Why Russia Lost at the World Championships

Posted May 17, 2015

Ovi just can’t catch a break anywhere. (Caps Outsider file photo)

I was supposed to be studying for my Senior finals on Sunday, but Alex Ovechkin was playing for Russia in the Gold Medal game of the 2015 World Championships. There was no way I would miss it.

Sadly, the Russian team disappointed me and the largely pro-Russian sell-out crowd at the O2 Arena in Prague, turning in a 6-1 flop against the Canadians. How did this team, who just yesterday beat the Americans 4-0, lose today?

1) Canada’s speed: If Caps fans thought the Islanders and Rangers were fast, they were tortoises compared to the hares that wore red and black for Canada toady. Zone entries were difficult, D-man pinches were aggressive, and too many mistakes were made on the few chances Russia got. Most of Russia’s chances came on a rush play, whereas Canada played the cycle game with authority. Sergei Bobrovsky could not keep up with the slick passes thrown by Claude Giroux, Tyler Seguin, and Sidney Crosby.

2) Bobrovsky: I’m still not sure why Russian head coach Oleg Znarok didn’t go with Anton Kuhdobin after Bob allowed his fourth goal. Canada’s fourth goal goal was particularly troublesome for Bob as his right skate got caught on the post after over committing to that side as  Seguin wrapped around the net and tucked the puck in on the opposite side. If Bob gets on the post as Seguin drives, he can shove off and make the save on the opposite post. Nathan Mackinnon’s goal added to the paltry effort as Bob really should have just gloved it down, but he missed the puck and it trickled into the net.

3) Evgeni Malkin: Anyone isolated on Ovechkin for the whole game will remember the moment he and Malkin were on a 2-on-1 and Malkin elected to shoot as Ovechkin was ready to launch it. Malkin completely missed the shot and Ovi looked skyward in frustration. Malkin wanted to shoot for the whole game, but he missed consistently. He did score the only goal for Russia, but it came on a tip-in from a Sergei Mozyakin shot.

4) Mike Smith: Coyotes fans watching this game, and the whole tournament for that matter, will wonder where this Mike Smith was all season. Smith turned in an MVP caliber tournament with 2 shutouts, allowing 15 goals for a 1.5 goals against average and a 93.02% Save Percentage through 10 games. Canada won every game in regulation mostly thanks to his goaltending, especially in their comeback effort against Sweden in the Preliminary round.

5) The Defense: An all-around failure by the defenders exacerbated the inability of the forwards to score today. Their dump-ins were turnovers and their carry-ins turned into Canadian steals. The Russian D-men amassed an underwhelming 2 goals and 13 assists. For comparison, Brent Burns of Canada had 2 goals and 9 assists all tournament.

Canada turned in a dominant tournament for their first World Championships gold medal since 2007. Russia’s performance did not live up to the expectation of their fans or their management. Not even Ovechkin’s offense would mask the terrible defense today.