Russia bowed out of the 2014 Winter Olympic tournament today, losing to a Finland team via a 3-1 final score that gave them trouble in all three zones for 60 minutes of play.
For the Russians, this is a devastating loss on home ice. While it’s an honor to host the Winter Games, Sochi didn’t win the bid and shell out a ton of money to watch Alex Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk come up short against Finland in the quarterfinal round.
Not only will they not have the chance to win a Gold medal—they won’t be able to chase after a medal of any kind. The tournament will continue for the next four days, and Russia won’t be any part of the bracket moving forward. That’s tough to swallow for a squad many thought could be the top team in the tournament.
The trend of the Olympics for the Russians has been underwhelming play across the board. Datsyuk had flashes of brilliance, but the rest of Russia’s all-world players were largely invisible, shrinking from the moment and pressure of winning on home ice. Russia lost, but Finland deserved to win this contest.
The Finns played a calm, defensive game and they waited out the Russians through all three periods. Russia played into Finland’s neutral zone structure over and over again, and when the Russians did manage to get a shot on goal, the Finns heroically sacrificed their bodies to block the shots.
Russia started things off on an odd foot by benching Sergei Bobrovsky one day after he pitched a shutout in the qualifying round. Semyon Varlamov was pulled eventually, but it didn’t kick start the Russians in a game that was already out of reach. Ilya Kovalchuk got on the board for the home team first with a rocket of a shot on the power play, but that was the only goal Russia would be able to celebrate.
Finland answered less than two minutes later with the equalizer, and the clinic was on.
Mikael Granlund and Teemu Selanne had a goal and an assist each, and the top Finnish players skated circles around their Russian counterparts through most of this contest.
There were a few scarce moments when it appeared that Russia could score, but Tuukka Rask was up to the task and stopped 37 of 38 shots he faced. As time wound down, you could feel the air slowly going out of the Bolshoy Ice Dome.
How will the Russians reflect on this loss? Will they be honest about the defeat and take responsibility? Or will they blame referees and protest about missed calls like they did after losing to the United States in the preliminary round?
Time will tell, but Finland advances to the semifinal to take on Sweden. For Scandinavia, Finland versus Sweden is akin to Canada versus the United States in North America. It’s a massive contest between two of the best teams in the tournament that are also rivals due to proximity.
For Russia, it’s back to the drawing board. For Finland, it’s to the practice ice to prepare for a quarterfinal game. It’s not how the Russians planned it, but this is the place that they earned with their inconsistent and emotionless play.