The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/17/12 at 01:20 PM ET
Updated 4x with highlights at 3:01 PM: What a strange day at the World Championships. After Slovakia upset Canada, the Russians played a spotty, sloppy game on sticky, goopy ice at the Globen Arena in Stockholm, and almost played “cruise control” hockey from the outset against an incredibly tenacious, nasty and gritty Norwegian team, emerging with a 5-2 victory (and semifinal match-up against the USA-Finland winner on Saturday) whose score belies an incredibly, incredibly tight game.
As we await the main event, part 1 for North American fans in Finland versus the U.S. at 11:30 AM EDT (on the NBC Sports Network and TSN), and we will soon find out whether, as Fox Sports Detroit’s Art Regner suggests, that RedWingsFeed)...
More than a few Wings fans suggested that Alexander Semin was “trying out” for a spot on Pavel Datsyuk’s wing, especially given the “Semin would be the non-Parise consolation prize” talk, and they weren’t wrong. With the prickly, gravelly Norwegian defense grinding into the Russians, the line of Alex Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk and Alexander Semin was by far the Russians’ best, and Semin and Datsyuk made a nice play to get the puck in very deep on the right side before Semin tapped the puck back to Datsyuk along the half boards, and Datsyuk one-touched the puck to the man who would score the game-winning goal…
Alexei Emelin, who did indeed dive at least two or three times to draw calls. Norway had rallied from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits to tie the game 2-2 going into the third period, but all of 55 seconds in, Semin and Datsyuk got the puck back to Emelin, who flickered a strange, tumbling wrist shot past Lars Haugen’s glove, and things snowballed in a hurry for Norway.
As IIHf.com’s Lukas Aykroyd describes it:
Yemelin made it 3-2 Russia 55 seconds into the third, accepting a Pavel Datsyuk pass near the blueline, using Lars Erik Spets as a decoy, and floating a high one over Haugen’s glove.
Although the Russians didn’t score their 4-2 goal until 9:17 remained in the third period, as soon as Emelin broke through, there was a sense that, especially given the fact that the Norwegians’ pugnacious play was yielding penalty after penalty—even though the Russians couldn’t buy a power play goal until Ilya Nikulin’s 5-2 goal with 5:08 left—the Russians had made the right call in playing just hard enough to eventually overwhelm the Norwegians on talent alone while not necessarily having to engage Norway in terms of being ground down by their physical play, and with Datsyuk and the Russians playing calm, composed and patient, “Don’t worry, we’ll break through” hockey, the Russians took the path of least resistance to a quarterfinal match-up.
The Russians haven’t lost yet, and they added Ovechkin and Semin—who, again, looked excellent throughout the game with Datsyuk, who may have had his best game of the tournament confidence-wise with the sniping, net-crashing (yeah, I said that), slot-lurking Semin serving as his main passing focus today—for the Quarterfinals and onward, so it will be very, very interesting to see if the Americans or Finns can finally break through Semyon Varlamov and the Russian defense while fending off two lines’ worth of superstars in Malkin and an assorted cast of youngsters and now Datsyuk with Ovechkin and semin…
But it’s incredibly hard to like the Russians, especially given that Emelin dives so regularly that you’d think that there are snipers int he crowd, and that so many of their players seem to believe that one should only physically engage an opponent after the whistle. Right now, they’re the John Tortorellas of the tournament. You may respect the fact that they win, but you don’t have to like them.
Individually, Datsyuk had an assist, went 12 and 8 in the faceoff circle, took 2 shots and finished at a +2 in 15:48 of ice time.
Also of brief Wings-related note: As previously mentioned, Fox Sports Detroit’s Art Regner defends what he describes as Jimmy Howard’s understandable push to try and crack the discussion in terms of possibly starting for Team USA at the 2014 Olympics…
First and foremost, Howard’s top priority is to win the Stanley Cup as a Red Wing. He would never jeopardize that dream or his career. He’s healthy. Howard also wants to be a member of the 2014 U.S. Olympic hockey team. That’s why he’s playing in the worlds. He hasn’t worn the colors since the 2002-03 season, when he was on the U.S. World Junior team.
