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Dream dashed: Russia’s Olympic tournament over with loss to Finland

Feb 19, 2014, 9:55 AM EDT

RussiaFinland Getty Images

Just prior to the start of the Olympic tournament, Russia’s Alex Ovechkin said he had a “dream” of winning a gold medal on home soil.

On Wednesday, that dream died.

Finland beat Russia 3-1 in front of a partisan Russian crowd at the Bolshoy Ice Dome, stifling the host country for most of the game while setting off a national nightmare in the process.

Russia came into this tournament with huge hopes riding on hockey gold. Ovechkin joked a gold medal would “only cost $50-billion” — well, we think he was joking — and his teammates also acknowledged the pressure to win it all. Yet their tournament will end with a quarterfinal loss, and Finland deserves full credit for ending it.

Juhamatti Aaltonen, Teemu Selanne and Mikael Granlund all scored for Finland, with the three goals coming unanswered after Ilya Kovalchuk opened the scoring for the Russians midway through the first period. Granlund, 21, has stepped up for the Finns after injuries kept veteran forwards Mikko Koivu and Valtteri Filppula from participating in the Olympics, and now has a team-high five points.

VIDEO: Highlights from Finland’s 3-1 win

If today’s game showed one thing, though, it’s the importance of quality goaltending in a single elimination tournament. Tuukka Rask was absolutely brilliant for the Finns, stopping 37 of 38 shots. Russia, meanwhile, got an uneven start from Semyon Varlamovchased after allowing three goals — and was forced to insert Sergei Bobrovsky early in the second period.

The Russian goaltending situation will likely come under fire. Head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov went back and forth between Varlamov and Bobrovsky all tournament long; conversely, Finland’s started Rask in three of its four games, including the last two against Canada and Russia.

This wasn’t just about goaltending, however. Finland played a smart, efficient game and outworked the Russians on a number of occasions. At no time was that more evident than on Selanne’s game-winning goal; Granlund chased down and stripped Slava Voynov for a loose puck before centering to Selanne, who broke his own record (set five days ago) as the oldest goalscorer in Olympic history.

As such, the Finns will now face Sweden in the semifinal for the chance to advance to Sunday’s gold medal game.

The Russians, meanwhile, will face a number of questions.

  1. lowenni - Feb 19, 2014 at 9:56 AM

    As an American, I’m overjoyed. As a Caps fan, I’m really disappointed Ovi didn’t even medal. This was really his chance to prove himself, and although he did have some good games, at the end of the day he only had one goal and that’s what the critics will see. And Russia needed more than that. All in all Russia was just an average team–loaded with offense-first players who like to do it themselves, supported by a weak defense and average goaltending. The only thing they had going for them was home-ice advantage. Putin no happy.

    • newjerseydevilsfanpuckcollection - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:11 AM

      Wonder if Putin is crying in a corner now???

      • patthehockeyfan - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:14 AM

        No. Putin is trying to find someone other than a referee to blame for Russia’s loss.

    • girouxsalem89 - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:13 AM

      Average goal-tending? Bobrovsky played fantastic throughout the Olympics. Why they would bench him and go with Varlamov is beyond me and cost them this game.

      • lowenni - Feb 19, 2014 at 11:16 AM

        No I agree. Bobrovsky was very, very good, but they chose the average goaltender. That’s what I meant.

    • jhuck92 - Feb 19, 2014 at 12:02 PM

      You’re absolutely right. I saw the latter two periods and everyone in a Russian sweater looked lost and out-of-sync. Ovechkin was good for the first 4 minutes of the tournament and then disappeared. Malkin was as effective as he was in the ECF against Boston. Kovalchuk was the one bright spot in an otherwise forgettable Russian forward performance. There were too many players trying to do their own thing, too many players unsuccessfully trying pretty plays while they were down 3-1. They don’t like to get their hands dirty. As a fellow American, I kind of wish they won just so we have a chance to beat them again (when it counts) to see what kind of excuses they come up with

      • vm113 - Feb 19, 2014 at 2:18 PM

        Um how are you going to forget Russia’s best player? The whole tournament Datsyuk looked as though he was in a league of his own. Really put to rest who the best Russian player on the planet is.

      • jhuck92 - Feb 20, 2014 at 4:10 PM

        I was talking about that particular game. Datsyuk looked brilliant all tournament long.

