Sochi Olympics Ice Hockey Men

Why did Russia’s hockey team fall flat in Sochi?


For hockey (and really sports) fans in Sochi, the reaction to Russia bowing out of the Olympic tournament following a 3-1 quarterfinal loss to Finland can be summarized as such:

source: AP
Credit: AP

The rest of us can at least ask questions like “How?” and “Why?” Here are the potential roots of Russia’s demise, with copious amounts of help from Pro Hockey Talk.

The pressure

Playing in your host country can be a big advantage … unless it creates enough pressure that players start thinking too much. Alex Ovechkin acknowledged the anxiety but ultimately shrugged it off to NBC’s Joe Posnanski before the Olympics started.

“Of course there’s pressure,” Ovechkin said. “It’s your whole country.”

VIDEO: Mike Milbury says “a loss like this lasts a lifetime”

When Russian President Vladimir Putin needs to calm people down about a controversial goal, you know a country takes a sport seriously.

The roster

source: AP
Credit: AP

Everyone has their own view of what “the best team possible” is, but some countries must satisfy more “political” issues. Like, say, acknowledging the Russian-centric KHL (widely considered the second most prominent hockey league to the NHL).

While some of these players have appeared in the NHL before, it’s still notable how many players were plucked from an inferior league (let’s exclude Ilya Kovalchuk for obvious talent-related reasons):

Alexander Yeryomenko, Ilya Nikulin, Yevgeni Medvedev, Viktor Tikhonov, Alexander Svitov, Alexander Popov, Alexei Tereshenko and Alexander Radulov.

Radulov is talented – if wildly polarizing – in his own right, but maybe Russia put too much pressure on top players? Let’s not forget that depth players can make a big difference; a certain fellow named T.J. Oshie wasn’t a lock to make the U.S. roster by any means.

Goalie flip-flopping

If the Olympic tournament wasn’t such a speedy blur, one could almost imagine people taking sides with goalies Semyon Varlamov (#TeamVarly?) and Sergei Bobrovsky (#TeamBob). Russian head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov waffled between the two, including starting Varlamov in today’s elimination game after going with Bobrovsky in Tuesday’s do-or-die contest.

Naturally, Varlamov was pulled for Bobrovsky during Wednesday’s game.

The power play

With names like Alex Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk available, you’d think that the Russian power play would be a nightmare. It was … but usually for the Russian team itself.

Their struggling power play unit was a storyline for much of the playoffs, even after an easy qualification playoff game against Norway.

Star failures

Fair or not, Russian players frequently get blamed in NHL playoff losses. Aside from the Malkin – Datsyuk – Radulov line and Kovalchuk, many Russian scorers would probably admit that they are disappointed with their tournament play. Others will … likely use harsher words.

(The word “choke” will almost undoubtedly be trotted out.)

Their opponents

It’s easy to beat up on Russia, but it’s not like they lost to bad teams. The U.S. is the defending silver medal winners from 2010 and Finland is a steady international threat (especially on larger ice surfaces). Some believe that Tuukka Rask is the best goalie in the world; he was in net for a Boston Bruins team that kept Malkin and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins from recording a single point in a 2013 playoff series, after all.


Whatever way you slice it, it’s difficult to overstate how much this failure hurts the Russian team and their country as a whole. It’s likely those involved will be soul-searching for many years following this resounding finish.

Lance Armstrong’s former doctor wants to stop ‘The Program’ film release, report says

Lance Armstrong
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ROME (AP) — Lance Armstrong‘s former physician has reportedly filed a lawsuit aiming to halt distribution in Italy of a movie about the disgraced cyclist.

The ANSA news agency reports that lawyers for Dr. Michele Ferrari have requested that the ”The Program” – due to be released in Italy on Thursday – be sequestered from distributor Videa and are seeking damages.

Lawyers say Ferrari never administered EPO to Armstrong.

Ferrari’s lawyer Dario Bolognesi did not immediately answer calls from The Associated Press.

Ferrari is played by French actor Guillaume Canet in the film, which is directed by Stephen Frears.

Ferrari was banned for life for helping athletes use performance enhancing drugs by both the Italian Cycling Federation and the U.S. Anti-Doping Association.

Armstrong has acknowledged that Ferrari was his trainer until 2004.

MORE ARMSTRONG: Actor who played Lance took PEDs for filming

Jan Frodeno eyes unprecedented Olympic-Ironman double (video)

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On Saturday, Jan Frodeno will attempt to become the first triathlete to win an Olympic title and an Ironman World Championship.

The German 2008 Olympic champion finished third in his debut at Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, one year ago. So he’s already in a class of his own, the only triathlete to win Olympic gold and finish on the podium in Kailua-Kona.

On Saturday, Frodeno will go up against defending champion and countryman Sebastian Kienle and the 2013 winner, Frederik Van Lierde of Belgium.

Frodeno is arguably the favorite, given he trounced Kienle by nearly 12 minutes and Van Lierde by nearly 18 minutes in triple-digit heat at the Ironman European Championships on July 5 in Frankfurt, Germany.

The Ironman triathlon includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile marathon. It took Frodeno 8 hours, 20 minutes, 32 seconds to complete in 2014. Apolo Ohno, the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian of all time, also completed the 2014 Ironman World Championships in an impressive time.

The Olympic triathlon includes a 1500m swim, 40km bike and 10km run. It took Frodeno 1 hour, 48 minutes, 53 seconds to complete in 2008.

On the women’s side, Australian Mirinda Carfrae is going for her third straight title in Kailua-Kona. Carfrae’s marathon time in 2013 (2:50:38) was the third fastest of the day, among women and men. Her marathon time in 2014 (2:50:26) was the fifth fastest of the day, among women and men.

VIDEO: Watch Apolo Ohno’s Ironman feature