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Russia Tries Something New

See now this is what I’m talking about.

We have our most exciting game of the tournament, Russia-North America from last night. And while we wax poetic about the Olympics and about the two Canada-US games from 2010, how many other great games do you remember from the Olympics? Maybe one or two others? This was as good as anything that tournament has offered up.

Ok, sure, it’s one made-up team that essentially got to pick current or about-to-be All-Stars while everyone else had harder restrictions. But it was still faster than just about anything you’re going to find in an NHL game. And that’s the point. These international tournaments are supposed to be of a higher level than what we get in the league. This is why soccer fans love the World Cup and European Championships (even though the last version of each of those has been rather dogshit). It’s the best the sport can produce. That’s what we got last night.

It’s a real turn for Russia, because generally when things haven’t started well for them, or as soon as they saw some kind of reverse, they were donesies. The reverse to Sweden, at least I would have thought, would have had them looking longingly and the running bus again against The Young Ones who were going to skate them up and down.

A funny thing happened on the way though. The Russians realized they have just as much speed at forward as the Young Ones do, and played up to it. It’s not that the North American defense is bad, as you’d take just about every single one of them on your team. But looking over their defense last night, the six d-men have a combined eight¬†years of experience or so in the NHL. There isn’t anyone they can throw out there when things are tough and they can comfortably say to themselves, “I’ve seen this before.” Only Parayko has seen a second round of the playoffs, and that was this year.

Ok, Matt Murray had something of a hiccup there, but he hadn’t seen any real pressure until last night’s second period. And Bobrovsky had to be at his very best. This was passionate, this was fast, this was electric. It’s what the international game can achieve if we’d just get out of its way.

-Well that was a learning experience for Michal Kempny, huh? No one’s going to write off his NHL career after one bad game in this tournament, and he’s on probably the most undermanned team in the tournament (seriously, we have this but the Slovaks would have been totally outgunned?). Still, a -10 Corsi and on the ice for a couple goals isn’t what you’d want. He’s comfortably the best d-man on the Czechs, but that isn’t much of a claim. We know he’ll be on the team, it’s just the learning curve will be steep. Especially if TVR is his regular partner.

A lot of the story coming out of the game was how fresh Marian Hossa says he feels after a first extended summer break in four seasons. I’m not so sure. The five shots yesterday were encouraging, but I don’t know that I’ve seen that punch in his skating that we do when he’s on top of his game. This is still training camp for him and the rest in a way, and we don’t have any gauge on what he’s saving from a team that isn’t his country’s. We won’t know that until he gets here.

-I love Leon Draisaitl so much I feel like I might swallow my tongue.

-Who else is stoked for the US to get crushed tonight? Just me? Ok. Because they really should. Unless Quick stands on his head, which he is capable of and did last time these two played a game that meant something. He turned that into a 1-0 defeat when it should have been 6-0. But he’s still the third likeliest goalie on the squad to turn in that performance.

I want to believe that a rude awakening like this, along with the evidence of what they could have had right there for all to see on Team North America, will signal real changes from here on out. But then again, for what? Do we know if this tournament is going to keep going? We don’t know if the NHL is going to keep going to the Olympics, though I don’t see how they’ll pass up Beijing in 2022 but I’ll be dead by then so who cares? This isn’t like US Soccer where they whole system in integrated down to the youth levels. Players are produced from everywhere in this country and just because the top team is run like a bunch of dunderheads that doesn’t mean every kid is playing in that system. I guess we’ll see.

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