With a thrilling third period comeback against Canada, Team Russia and Alex Ovechkin are off to the semi-finals of the World Championships in Slovakia. Down, 1-0, midway through the final frame, Alexei Kaigorodov converted on a shorthanded breakaway to knot the score. Then, just over three minutes later, the Devils’ 100 million dollar man Ilya Kovalchuk rifled home a one-timer from the slot to give the Russians the lead and send their arch-rival home empty handed. Russia will face Finland, with the winner going to the gold metal game, on Sunday.
Photo credit: Matthew Manor
After being mostly a non-factor in Team Russia’s loss Sunday, Alex Ovechkin was back in action Monday afternoon against Finland as he looked to regain his form. Ovi was certainly more noticeable against the Finns, registering an impressive nine shots on goal in 18:29 of ice time while failing to convert on a breakaway. Despite his efforts, Russia was defeated for the second day in a row, this time narrowly, 3-2, in the shootout. With Canada beating Sweden, 3-2, later in the day, a sure to be intense match-up of arch-rivals is set for the quarter-finals on Thursday between Russian and the Great White North.
Below, friend of the blog Aleksey Imaev translates the Great Eight’s video interview on Saturday with Russian website Sportbox.ru (Igor was unavailable and is listed as day-to-day with an upper body injury). The clip was only viewable in Russia until RMNB’s Fedor Fedin stepped in, so props to him.
Alex Ovechkin: still visibly shaken after the Capitals’ stunning playoff defeat (photo via Sashastolemyheart on Tumblr).
After arriving in Bratislava, Slovakia just hours earlier, Alex Ovechkin took to the ice for his first practice with Team Russia on Saturday. Despite the Capitals’ crushing and humiliating elimination from the playoffs less no more than three days old, he was all smiles on the ice. Though Ovechkin played through numerous injuries this season, Capitals General Manager George McPhee told reporters at Kettler Capitals Iceplex Thursday he had no problems with the Great Eight suiting up for his motherland at the Worlds rather than taking the time to rest up.
Photo credit: Championat.ru
After getting the green light from the Capitals organization on breakdown day, Alex Ovechkin left the United States Friday for the 2011 IIHF World Championships in Slovakia. Ovechkin, who had to endure an eight hour flight from DC to Vienna, was then driven by IIHF representatives to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, just in time for a noon practice at Orange Stadium. He had almost no break.
A long time ago, before last night’s embarrassing loss to the Canadian Olympic Team and before last year’s crushing Game 7 loss to the Penguins, Alex Ovechkin was a happy, carefree individual who craved attention. He’d practically do any interview asked of him and was always happy to promote himself and the Capitals to no end. It’s safe to say that Ovechkin’s expressive play over the years has even captured the hearts of a once moribund sports town and turned Washington DC into a genuine Hockeytown.
But with peaks must come valleys. And the 2010 Vancouver Olympics was a deep chasm of awful for the Russian Machine – minus one legendary moment. What did Vancouver do though? It illustrated what can happen to a 24 year old when he carries a burden too heavy for even his broad shoulders to hold.
Russia defeated the Czech Republic 4-2 today and it was Alex Ovechkin’s “Hit Heard ‘Round Vancouver” that forced the key turnover from Jaromir Jagr. That hit in fact led to the Game Winning Goal by Evgeni Malkin and millions of mouths – across the world – left agape in wild disbelief. So obviously, after Ovechkin’s Herculean Feat, the media was quite excited to talk to the Russian Machine. They had many things to ask. Sadly, he was not as excited to speak to them, much like the rest of the Russian Team. Can you say “Is Party Now?”
Ovie takes about a minute of Russian questions, and blows off. Ditto Malkin. Ditto 99% of the roster.
Clearly, Alex Ovechkin hasn’t had enough Big Hits in the Olympics yet. In the third period of a game that would allow the Russians to win their division over the Czech Republic, Alex Ovechkin completely laid out Jaromir Jagr which you can view in this animated gif found by Japers’ Rink. Not only that, the hit led to a 2 on 1 with Alex Semin and Evgeni Malkin. Alex Ovechkin then hustled back into the play drawing a defender, which gave Alex Semin enough room to needle a pass to Evgeni Malkin – who then managed to roof a bad angled shot past Tomas Vokoun. It gave the Russians a 3-1 lead over the Czechs at the time, and ended up being the Game Winning Goal. Russia wins 4-2. Ro-ssi-ya! Ro-ssi-ya!
Anyways, here’s what Travis Hughes of SB Nation’s Winter Olympics Blog had to say on the big hit.
Maybe Jaromir Jagr hasn’t dealt with the physical aspect of hockey much in the last two years. At the very least, he certainly didn’t look like he was ready for a Russian freight train to come rolling through his station.
CHOO CHOO!! Anyways we must extend a special thanks to the Russian Machine for letting out about 10 years of Caps Angst with that one hit. What a legendary play from a historic player. And what an appetizer for Super Sunday. Up next USA vs. Canada.
