coaches of both teams mentioned the flawless performance given by netminder Semyon Varlamov.
“It’s very likely Semyon will start against the Canadians,” said Bykov.
As the Russian players filed past Varlamov in the mixed zone, every one of them gave Semyon an approving pat on the shoulder, showing all that the organizers were not wrong in naming the goaltender the best player in his team and awarding him a clock as a memento.
“It turned out to be a tough match,” the keeper agreed with the reporters. “Especially the first period.”
Pavel Datsyuk was again in jocular form, and when asked why he had not been more merciless to the Finns, he thought for a moment before answering.
“So you think of me as a goalscorer? It’s very nice to hear that from you guys.”
The Finnish players did not seem too downhearted, and they had no reason to be. Firstly, they will meet the Czechs in the quarters, and secondly they can have no complaints about their defeat. When they tried to turn the match into a battle it rebounded on them.
“I had no need to calm down any of my players on the bench,” said Bykov. “All the guys knew full well what they needed to do.”
On Wednesday Russia will have a training session on the ice, though far from all of them will take part, with most spending their time in the gym. But the coaches will meet Valery Bragin, who of course is in Mannheim to follow the fortunes of his next opponents.
Alexei Shevchenko, Cologne