Men's Olympic Hockey Preview - Russia

December 26, 2009

On Christmas Day, Russia unveiled their Olympic Men's Hockey Roster. Widely expected to compete with Canada for Gold, the Russians are a study in firepower.


Olympic Appearances: 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006 as Russia. First entered as USSR in 1956.
Best Finish: Gold (1956, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1984, 1988, 1992)
Total Medals Won: 12
Pool: Czech Republic, Slovakia, Latvia

As the USSR, the Russians were nigh untouchable. Save for the 'Mircale On Ice' of 1980, the Russians managed to win gold for 8 of 9 Olympic Games. Thats pretty damn intimidating. Of course, those teams were made all the more menacing by the mystery surrouding the players themselves. Held behind the Iron Curtain, the USSR would roll out a team of superstarts otherwise basically unseen or unknown to the Western World. Names like Mikhailov, Kharlamov and Tretiak live on on hockey lore.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Russians have not faired quite as well internationally. The breakup of the Soviet Union split off the USSR Talent Pool. No longer would the Russians be joined by Ukrainians, Belarussians, Latvians etc. to form one superteam. The Russians would have to fend for themselves. Since the split, the Russians have only managed two medals in four Olympics: Silver in 1998 and Bronze in 2002. The Russians will look to the following players to win their first Gold as an independant entry:

Ilya Bryzgalov (Phoenix)
Evgeni Nabokov (San Jose)
Semyon Varlamov (Washington)

Sergei Gonchar (Pittsburgh)
Denis Grebeshkov (Edmonton)
Dmitri Kalinin (Salavat Ufa)
Konstantin Korneyev (CSKA Moscow)
Andrei Markov (Montreal)
Ilya Nikulin (Ak Bars Kazan)
Fedor Tyutin (Columbus)
Anton Vonchenkov (Ottawa)


Maxim Afinogenov (Atlanta)
Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit)
Sergei Fedorov (Metallurg Magnitogorsk)
Ilya Kovalchuk (Atlanta)
Viktor Kozlov (Salavat Ufa)
Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh)
Alexei Morozov (Ak Bars Kazan)
Alexander Ovechkin (Washington)
Alexander Radulov (Salavat Ufa)
Alexander Semin (Washington)
Danis Zaripov (Ak Bars Kazan)
Sergei Zinoviev (Salavat Ufa)

The first thing that jumps out at you about this roster is the sheer amount of skill the Russians have. They just have so many dangerous goal scorers that their third line is going to be better than most countries first line. Ovechkin, Malkin, Kovalchuk, Datsyuk and Semin are all elite snipers, probably all Top 10 in the world...and thats even before you get to 'secondary guys' like Alex Radulov.

The second thing that you'll notice, is the number of players that are coming from the KHL here. I guess as much as its not the USSR now, the 'Politburio' still holds sway. Politics must be played here, and enough players taken from the homefront to satisfy the sponsers. Some of the KHL players are ex-NHLers, and are clearly worthy of selection, but a few of these KHL D-Men are relative unknowns. Were they taken because of what team they play for, rather than on skill?

Which brings me to the third thing here. The Defence. If Russia has a weakness, its on D...where after Gonchar and Markov things get a little thin. If the Russians end up with anything less than a gold medal, it will be because the defence has failed them.

#4 - No Kovalev, No Frolov...victims of the politics I think...

Regardless, the Russians are clearly an elite team, and may even be the class of the tournament. Expect to see them in the medals for sure.

Linkback: Other Rosters


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This blog is the online chronicle of our adventures leading up to, and including, the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. We hope to give you a little insight into what went into planning our trip and a first hand look at the Games from the ground in Vancouver.

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