The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/18/14 at 10:54 AM ET
Updated 3x at 12:55 PM PM: The Russians and captain Pavel Datsyuk booked a trip to the Wednesday's quarterfinal against Finland (on Wednesday, on NBCSN, at 7:30 AM EST) via 4-0 victory, but it was anything but a laugher. The Russians didn't register their second goal until 37:11 of time had elapsed, and both prior to and after that point, they mostly played perimeter hockey and seemed all too content to attempt to pass the puck into the back of the net.
Datsyuk looked much, much more like himself, registering 3 assists on Alexander Radulov's bulldog-to-the-net goals, empty-netter included (shades of Justin Abdelkader? Make the ONE guy who goes to the net look like a superstar? Well, maybe, to some extent, though Radulov is a bit more talented, and a way bigger jerk), and making this dangle and deke move, as noted by Pete Blackburn on Twitter:
Datsyuk also went a remarkable 15-and-4 on faceoffs, took 2 shots, finished at +3 and played 16:47.
Datsyuk and Radulov were really the only Russians who seemed to be willing to take play to the Norwegians, going to the net and bringing the puck with them, playing with passion and playing like they were willing to pay the kinds of physical prices that were levied during a game that was terribly, terribly refereed...
And as such, Datsyuk, Radulov and the impeccable Sergei Bobrovsky (who stopped 22 shots) deserve the lion's share of the credit for Russia's win.
What happens now? Here's the Bergen Record's Tom Gulitti to explain how things shake down as of 10 AM EST:
DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose penned a recap...
Still looking more like a group of individuals than a well-calibrated team, Russia had enough to cruise by the No. 12 seed Norway at the Bolshoy Ice Dome on Tuesday afternoon.
Led by Pavel Datsyuk and former NHL forward Alexander Radulov, Russia’s top line did all of the damage, accounting for three goals, including an empty-netter, in a 4-0 victory that was more difficult than the final score showed.
For the third straight game, Datsyuk was outstanding with a three-assist performance. The Red Wings’ center got helpers on both of Radulov’s goals as well as Ilya Kovalchuk’s second-period tally. Datsyuk now has five points in the Olympic Games, which is tied for third with Canada’s Drew Doughty and Sweden’s Erik Karlsson.
Datsyuk appears to be returning to his all-world form as a two-way center. He won 11 of 15 face offs against the Norwegians. The best centerman on the Russian roster, Datsyuk has won 52-of-81 face-offs (64.2 percent) in four games.
Amd Kovalchuk talked about the "pucker factor" while speaking with IIHF.com's Slava Malamud:
many scoring chances in the early going to really energize the sell-out partisan crowd. It fell to the fans to provide the initiative with the traditional “Shay-bu!” chant. This was a far cry from the electric atmosphere of the first couple of game for the Russians, however, and the Nordic skaters appeared to be completely unfazed by the hostile environment.
"Everyone was nervous, not just the fans", said Kovalchuk. "We really wanted to score fast, so we ran after it and at somepoint got off our team game."
Russia’s only quality chance of the opening frame came with about a minute left when Alexander Syomin flew into the zone on the right side, but his shot from close quarters couldn’t beat Lars Haugen. A follow-up slapper by Yevgeni Medvedev was turned aside, too, as Haugen, without his stick, had to quickly recover from the collision with Syomin.
Norway, however, was very much Russia’s equal in the first, and this chance was immediately followed by a decent opportunity for Anders Bastiansen, who shot from the slot was forced Bobrovski to make a tough save. Overall, Russia only managed to outshoot Norway by the count of 7-6 in the first period.
The pace and direction of the game changed drastically in the second. Russia came out energized, turned up the tempo and spent the vast majority of the play in the opponent’s zone. Ironically, it was a lucky bounce, far from Russia’s signature offensive prettiness, that got the Red Machine going.
Radulov went cruising along the right side, circled behind the net and attempted to find Yevgeni Malkin in the crease. Radulov’s pass, however, ricocheted off Jonas Holos’s skate and slithered in between Haugen’s pads. Datsyuk wound up assisting on the first Russian non-Datsyuk goal since the opening game against the United States.
Update #3: Here's some Google-translated Datsyuk via Sport-Express and the ITAR-TASS news service:
"In the game with Norway the entire Russian hockey team played well" - said Datsyuk. - "If you think that the game against Norway lacked intensity, then you probably thought so - from the back rows. In fact, the mood was good. We knew that it was going to be a very tough game. Players paid great attention to defense. The main thing is that we achieved the result. Select all costs. Because all played well, completing our jobs. We will do everything to recover the game with the Finns. Because time is short."
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