Eye of the Hurricane

February 24, 2010

It Should Have Been Great…

Filed under: Uncategorized — lsagaser @ 11:43 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I cannot believe the team I just watched in the men’s hockey quarterfinal was the Russian national team. Expectations were high that the Russians would come out with their typically aggressive and physical forecheck, but after a shaky first period it seemed that there was no hope for the national team.

To give credit where credit’s due, the Canadian national team had an impeccable performance. It seems that the loss to USA sparked a desire within the Canadians to prove themselves on their home ice. With confidence in their composed goaltender Luongo, the Canadians played balanced defense, transitioned quickly and efficiently and attacked the puck to capitalize on mistakes made by both the Russian defense and goalie. They also stayed close to Ovechkin, especially in front of the net, to make the star’s impact nonexistent.

However, if it were not for the sloppy play of the Russians, the game might not have been the 7-3 slaughter that it ended as. Usually the Russians shine at using their speed and strength to manhandle defenses. Tonight, especially in the first period, the Russians could not get to the puck before the Canadian defensemen. The Canadians intercepted their sloppy transitions and long passes out of their zone. The usually physical forecheck the Russians pride themselves on was picked apart.

It was not just the offense that hurt the Russians’ chances. The Russians’ backchecking was absolutely abysmal. What stands out most in my mind were the first and third goals scored by the Canadians in the first period. There was no Russian hustle to get back on either shorthanded play; they looked like they were skating in slow motion. With the fast-paced attack of the Canadians, a slow defensive attitude would not overcome the scoring deficit.

Finally, there’s the goaltending situation. The major question is why Russian coach Slava Bykov waited so long to pull Nabokov. I would have made that decision as soon as the first period ended. Not only does letting in four goals in the first period affect a goaltender’s confidence, it affects every other player’s confidence in their goalie and how the game will play out. Even if the argument could be made that Bykov hoped to see improvement in Nabokov in the second period, the fifth goal against the Russians should have changed his mind. What goalie in their right mind would go out eight feet in front of the net when their team is facing a two on one. Not only that, but Nabokov might as well have put a bow on the puck when he gave out a rebound directly to Corey Perry rather than pushing the puck to either side.

After a great deal of hype leading up to the game about the Crosby, Ovechkin and Malkin face-off and two hockey powerhouses going at it, I was left thoroughly disappointed. I can only hope that the USA national team paid attention and saw what happens when you sit back on your heels against a skilled, well-sized and hungry team.

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