The stakes were high from the start. With Putin telling the world he coveted the gold medal in Men’s hockey over pretty much everything, we knew everything would be on the line. Even before that, when Pavel Datsyuk said he was going to play in the games whether he got any under his belt in the NHL beforehand or not, we knew we needed to worry.
Wednesday morning’s game against Finland would be a nail-biter no matter what.
While Ilya Kovalchuk took Russia to a 1-0 lead in the first period, it lasted under two minutes with Finland scoring to tie it, and Teemu Selanne scoring with less than three minutes to go in the first to take Finland to a 2-1 lead did not help matters for the Russians. Pavel Datsyuk at least had an assist on Kovalchuk’s goal.
When Finland jumped to a 3-1 lead in the second period, Russia switched goaltenders, letting Sergei Bobrovsky take over for Semyon Varlamov. Seeing some of the saves Varlamov made in the third period to keep Russia within two goals, you can’t help but wonder if the Russian team made an error in starting Bobrovsky instead of Varlamov. It did not matter–Tuukka Rask was just better.
When you rely on a guy like Alexander Radulov to lead your scoring despite having the names of Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, and Malkin on your team, you’re bound to struggle. And keep in mind that after the shootout loss to the USA on Saturday, there were many reports that he was going to be benched. (Then he played phenomenally in the next game.)
Pavel Datsyuk may not have been playing at 100% , but he was one of the most consistent players on Russia’s team; he looked normal, he looked like he had . Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin did very little in this tournament to help, and the team struggled without their output.
If you’re a Red Wings fan, you’re probably okay with Russia being out of the games so Datsyuk can have a few extra days of rest. However, you can’t help but feel for him in this situation. His disappointment is almost palpable. He was proud to represent his country and play in front of his home crowd. To not make it to even a medaling game has to hurt.
The early departure of Russia from these Olympic hockey games gives Datsyuk a few extra days off. Without Henrik Zetterberg for the foreseeable future, keeping Datsyuk healthy is definitely key.