This is totally a secret, so PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE keep this between you and me. Last Thursday night instead of staying up late to watch Team Russia lose to Team Slovakia in the Shootout (damn the bad ice thwarting Ovechkin’s last chance), I watched the movie “Whip It” with my SOULMATE Ashley on her 16 inch laptop. Sigh. So the next morning, not only did I spit out my coffee when I saw Russia lost, I started cursing when I saw our readers talking about some incredible, bone-crunching hits Alex Ovechkin laid out to Zdeno Chara, Lubos Bartecko and Pavol Demitra on Twitter. BAH totally missed it!
But because of youtube and the awesome internets, I found what I missed… And then some. So prepare yourself people. After seeing what I’m about to show you, I came to this conclusion: Alex Ovechkin is a more savage hitter in the Olympics than during the Regular Season (unless he’s angry at Evgeni Malkin). Check out a history of Ovechkin’s Olympic Sized Hits below the jump via Youtubes and Photos.
Earlier today, RussianHockeyFans.com broke the news that Team Russia’s First Line was getting an upgrade for tomorrow’s game against the Czech Republic. Alex Ovechkin & Alex Semin will now be centered by Evgeni Malkin. Talk about instant offense…
Yes that’s right, the Russians have now reunited the friends-turned enemies-turned friends again in Ovechkin and Malkin. Awesome. Also, RussianHockeyFans.com has the new Powerplay & Even-Strength Line Pairings for tomorrow as well:
New power play lines
According to Mikhail Zislis of Sport-Express, here are the new powerplay lines:
1. Alexander Ovechkin – Pavel Datsyuk – Evgeni Malkin, Kovalchuk – Gonchar
2. Alexander Semin – Viktor Kozlov – Alexander Radulov, Andrei Markov – Ilya Nikulin.
Ovechkin and Radulov were positioned in front of the goalie, screening him.
According to sports.ru, the new top two lines look like this:
1. Alexander Ovechkin – Evgeni Malkin – Alexander Semin, Sergei Gonchar – Fedor Tyutin.
2. Ilya Kovalchuk – Pavel Datsyuk – Maxim Afinogenov, Konstantin Korneev – Denis Grebeshkov.
The other two lines remain the same:
3. Alexei Morozov – Sergei Zinoviev – Danis Zaripov, Ilya Nikulin – Andrei Markov.
4. Viktor Kozlov – Sergei Fedorov – Alexander Radulov, Dmitriy Kalinin – Anton Volchenkov.
Evgeny Nabokov will start in Goal
And don’t worry, nothing’s changed on the PK. Viktor Kozlov is still one of the forwards. Man, if that’s not a chink in the armor, I don’t know what is.
Anyways, a few hours ago, Ovechkin discussed Evgeni Malkin moving to the first line with Soviet Sport’s V. Slavin. And RMNB has the translation first. Check it out:
Fedor, our dear Russian who never sleeps, noticed this mammoth interview between Sport Express journalist Slava Malamud and Alex Ovechkin two nights ago, which was done right before the Washington/Montreal game. This is Part II of their interview translated. You can check out Part I that we published yesterday here.
Alex Ovechkin “Lundqvist is the coolest”
Slava Malamud- What about Canada?
Alex Ovechkin – Why do I have to think about Canada? Why not the Czech Republic?
SM – Russia – Canada is the trademark of hockey. Hockey as a sport would be absolutely different without that rivalry.
AO – I don’t disagree that everyone’s dreaming about these two teams in the final. But we have a situation where to dream is to damage. We can’t dream, we must play “at this moment”. Moment by moment.
SM – Pretty Canadian ideology. By the way, Don Cherry says again and again that you have a Canadian spirit and that all his countrymates should try to become like you.
AO – I’m Russian. I’m not a Canadian.
SM – You were told that you’re a “hit-n-run” player.
AO – It was just figuratively speaking, it was a joke. I’m “shoot-n-run”…? Seriously, I don’t like this perception. Was Wayne Gretzky “hit-n-run”. Or Mario Lemieux? Or Jarome Iginla? Or Crosby? Why are all Canadians called “hit-n-run”? Let’s not make this thing simpler than it is.
SM – By the way, about Crosby. You have much more assists than him even though he’s a centerman [Ed. Note - Really he's centerBABY]. You’re one of the League Leaders in assists. But in Torino you didn’t have one. What happened?
AO – I just shoot and teammates score on the rebounds.
SM – Let’s continue about Crosby. Vancouver may be your last chance to prove that you’re better than him outright.
AO – I’ll try to do it, if God will allow us to play in the finals. But really, I want to win more than to prove something.
SM – Short tournaments often are won by the goalies. Whom are you afraid of?
AO – First of all – Brodeur. And the other Canadian – Luongo. When he played in the West i had problems with him.
SM – But others? If someone needs to depend on a goalie, they are not the favorites. Like Hasek and Czechs in 98.
AO – But why, for example, Swedes are not favorites? OK, I’ll name their goalie – Lundqvist. I know him better than others and i think he’s the coolest.
Keep reading: Ovechkin makes an Olympics Guarantee!