In a word, yes.
The host nation, which went over 95 minutes of game time without scoring a single goal against Slovakia and Norway, could be in serious trouble when they take on Finland in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.
Aside from Pavel Datsyuk's masterful two-goal performance against the Americans, most of the big names on Russia's roster have been awfully quiet so far in this tournament. But hey, so Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin are having a few bad games, so what? That happens to everyone from time to time, doesn't it?
Sure that might be plausible, until you considered the Americans were the only opponent that iced any sort of a worthy adversary.
In fact, it was goat-turned-hero Alexander Radulov who was the "savior" for the Russians in the elimination round, scoring two goals (one empty-netter) in today's 4-0 win over Norway. You know, the team forced to play without their only legitimate NHL-caliber talent due to injury? Yeah that one. The one thing nobody seems to be mentioning: Datsyuk had three assists.
In a tournament where the quality of opposing forwards is so high, mediocre performances from the likes of Ovechkin, Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Alex Semin will not lead to a medal, especially with the consistently poor play of the Russian defense.
Slava Voynov and Andrei Markov pale in comparison to any other team's top pairing, including tomorrow's opponent who features a pair of 19-year old defensement. Sergei Bobrovsky and Semyon Varlamov have been good, not great. Aside from the play of Datsyuk, nothing about this team's performance through four games has been awe-inspiring.
Then there's this.
That sounds like someone I know who said that might happen. Wait a minute, I said that would happen!
One other potential issue for the Russians is the idea of combining two leagues on one bench. While I doubt Ilya Kovalchuk has lost a step, it wouldn't be a stretch to consider the average skill of a KHL game far inferior to that of the NHL. I think that could manifest itself in pressure situations late in games, when the intensity is at it's very highest. The depth of this team will be tested, and I'm not so sure it's up to the challenge.
You'd be hard-pressed to find an article that gets into any sort of detail about the rift in the Russian locker room, so we'll have to take Pierre McGuire's reporting with a grain of salt, for now. But there certainly doesn't seem to be an overwhelming sense of trust on the ice if you look up and down the bench.
Then, enter a Finnish group with goaltending that far surpasses either of the two Russian netminders, a blue line that has been the surprise of the tournament, and the host nation may be in for a disappointing exit. Their only saving grace will be if their stars can overpower Finland's depleted forward group, something that is entirely possible.
But it seems like in each of the four games in this tournament, we've been waiting for a moment of brilliance from the likes of Malkin, Ovechkin, Semin and even Kovalchuk while Datsyuk has dragged them all through the Sochi mud.
Tomorrow's the day we all get to stop waiting.
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