    • vm113 - Feb 19, 2014 at 2:23 PM

      Ovie showed his true colors. There is no more defending him. He has proved is as one dimensional as it gets. All this time I thought he was doing what the coaches in Wash were asking him to do, score goals. Boy i was wrong. He has become a complete liability on the ice and his play making abilities have vanished. It hurt’s for me to say this. I was one of his biggest fans, but after seeing him put his country to shame i have no respect left for his game.

  2. patthehockeyfan - Feb 19, 2014 at 9:57 AM

    TUUUUUUKKKKKKKAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!

    GREAT game!!!

    • jcmeyer10 - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:04 AM

      If this can get his confidence back then Bruins fans will be pretty happy, if not he just put even more miles on his pegs.

    • patthehockeyfan - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:32 AM

      Finland’s defense was spectacular in this game. Yes, Tuukka played brilliantly; and his defense blocked a minimum of 14 shots in the 2nd and 3rd periods.

      Their stick-handling was fantastic. Watching them either deflect passes or simply taking the puck off of a Russian stick was breathtaking.

  3. btlpper68 - Feb 19, 2014 at 9:58 AM

    Russians never came together as a team, long shifts, not on the same page, bad penalties. Scary to think fins could be playing for gold all without koivu, filipula or barkov

    • jpelle82 - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:07 AM

      i’m going to sound like a bruins fan here… finland is a great “team”. its not a bunch of superstars on paper thrown together for a tournament. they’ve got 4 lines of great team players and role guys. they’ve obviously got depth and they win with excellent goaltending and team defense. should be a good game against sweden.

    • newjerseydevilsfanpuckcollection - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:12 AM

      Exactly…as you said. NO CHEMISTRY on that team.

    • flyerspsu - Feb 19, 2014 at 5:15 PM

      it really is incredible what the Fins have done, not only do they have a bunch of key injuries but they are in the stage where their veteran studs are way past their prime and their young studs are incredibly young and really inexperienced, I can say for sure I will never doubt Finnish hockey again

      I always thought highly of them but thought the injury and age situation would be too much, i was wrong

  4. bucrightoff - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:01 AM

    The Russians are pretty much the equivalent of a NBA team: All the stars act selfishly to get “theirs” and there is little to no team element to the game whatsoever.

    I’d also imagine a lot of those KHLers wish they could bail back to the NHL now. Fun times ahead for them (in Siberia likely)

    • jcmeyer10 - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:02 AM

      Putin will created a new KHL team based out of Siberia and call them the Siberia Disappointments.

    • convincedofthehex - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:07 AM

      You obviously don’t watch much NBA. All the successful teams work the ball consistently to find the best match up. The isolation ball of the 90s is long over. I’m not sure if you watch basketball, or if this is a coded semi-racist comment.

      Rask is a monster, Sweden will have their hands full.

      • mcphillthy - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:28 AM

        Screw basketball. You can write that down as racist if you want. Not even sure why you would assume it’s a racist comment on his part… If his opinion makes him a racist then I’m a racist too for not liking basketball. I guess I should go wear a white pillow sheet and burn my Simmonds jersey.

      • bucrightoff - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:31 AM

        Semi racist? Oooookay then. Besides I think you don’t watch much NBA basketball. Outside San Antonio, everyone is still pretty much only playing isolation ball. See the Lakers, the Knicks, the Nets, the Heat when not in transition, the Thunder when Westbrook is in. Etc…The NBA is still a star league and to suggest otherwise is simply wrong. Outside the 2004 Pistons, there hasn’t been a true team to win the NBA title in at least 30 years.

      • thomasvanek - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:49 AM

        I agree with you, but these fools won’t because they know nothing about Basketball.

      • therealjr - Feb 19, 2014 at 12:06 PM

        I’m not sure if you watch basketball or if that’s just a coded semi-moron comment.

      • killerpgh - Feb 19, 2014 at 1:29 PM

        What is his NBA thing you speak of?

  5. jcmeyer10 - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:01 AM

    Happy to see Tukka get the win. Not a huge fan of him playing extra minutes given he has already played more than he ever has in a season. If this can get his confidence back, this may just be a huge blessing disguise for Bruins fans.

  6. cofran2004 - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:01 AM

    yikes….

    I think the russian public is about to switch into “riot” mode for the rest of the olympics. This… will not go over well.

    • mcflower29 - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:11 AM

      don’t worry, they’re not canucks fans who tore up businesses, set cars on fire, vandalized the streets, cursed at the police, beat up people, etc.

      • jpelle82 - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:24 AM

        the russians legitimately fear their government, i doubt they will riot like the nanny state canadian patsies.

      • jhaegs - Feb 19, 2014 at 6:38 PM

        In Soviet Russia, law breaks you!

