Team Russia Knocked Out: Reactions and Sad Photos


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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Last week, Washington Capitals top prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov was left off Russia’s Channel One Cup roster. After missing a large chunk of the season due to shoulder surgery, Kuznetsov — who’s been inconsistent on a struggling Traktor Chelyabinsk team — appears destined to be left off Russia’s Olympic team.

Over the weekend, Kuznetsov told Alexey Shevchenko that the only reason he stayed in Russia was to make that team. Well, Kuzya, your Olympic dream is still alive. Barely.

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Evgeny Kuznetsov is having a rough time. He has had no points in the last five games and has been left off the national roster for the Channel One Cup, suggesting a slim chance of making the Olympic team.

Now it seems the hometown fans have turned on him.

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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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Igor Kravchuk’s standing to the left, Bilyaletdinov is to the right.

Russian national team head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov was at Verizon Center on Friday. Bilyaletdinov, together with Team Russia’s North American scout former NHLer Igor Kravchuk, watched three potential Russian Olympians: Alex Ovechkin, Andrey Markov, and Alexei Emelin. A few nights before, Bilyaletdinov was at Verizon Center to watch Evgeni Malkin play the Capitals.

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Evgeny Kuznetsov in Team Russia practice facility. (Photo credit: Sovetsky Sport)

4PM UPDATE: A few days ago Team Russia head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov announced three goalies and 25 skaters, including Kuznetsov, who “would be travelling to Helsinki and Stockholm for the Worlds Championship tournament.” Not all of the players named by the coach will be on the Team Russia’s final roster. IIHF rules allow for the minimum of 15 skaters and 2 goalies to be named no later than today; players can be added to the roster at any time during the tournament, up to the maximum of 22 skaters and 3 goalies. While some teams have filed their full rosters, Team Russia is taking an incremental approach. They announced today the first group of players – 3 goalies, 5 defensemen, and 11 forwards. Evgeny Kuznetsov does not appear on the list. Kuzya may make the team later, especially if some of the Russian players currently involved in the Stanley Cup playoffs do not make a quick 1st round exit.

ORIGINAL STORY: Caps prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov has been named to Team Russia for the 2013 IIHF World Championships, which begin Friday in Sweden and Finland.

Kuznetsov won gold in last year’s World Champs while playing in a limited role. Kuzya has been less than impressive in the last few months, earning Joey Crabb treatment by national team coach Zinetula “Bill” Bilyaletdinov, playing on the fourth line at the EuroHockeyTour tournament in Czech Republic. To his credit, Kuznetsov looked impressive in his limited ice time, which probably secured him a spot on the national team. After the tournament, Kuznetsov, who has been encouraged to tweak his game to a less flashy, more steady team style by Traktor coach Valery Belousov, complained about the “black cat on his shoulder” that’s been bringing him bad luck for the last half of the season. He told reporters that he has set a conditioning program for the off-season to come back in a better shape for the beginning of next season.

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Evgeny Kuznetsov speeds down the middle during Traktor’s game against Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk (Photo credit: Vitaly Gubin, Traktor PR Service)

Caps prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov, currently sitting in the top 15 in both goals and points (12g, 12a), was named a KHL All-Star for the second time on Monday. Unlike last season, Kuznetsov was overwhelmingly voted in as a starter this year by fans and will represent “Team Fedorov” of the Eastern conference. The 19-year-old Traktor Chelyabinsk forward finished second overall in total votes (33,800), trailing only Mikelis Redlihs of the Western Conference’s “Team Ozolins.”

To put Kuznetsov’s immense popularity in perspective, consider that he garnered more votes than reigning MVP Alexander Radulov, Roman Cervenka (the KHL’s leading scorer), Vladimir Tarasenko, and Russian National Team Captain Alexei Morozov.

Recently, Sovetsky Sport’s Pavel Lysenkov did a lengthy feature story on Kuznetsov, who some have called the new face of the KHL. Like most interviews with Russian players, the story starts off with questions about Vityaz Chekhov, who was recently beaten by Traktor on the scoreboard and tried to beat them back with their fists.

Most importantly to Caps fans, Kuznetsov discussed his possible NHL future, his contract situation, and who he idolized as a kid. Below the jump, I have the translation.

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