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Top 5 reasons why Russia failed at the Olympics

Top 5 reasons why Russia failed at the Olympics

Top 5 reasons why Russia failed at the Olympics (Photo © Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

With the early quarterfinals exit, Team Russia set a new negative record as this was the worse Olympic outcome in their history. Since the first participation, 1956 Olympics in Cortina, Italy, Russia never had such a poor result.

Team Russia’s roster was, on paper, the tournament’s finest, but they couldn’t live up to the expectations, even in the round robin, which Bykov’s team ended with two wins and one loss, which determined the pairing with Canada.

RussianHockeyFans.com offers you top five reasons why Russia failed at 2010 Olympics.

Reason 5: Underestimation of the opponents

If someone remembers well, we used this reason also for the WJC failure article. While this was not the case in the quarterfinals match against Canada, this sure played a role in the other Russian defeat, against Slovakia. In that game Bykov’s team played without passion, as Bykov himself stated after the game, probably thinking that it would have been enough a 5-minute push to run away with the win. Well, it wasn’t enough. I’m putting some stress on this because if team Russia would have won they would have got a better seed, staying off team Canada so early.

Reason 4: Lack of spirit among leaders

Top players, especially in the game against Canada, didn’t really show up and took the team on their shoulders. Alexander Ovechkin has been invisible in the quarterfinal match, not to talk about Evgeni Nabokov and Ilya Kovalchuk. About Kovalchuk, unfortunately he didn’t manage to repeat the great effort he had in the two latest World Championships.

Let’s browse the roster in depth. Alexander Semin, only two assists, Alexander Radulov, only one goal and one assist, Pavel Datsyuk, one goal and two assists. These are not the performances a contender would need from its top players, especially considering that Ovechkin, Malkin, Semin, Kovalchuk and others are without any doubt among the best players of the world.

Reason 3: Chronic lack of goaltending

And here we go again. Even if putting all the blame over Nabokov wouldn’t be fair, once again team Russia lacked quality goaltending. Considering the good performances by both Nabokov and Ilya Bryzgalov in the latest international competitions, it was reasonable to expect kind of the same in Vancouver. But unfortunately Nabokov didn’t deliver against Canada, letting in a couple of soft goals in the first period. And when Bykov benched him, after the sixth goal, it was too late.

As said, it was unexpected. Nabokov finished the Olympics with a terrible .853 of saves percentage and a GAA of 4.16. For comparison’s sake, at the 2006 Turin Olympics he had, respectively, .940 and 1.34. At the Quebec World Championship, .929 and 1.78. It’s safe to hope that for Sochi 2014 Semyon Varlamov will mature enough to take the starting or the backup role.

Reason 2: Bad coaching

Yet another common point in Russian defeats at any level. There is plenty to talk about the bad coach decision in the 2010 Olympic Hockey Tournament. The first thing that we should notice is Nabokov’s usage in the quarterfinals. Why Bykov let him between the pipes after such a bad performance in the first period? While it’s easy to talk with hindsight and claim that Bryzgalov should have started, it’s safe to say that he should have been benched after the third goal or the first period to try sparking the team. He did had a couple of nice saves, but, conceding goal after goal, he lost confidence. When Bykov swapped him with Bryzgalov, the game was 6-1, too late.

Another problem of this team has been the powerplay. The Russians could assemble man advantage units made up of most of the world’s best players and yet they were the third last worst team in the round robin with 12.5%. The same percentage as Germany, who surely didn’t ice players of the caliber of Ovechkin, Malkin, Semin and Kovalchuk…on the same line. If we take the overall rankings, Russia stays the ninth seed with 15%. Once again, these aren’t statistics you can put together if you want your team to be a contender.

The third coaching’s fault was probably an over usage of the third and fourth liners. During the quarterfinals, only in the third period Bykov gave the top lines a bigger role, but once again, it was too late. Besides, Semin played not even three minutes in the game’s final stanza.

The last thing we’ll notice was that most of time team Russia didn’t feature good teamplay, but mostly relied on one-by-ones or trying to do it all alone.
Vyacheslav Bykov has been team Russia’s second big disappointment after Nabokov. It looked like a good coach was finally found, but it looks like he’s not Olympic quality.