  7. jpdoc26 - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:02 AM

    It was supposed to be offense that carried this team to a medal. Instead the defense played well and the goalies were decent, while the offense let the host nation down. Finland vs. Sweden is going to be a great game.

    • jessejames182 - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:09 AM

      I wonder if Russia could hear the cheers that they lost from New Jersey?

  8. hockey412 - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:03 AM

    Probably not the statement they were trying to make when they mixed all those KHL guys in there…

    • jpelle82 - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:09 AM

      shame on the politics of it

    • ThatGuy - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:17 AM

      KHL has nothing to do with it. Finland rostered 9 KHLers and 2 from SM-Liiga. Its the team game that mattered.

      • jpelle82 - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:34 AM

        there was political obligation to fill roster spots with khl players. the ramifications and the obvious disrespect a proper snubbing of khl players would have brought on was more the committee could handle. imagine your national league had no representation in a home olympics…they couldnt do it. radulov and kovalchuk make it no matter what but some of the other guys…eh. i agree its not why they lost but it might have affected chemistry and team attitude. i personally think the pressure was the factor from the beginning…too many guys trying to bear the burden of it with their own individual efforts.

    • ejbigg - Feb 19, 2014 at 11:10 AM

      What Russian players from the NHL were even snubbed? You think they should have taken Yakupov and Loktionov over Kovalchuk and Radulov? It just so happens that some of Russia’s best players play in Europe same with the Finland team that beat them. They lost because Russia’s talent pool isn’t that deep, not because of politics.

  9. theageofquarrel - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:07 AM

    Somehow,some way this will be all Quick’s fault. Hahahaha

    • ahoyroy - Feb 19, 2014 at 7:46 PM

      The communists in the united states have officially blamed bush.

  10. tdrusher225 - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:07 AM

    Starting Varlamov was one of the dumbest coaching decisions I’ve ever seen

    • JoeAvg - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:28 AM

      Like pulling Tretiak? Glad to see it either way.

  11. rebekah319 - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:09 AM

    GRANLUND!!! Nothing but amazing puts smiles on Wild fans faces!!!

  12. newjerseydevilsfanpuckcollection - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:10 AM

    Just as I predicted. Finland over Russia.

    Glad to see Russia out of the tournament, as I have never been a fan (coming from a Canadian…looking back at the 72 Summit Series)

    The US needs to realize that they are in for a tough game against the Czechs. Its not going to be an easy game.

    To all those nay sayers out there…be warned.

    • badgerhockey77 - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:43 AM

      Agreed! I’m a little nervous about the Czech game too. I’ve watched some of their games. Besides a poor first period against Sweden, they’ve looked very good. Fast! USA better bring it, or they’re out!

  13. titansbro - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:22 AM

    To the gulag!

  14. pitpenguinsrulez - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:28 AM

    Well looks like all that money was waste there Ovie

  15. killerpgh - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:28 AM

    I think I might be rooting for Finland (until/if they play the USA). Off the top of my head the only Finnish player i can remember ever not liking was Jarrko Ruuttu. That country seems to produce nothing but respectable players.

  16. channelguy - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:29 AM

    Well, so much for the folks that thought the US was better prepared for the elimination round by having a strong team — Russia — in their bracket, while Canada got to play a weak team in the Finns.

    Full marks for the disaster to Russian hockey officials. For political reasons, they loaded up the team with guys who showed ‘patriotism’ by staying in the KHL, just as they did in 2010, and with the same result. The KHL is about the same quality level as the AHL and even if a guy has talent, he simply doesn’t develop it as much by playing at a lower level of competition.

    Russian coaching also seems a couple decades behind everyone else. They roll out their four 5 man units, just as they did with the Soviet team, who played and trained together much of the year. But it’s not the same today, and the coaches don’t seem to grasp that. There was absolutely no sense of URGENCY as the game went on — no double-shifting the offensive stars, or stacking them on a line for offense. KHLer Popov undermined the stars on the Russian top line the whole game, yet there he was, like clockwork, every time their line number came up.

  17. penvik - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:49 AM

    How about Olli Maata!!! Wow, haven’t seen somebody make playing all world defense look so easy since Nik Lidstrom. Maata was tasked with shutting down Ovi and Malkin and much more. This guy is going to be special.

    • theageofquarrel - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:53 AM

      Lucky for us Penguin fans!!!!

  18. hightopandrocket - Feb 19, 2014 at 12:46 PM

    Another Winter War battle win by The Suomi!!!

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