Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Olympic Hockey: Norway vs. Russia Recap

One story surrounding this game has been that the Russian team isn't playing to its potential. Some have suggested that there is division on the roster due to the mixture of NHL and KHL players. Russian media outlets are questioning where the "Big Red Machine" is. But I think these stories about Russia not playing well are exaggerated, even imagined.

Russia has played very well. Under NHL rules, they would have beaten the US in that epic game Saturday morning. And they were still just one shot or one save away from winning. The US needed 8 shootout rounds to beat them, and the US is a damn good team.

Russia beat Norway 4-0 and potentially quieted those doubters, at least for one day.

The game was closer than the score suggests. It was 2-0 before Norway pulled their goalie. It was 0-0 after the first period until Alexander Radulov was credited with a goal that bounced off a Norwegian skate and into the net. Pavel Datsyuk got the assist. Datsyuk tallied three assists in the game. Radulov also scored an empty-netter in the 3rd and had an assist. Ilya Kovalchuk scored late in the 2nd. Alexei Tereshenchenko scored with 40 seconds left in the 3rd.

All 4 of Russia's goals were scored by KHLers. Datsyuk and Vladimir Tarasenko were the only NHLers with assists.

Norway played a conservative game, trying to make everything difficult for Russia. That strategy is always a double edged sword because it makes offense hard to generate. You purposely reduce the number of offensive chances you'll get, and a team that lacks talent (relative to Russia) like Norway should play for as many offensive opportunities as possible, and hope Russia makes defensive mistakes (which they tend to do), and pray that Russia doesn't finish its offensive chances.

In hindsight, it's easy for me to say that. Norway played a great game against a great team in front of a hostile crowd. Had Norway managed to score first, maybe the supposed tension and rifts on Team Russia would have expressed themselves on the ice. Maybe a sour crowd would have made those tensions worse. Russia does seem like a team that doesn't handle adversity well.

And Russia will likely face adversity when they play against Finland in the quarterfinals.

Photo Credit:
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

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