Reason 1: Let’s face it, Canada was the best team

Canada dominated Russia since the first minute. After the first period many would have asked if this was a WJC game or an Olympic game as the game was loopsided in favor of the Canadians in a fashion never seen during international games. In the quarterfinal match Canada had much more than Russia in all departments: a better goalie (Luongo), better defensive play and, a bit surprisingly, better offense too. They might have less “names”, but they managed to overcome all this with a more focus and physical play. There isn’t much else to say on this matter, simply the best team deservedly won.

Russian Hockey Federation will have plenty to think over in order to avoid another debacle on the home soil in 2014.

18 Comments

  • Alexander Zaitsev

    @DaBich
    I don’t know where this information comes from, I mean that the players were told not to speak to the English-speaking media. Actually, after the game against the Czechs Ovechkin gave an interview to NHL.com.

  • Alexander Zaitsev

    As for me, I’ll name just one reason – the Russians played with no heart.
    After the second period, when the score was 3-7, I still believed in the team. I expected them to jump on the ice and start fighting like they never did before.
    But what I witnessed was slow, lazy players skating as if it was a game from a off-season.
    I don’t really understand the players when they say “we tried”. Seriously, I haven’t seen any efforts at all. Remember the final in Quebec? That’s where you were fighting boys, but not here.

  • Alexander Zaitsev

    @CanucksFan4, @Canuck21
    I think Alessandro meant that on paper Malkin is considered to be better than Getzlaf, Ovechkin better than Nash, etc.
    Canada showed that hockey is played on the ice, not paper.

  • Alexander Zaitsev

    @Andrew_Yang
    When people say “too many KHL players” they seem to forget that there are like 25 Russian players in the NHL. All others play in the KHL. Who do you think was left off the roster? Kovalev and Frolov? Seriously, if Ovechkin and Malkin showed nothing, do you really believe that Kovalev and Frolov could have changed something?

  • jtlc

    ‘Unleash the dogs of war’ No team could have survived that Canuck attack. It was breath-taking. Daa, Russia was out-coached pre-game and during, but Team Canada didn’t award a roster spot for past achievement ( eg Federov). Five minutes left in the game and the camera focused on Tretyiak. Guaranteed, Canadians took NO pleasure in witnessing his pained expression. Clean hit by beautiful Semin, retaliation by ugly Boyle. After the replay, the Canadian announcers were surprised that the beautiful Russian Semin received an off-setting penalty. What was NOT surprising was that Beauty didn’t retaliate back against Ugly. ‘Beauty is fleeting,, Ugly lasts a lifetime’ P.S. Canada 7-Russia 3 Massacre or not a Massacre love this site

  • Alessandro Seren Rosso

    @Igor
    I agree
    @”too many KHL players”
    Honestly, who to bring from the NHL? I agree with Alexander, when he says that about Frolov and Kovalev. And I also agree with all the rest he said.

  • John

    I’m a North American who is a bigger Russian hockey fan than a North American hockey fan. This is not the first setback Russian hockey has ever had! The best thing for the advancement of the Russian hockey program, believe it or not, is to actually keep on doing what they are doing!!! There has been a lot of criticism of the KHL in this thread, but the bald fact is, the KHL is the best league that Russia has ever had, by far! It just started, its still a baby, so keep investing in it – keep building on it – keep growing it. There is no law of Nature or of the Universe that says that the NHL must for all eternity be the best hockey league in the World. If the Russian hockey hierarchy has a vision of a great Russian hockey future, and has the foresight to keep working on the KHL, you will see Russian hockey start to show steady signs of improvement of depth and quality of players. Keep in mind, for the entire time that the best Russian players have gone to the NHL, Russian international teams have been abject failures!!
    Maybe even more important is to redouble the investment in the MHL. The MHL has completed only one season, but it clearly has the potential to be the best junior hockey league in Russian history. To have a strong program, you have to have advanced youth development. Look at Canada as as case in point. Canada has great youth hockey, and it pays dividends by producing dozens of outstanding prospects every year. Russia doesn’t produce dozens of good players every year, but it easily could, if the selection and coaching and compeitition allowed them to fully develop their potential. But that implies that Russian hockey officials must continue to work to make the MHL better and better, as well as to expand youth development as widely as possible.
    Lastly, there has been a lot of criticism of Slava Bykov in this thread, much of it deserved. He made a huge blunder by failing to pull Nabokov at least by the end of the first period. A bigger sin was failure to have his team psychologically ready to face the Canadian pressure early in the game. As Ovechkin said, by the time they woke up, it was too late! But in a broader perspective, Slava Bykov represents a changing of the guard as far as Russian coaches go. Aside from being one of the greatest players that I have seen in his own right, he has the technical skills and the sheer intelligence to devise strategies and tactics to win. Hopefully, no more of the Vladimir Plyuschev type, old men who have nothing more to offer than screaming at and berating their players. Maybe they think they are emulating Tarasov and Tikhonov, because those guys were also screamers. But Tarasov and Tikhonov were technically brilliant coaches, and that is what I think Slava Bykov has the potential to be.

