Photo credit: sportbox.ru

Last week, highly touted Washington Capitals prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov finally put pen to paper, signing a two-year deal with Traktor Chelyabinsk to stay in Russia through the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. While the news was a total bummer for Caps fans, it also put a merciful end to the period of time at RMNB I’m referring to as KUZNETMANIA! What’s Kuznetmania!?, you ask? An epoch in which every day brings a new Kuzya interview or an editorial from some famous hockey analyst who feels compelled to comment on if Kuznetsov’s should stay or go to the NHL.

At one point the mania spurred to words the normally tight-lipped George McPhee. On December 30th, before the Capitals took on Buffalo, McPhee weighed in on the issue, telling the Washington Post,”[Evgeny] needs to play in a better league. Sometimes when you’re not playing at the highest level you can develop bad habits. We don’t want that stuff to become engrained — so get him to the best league you can and get working with him.”

Totally. And we’re not quite done with the opining yet. In a wide-ranging interview with Sportsbox.ru, Hockey Hall of Famer and father of total babes Igor Larionov spoke about corruption in the Russian government, the Eurocup soccer tournament, the World Championships, and — of course — Evgeny Kuznetsov’s new deal to stay in the KHL.

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Ovechkin Checks Fedorov

Alex Semin cries after receiving his silver medal.

Alex Semin cries after receiving his silver medal.

Today, Russia’s 27 game World Championships winning streak came to a devastating end in a post-olympic rematch against Jaromir Jagr’s Czech Republic team. And much like the match in the Olympics earlier in the year, the pivotal play of today’s World Championships gold medal game was a huge Alex Ovechkin hit. But this time, it was the Russian Machine accidentally laying out and injuring one of his own teammates, Sergei Fedorov (above), which led to Tomas Rolinek’s game winning goal in the second period. Riding stellar goaltending from Tomas Vokoun and an incredible team defense, the Czechs took a 2 goal lead into the third period that they would never relinquish. Our beloved Ruskies fall to the Czech Republic 2-1. Silver has never tasted so bitter.

Like one would expect, the Russians came out and played with fire. But much like the Canadiens/Capitals series, most of Russia’s chances came from the perimeter. And the Czechs waited and pounced on any mistakes Russia made. A sense of real urgency only revealed itself towards the end of the third period. And by then it was too late for Russia.

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Russian Players, Coaches & Analysts On The Loss To Canada

Why Did Russia Fail In The Olympics?

Here are some reflections of the Canada and Russia game in the words of players, coaches and famous analysts back home in Russia. All quotes were translated by Fedor Fedin and pulled from interviews by “Soviet Sport,” “Sport-Express,” & “Sports Day By Day.”

Vyacheslav Bykov, Russian Head Coach:

“You can’t “order” the result. It’s a sport. We were in a situation where we met one of the best teams in the world in the quarterfinal and couldn’t win. What will be the consequence? I don’t know. I think, our successors will give a balanced grade for this. I don’t think that the decision to start Nabokov was a mistake. All the players of the Canadian team put very big pressure on us and we had to get out together. With Zhenya. [Ed. Note – Zhenya – short form of Evgeny]. […]

All teams had the same conditions and I think that now it doesn’t make any sense if we blame tournament system. It’s hard to say, did additional game against Germany help the Canadian team? Anyways, I have never seen a team who ran 60 minutes without a break. Everyone wanted to see the Crosby / Ovechkin duel. Everyone made a hullabaloo about it, but the match is the game between teams. We tried different lines but the pressure by the four Canadian lines were much higher than ours”.

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