And if you look at the current American goalies in the NHL, Howard, despite putting up solid numbers, is probably considered the fourth or fifth best in the league. Ryan Miller and Jonathan Quick are the two top American goalies and are a lock to make the Olympic team. Howard will have to compete with Cory Schneider for the third and final goaltending spot, along with the ageless wonder Tim Thomas.
At this point, most hockey observers feel the nod would go Schneider. This observation hasn’t been ignored by Howard.
When the Wings were cleaning out their lockers, Howard told the assembled press corps that he needed to play for Team USA at the international level if he wanted to be considered for the Olympic team.
Detroit’s early playoff exit has given Howard that opportunity, and thus far he’s undefeated in the tournament. If he continues to stand firm in net for Team USA, Howard will not only return home this spring with a medal, but he’ll have renewed confidence—his sight set on winning a Stanley Cup and Olympic gold, which would be the best of both worlds for Detroit hockey fans.
• the Wings’ website posted a little reminisce regarding likely former Wing Ty Conklin’s Winter Classic experiences…
• IIHF.com’s John Sanful’s posted a Sweden-Czech Republic preview (2:15 PM EDT, NBC Sports Network);
• And I’ll have to send you to the Google translation of this one: Niklas and Staffan Kronwall’s mother, Tove, had to raise her boys from approximately 10 years of age on when her husband passed away due to a sudden heart attack, so she told Expressen’s Jonas Solberger that she is absolutely delighted to be able to watch her boys play at the World Championships together, even when that meant Staffan playing forward, but it’s funny that she suggests that her motto is, “Do as you’re told,” but at the same time, she offers a subtle suggestion that Niklas would be playing a bit better if he received some more ice time. Moms are moms.
Update: lest I forget, Pavel Datsyuk will face off against John Tavares in EA Sports’ NHL 13 Cover Vote between tomorrow, May 18th, and May 23rd.
Update #2: RIA Novosti provides an interesting English-language read regarding the fact that the Russian oil and gas giant Rosneft more or less runs the show for CSKA Moscow, regardless of the fact that Sergei Fedorov may be the team’s new GM. As such, it’s more or less Vladimir Putin’s team…
Update #3: Datsyuk spoke to IIHF.com’s Aykroyd after the game:
“This team is as good as any I’ve played on,” said Russia’s Pavel Datsyuk. “Not only are we able to attack, but [we also] play good defense. We play together as a team and it shows in this tournament.”
Powerhouse Russia won its sixth straight IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship quarter-final, while Norway suffered its third loss all-time in this situation. The Norwegians fell 8-2 to host Canada in 2008 and 4-1 to Finland last year. Despite the loss, Norway has taken another big step forward as a hockey nation at this tournament, gaining respect for its prowess at both ends of the rink.
“We are proud of how we fought through the tournament,” said Norway’s Mats Trygg. “There is no shame in losing to these guys.”
With the result, Russia’s all-time World Championship record against Norway dating back to 1954 improved to nine wins and zero losses. Russia beat Norway 4-2 in their earlier round-robin encounter.
Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Popov, Nikolai Zherdev, and Ilya Nikulin also tallied for Russia, while Alexander Syomin added two assists. Tournament scoring leader Patrick Thoresen (7-11-18) had a goal and an assist, and Per-Åge Skrøder added a single for Norway.
Coming in from the NHL’s Washington Capitals, Ovechkin and Syomin made their tournament debuts, while Yevgeni Ketov was a healthy scratch. Defenceman Dmitri Kalinin sat out to complete his three-game ban for a dangerous cross-check on Sweden’s Johan Franzén. Russian starting goalie Semyon Varlamov outdueled Norway’s Lars Haugen as Russia enjoyed a 45-21 edge in shots.
“[Norway] played not to make mistakes,” said Datsyuk. “We were patient and got lots of shots. It was too bad we couldn’t score more, but give them credit—they played well.”
And here’s NBC Sports’ highlight clip:
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.