  • Alessandro Seren Rosso

    @mcremers
    With names I meant players with name only, without play on the ice. Unfortunately for us Ovechkin was just a name in the match against Canada, while players with shorter CVs (and less media hype) where much better.

  • Alexander Zaitsev

    @dimi19
    I think it has something to do with the fact that Kovalev didn’t call Bykov back before the World Championship 2008.

  • jtlc

    Trondsky… You feces obsessed trogladite.. You would stain this site by mentioning ‘football ( soccer in N.America). Hockey is played by men who don’t dive or embelish a check,then ly face down on the ice for sympathy from the ref…. wait …. that sounds like a russian player. Canada will be sending a slighly smaller ‘team’ to Sochi for the ‘speed kills’ on the bigger ice. Smaller Canadians are twice as nasty. Skill pfffff, I’ll take heart everytime.

  • John

    HIGGY BABY!
    Canadian hockey players are as skilled as Russians? No one is going to buy that! I’ll give Canadians their due, but I’m not going to make up a fantasy about them. Not only are Canadians not as skilled as Russians, they are also not as skilled as Swedes, Finns, Czechs, and maybe tonight, Slovaks! The Canadian hockey hierarchy have been complaining about the absence of skill in the Canadian game ever since 1972, and for good reason! Canadian youth hockey doesn’t teach skill, doesn’t reward it, and frankly, I don’t think they care about it. It’s not what will win a job in the NHL.
    Canadian hockey is all about dump and bump. If you have enough skill to advance the puck to center ice so that you can dump it into the offensive zone and chase it, that’s all a Canadian coach wlll ever ask of you. That’s why TV audiences in the US are smaller for NHL games than for documentaries about sea lions mating. Canada has won a lot of youth tournaments in recent years, but that can be attributed to a low-skill dump and bump hockey and a lot of home cookin’ (almost all world junior games at every age level are either played in Canada, or in the US less than 20 miles from the Canadian border.
    I’m not saying that with that many hockey players, you aren’t going to have the odd Bobby Orr or Gretzky or Lemieux, but its amazing how few skilled players Canada produces, given the huge size of the hockey playing population.

  • John

    WILL CANADA APPEAR AT THE RINK ON SUNDAY….OR WILL THEY FORFEIT AND CONCEDE THE GOLD MEDAL TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA? In my opinion, the Maple Leaf nation is better off surrendering now, and avoiding a huge national embarrassment on Sunday. That was a putrid performance tonight against Slovakia. Get down on your knees and beg God thanks that you lucked into the Gold Medal game!!!

  • John

    Russia_4_Life:
    I totally agree with what you say! If you go back to the 1970’s and 80’s, the differences in skill level was even more pronounced than now. Russian players all played in Russia for teams like CSKA and Dynamo, and they trained together, and trained very hard, for most of the year. What they could produce on the ice was pure magic!
    Starting in 1991, when all the best Russian players immediately took off for the NHL (with the prospect of that much money, who could blame them?), they had to adapt to the NHL dump and bump style. The Russian players were ripped to pieces by the media and the fans for not adapting well – “no heart,””not physical enough,””won’t come back on defense,” were the most common criticisms that were heaped on the Russian players. Which makes little sense, since they invested millions to bring over players who were primarily highly talented, skilled, finesse players, whom they expected, for some strange reason, to transform into “gritty grinders” overnight.
    That’s why I have my fingers crossed hoping that the KHL and MHL will advance enough to be really outstanding leagues where skilled hockey can be played again. It would be a great shame if the kind of magnificent hockey that Russian teams from the 70’s and 80’s played should completely vanish from the Earth.

