The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/19/14 at 12:55 PM ET
As Paul has noted, ESPN's Pierre LeBrun wrote a thoughtful, thorough and balanced dissection of the dysfunctional machine that was the Russian Olympic hockey team, from the player picks made by the Russian Hockey Federation to coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov's bizarre decison-making to the severely under-performing players on what was clearly a team that was anything but united in its pursuit of gold. LeBrun's take on why the Big Red Machine sputtered smoke and leaked oil throughout the 2014 games is superb.
One player on this roster nobody can reproach was the captain. Playing with a suspected injured knee, Pavel Datsyuk was easily the best player on his squad in this tournament, tying for the team scoring lead with six points (2-4) and a force on every shift. His linemates, KHL stars Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Radulov, also had strong tournaments.
Most notably on this night, Datsyuk stood there and answered endless questions about his team's failure, in both Russian and English, polite and patient throughout in his Wednesday postgame presser -- unlike some of his young star teammates that bolted through the interview area as if they were late for a flight (Kovalchuk and Radulov among them).
"Inside I feel absolutely empty," Datsyuk said through an interpreter. "Disappointed we lost with home advantage and we can't score today. Hard to win if you're not scoring."
Both on and off the ice, Datsyuk made Russia proud, and that shouldn't be forgotten in the rubble of this collapse.
And leave it to another classy veteran to put it in perspective. Finnish legend Selanne openly felt bad for the host team's nightmare end.
"I feel sorry for Ovi and the rest of the Russians, because they had a dream to win the gold medal here in front of the home crowd," said Selanne, who scored the game-winner in the opening period. "But in hockey you never know. That's why it's so exciting because you never know what's going to happen. Tonight was a good example of that."
Again, LeBrun continues, and he summarizes why a team designed to advertise the KHL, coached by a "Good Old Boy" in the Good Old Soviet-Era Boys' Club and consisting of a slate of underachievers did what was stunning at the time but in retrospect inevitable--they buckled and broke like a Sochi hotel room's door handle at the first sign of pressure.
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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.