Oleg Znarok Named Coach of Team Russia

Znarok and Gagarin Cup (Photo: Championat.com)

According to SovSport, Dynamo Moscow head coach Oleg Znarok has been named the new head coach of Team Russia. The news comes as no surprise; Znarok was pretty much the only candidate discussed in recent months. Ex-coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov failed to medal in Sochi, losing to Finland in the quarterfinals. Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin scored just one goal in the tournament, examplifying an overall disappointing performance by Team Russia’s stars.

Znarok has been a household name in Russian hockey since 2010, when his HC MVD Balashikha went on a Cinderella run to win the Western Conference only to lose in the finals to Zinetula Bilyaletdinov’s Ak Bars Kazan. After a successful season by the Moscow suburb team, the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, which is related to both clubs, merged Dynamo Moscow and HC MVD into UHC Dynamo Moscow (where “U” stands for “United”). HC MVD’s coaching staff and top players moved to the storied Russian franchise. Success followed soon thereafter: Dynamo won the 2012 Gagarin Cup, and then another one, in 2013, holding off Evgeny Kuznetsov’s Traktor.

Despite being a native of Ust-Katav (Chelyabinsk Region, Russia) and an ethnic Russian, Znarok’s dual Latvian-German citizenship makes him the de jure first-ever foreign coach in Team Russia history. His assistant, Harijs Vitolins, who will also step in as head coach for Dynamo, is an ethnic Latvian.

I think the Znarok hire is a big mistake.

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Team Russia Knocked Out: Reactions and Sad Photos

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Photo: AP

It started off so well. Ilya Kovalchuk scored early in the first period of Russia’s quarterfinals game against Finland, but Finland fought back (as good teams do), scoring twice later in the period, including a goal from septuagenarian Teemu Selanne. Finland added another goal in the second period. Russia couldn’t come back. They lost 3-1.

This is no ordinary loss. After getting blown out by Canada in the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, this was supposed to be different. Russia was supposed to medal. They were supposed to win gold in front of their home fans.

Instead: sadness, disappointment, blame. Again.

We’ll be updating this post with images and quotes from the players as they come in.

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Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games

Photo: Jeff Vinnick/HHOF-IIHF Images

Yesterday, after the United States beat Team Russia in the shootout 3-2, there was a handshake line — which let’s all agree is one of the best traditions in hockey. During the Sochi Olympics, opposing players have high-fived each other at the conclusion of every preliminary round game, an act normally reserved for elimination.

Because of this, we get to see what I’m going to ahead now and declare the second best Caps related photo of the Olympics (Nicky and Mojo biking together will always be first). Here, wonderfully captured by the IIHF’s Jeff Vinnick, John Carlson and Alex Ovechkin shake hands after the game. They look amused.

Thanks to Morgan M. for instagramming the photo, and @MikeBradley27 for originally posting.

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Photo: Jayne Kamin

Alex Ovechkin and Team Russia played John Carlson and Team USA Saturday morning. The game was an instant classic, the best of the Olympic tournament thus far. Russia lost 3-2 in the shootout after TJ Oshie scored the deciding tally on Sergei Bobrovsky five-hole.

Ovechkin spoke to R-Sport after the game.

“Today’s game was even worthy of a final,” he said to Alexander Rogulev. “It was a good game, unfortunately we lost in the shootout.”

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Photo: Winslow Townson

Alex Ovechkin scored a goal and an assist in his first game of the Sochi Olympics. Russia won handily, defeating Slovenia 5-2.

Despite the win and his own personal production, Ovechkin wasn’t satisfied with the game. Russia struggled in the second period and watched helplessly as Slovenia’s Žiga Jeglič scored twice. Those goals made the game a tight, one-goal affair heading into the third period.

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The line on Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin goes a little like this: he must win gold or it’s all been a failure.

And yet all we’ve been hearing the last few days is how content Ovi is with the pressure and how excited he is to play. He finally put deed to word on Thursday, scoring on his very first shift of the tournament.

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Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand

Some might think that there’s no Olympic hockey in Sochi until Wednesday. That would be incorrect.

The women’s tournament has been under way since Saturday. We’ve already seen Amanda Kessel put infinity goals up on the competition. And on Sunday, the world was introduced to 26-year-old Iya Gavrilova of Team Russia.

As the Russian women trailed underdog Germany 1-0 in the third period, Gavrilova — Russia’s offensive superstar — shook off a few defenders, went strong to the net, and stuffed home a wraparound past the German goaltender.

And then she did something familiar.

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Kuznetsov is unlikely to don red, white, and blue anytime soon. The Russian team that is. What did you think I meant? (Photo credit: Alexei Kudenko/RIA Novosti)

The Russian National Team has listed 33 players for its preliminary roster at the Channel One Cup, an annual international tournament for pro European players to be held in Sochi on December 19-22. In a surprise to many observers, including me, Evgeny Kuznetsov is not on the roster.

The young forward, a veteran of the World Juniors and World Championships with Sbornaya, seems to have fallen out of coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov‘s good graces. Even when Kuznetsov was playing well, Bilyaletdinov hadn’t hesitated to put Kuznetsov on a checking line. In the last 18 months, now that Kuznetsov is struggling, he seems to have lost his spot altogether.

Previously, Kuznetsov had explained that his decision to wait to come to the Capitals was to secure a spot on the Russian Olympic team this February. That decision is looking a bit less wise right now.

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Now these are beautiful singing faces.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin is a world-class hockey player, but he’s also a prolific musician too. Consider his ever-growing library of songs: he dropped some sick rhymes and weird gyrations in Sasha Belyi’s Champion. And also whatever this was. And the time the Caps started a fake rock band!

And then on Wednesday, Ovechkin’s first foray into back-up vocals found its way onto the internet. This is worth four minutes of your undivided or somewhat distracted attention. Maybe pretend to work on a spreadsheet or something while watching this.

During the lockout, stars of the Russian national team gathered in Novogorsk along with Russian pop star Irina Allegrova to film a music video for the song Shaybu Shaybu, a pump-up pop number for the Sochi Olympics.

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Photo credit: Alexey Kudenko/RIA Novosti

On Thursday, Washington Capitals top prospect and perpetual flip-flopper Evgeny Kuznetsov played in Russia’s first game of the EuroHockeyTour, a four-stage European tournament held every year between Russia, Sweden, Finland, and the Czech Republic. Team Russia shut out Sweden 2-0 in front of a sold-out crowd at St. Petersburg’s Ice Hall.

While Kuznetsov continues to infuriate Caps fans (and us Russians) over his answers on when and whether he’ll actually leave Russia, his skill is undeniable. Today, he scored the game-winning goal, had five shots, and was probably the best player on the ice for either team.

Despite limited ice time on Russia’s third line with Egor Averin and Sergey Plotnikov, Kuznetsov created chances almost every shift, showing off speed and agility not normally present this early in the season.

His goal, the first of the game, came with just under 13 minutes to go in the third period. After skating around the Swedish defenders, Kuznetsov fired a deceptive wrist shot past former Flames goalie Henrik Karlsson, low and short-side. We’ve got video.

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