  • jtlc

    Overtime… 2 0n 2… Iginla chips the puck to Crosby… Sid ‘the Kid’ shoots and… both John & Russia_4_Life heads explode !!!!GOLD….Tomorrow, the NHL resumes play. My team might not make the playoffs for that old,dented 1893 cup. It has a Russian player on it & I desperately want his name etched on it for eternity, bringing Lord Stanley home to Russia. An Olympic gold medal will always be 2nd banana to the ‘people’s cup’

  • malkinfan

    I don’t think there were too many KHL players, just too many of the wrong ones. The bottom line was Bykov summoned certain players who didn’t perform at the level that he thought they could. I mean Zinoviev and Zaripov were very disappointing and they saw a lot of ice time. He simply went with the wrong horses.
    I just don’t think that Bykov made the right decisions when he had too. ie goaltender situation, scoring chemistry, team selection etc… He should have taken some of Barry Smith’s advice.
    Hope to see some drastic changes next Olympics. The one line I like from Bykov was that “your generals need to become foot soldiers” (at the Olympics) in order for success. Unfortunately it is up to Bykov to instill this upon his players, and he didn’t.

  • malkinfan

    By the way, good write Alessandro. Only disagreement is that I don’t know if it was a lack of spirit, looked more like poor chemistry than anything, and yes they did quit after the 3rd goal (but who’s to blame at that point). The whole tournament you could see that Ovechkin missed a Backstrom typed center, (Thought for sure that Kozlov was on the team for that sole purpose (because it wasn’t he shouldn’t even have been there)).
    They could have also used some role players like Brylin and Kulemin who are defensively minded, rather than Kozlov, Zinoviev, Zaripov who are defensive liabilities and were rather ineffective.

  • John

    lovetobeatherussians,
    I’m impressed! For a duphus hoser Canuck, that was a fairly coherent comment. Like the rest of the hosers who have been writing in, you’re beating your chest over the big win over Russia last week. You’re entitled to crow over that 4-goal win over the Russians last Wednesday, especially because the sentiment was before the game that Canada goes in as an underdog. Yeah, home team, home ice, home fans, home referees (both of the refs in the game were loyal Canadian sons). Why underdogs, with all the home cooking you can eat? Maybe the world thought the Russians would roll over the Canucks because of Quebec in 2008. World Championship, Gold Medal game, home ice, 2-goal lead going into the third period. Or maybe it was because of the 2009 World Championships, when the NHL-only Maple Leaf squad, Stamkos and Nash, going up against a KHL-dominated Russian team, Morozov and Radulov, and you guys managed a grand total of 1 goal!
    It sounds like you missed the point of what the big story was in Olympic hockey. Its been happening in youth hockey for the last several years. Who won Gold Medal in the U-16, U-17. U-18 and U-20 World Championships this year? And with all the advantages in Canada’s favor in Vancouver, who pushed Canada to have to barely eke out a 1-1 tie in games played against each other, with a total goal advantage over Canada from both games. In the big show, who forced tens of thousands of heart attacks across Canada by holding the overrated homeboys to a whopping 2 goals in regulation time, before tying the game and forcing it into overtime. I know there were 32 million Canadian hearts that came out of their mouths when the previously missing in action Sid the Kid got a lucky bounce on a one-timer in overtime! Not exactly a dominating performance.
    The real story of Olympic hockey was the changing of the guard. I’m going to have to be more direct, because you’re probably still not figuring out what I’m alluding to here. In North America, the US is moving to the top of the mountain, and they’re pushing Canada down to a lower rung! Its happening at every level of hockey, and its probably only going to get worse for the Maple Leaf boys.

  • jtlc

    bribes & corruption!!!!!! last time i looked, there were only a few countries ranked less corrupt than canada, and only a few countries more corrupt than russia. ‘money’.. ovetchkin,malkin, kovolchuck,etc., would be paid a lot more in the khl, but still want to play in the nhl. bad refereeing & on drugs… you’re grasping at straws, i’m laughing at you. next year’s wjc is in the u.s.a., the spiders will have a field day in all those empty seats.

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