Monday, January 3, 2011

2011 WJC QF RUS 4 FIN 3 OT

56 and a half minutes into this game (and just a couple hours after my own team's 6-3 loss against our bitter division rivals (1 gorgeous goal, 5 shots, -2)), I was planning on writing a very different post. It was going to be about how the Russians made a mistake in not taking some very talented underage players who play in canadian junior leagues, e.g., Nail Yakupov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Alexander Khokhlachev, and Stanislav Galiev. (Russia's coach, Valeri Bragin, opted for older, more experienced players from the KHL intead, and he also omitted Alexander Avtsin, who plays in Hamilton in the AHL and who played well for Dinamo Moscow last season, presumably because Avtsin missed the pre-tournament exhibition series and so Bragin was not familiar with him. The Russian players selected, with the exception of in Vladimir Tarasenko and Evgeni Kuznetsov, are light on game breaking offensive skill, and Nemenstnikov or Kokhlachev could have made the difference in a tight checking, low scoring game against Finland.) It was also going to be about the shaky Russian goaltending that led to Finland's first goal, where Dimitri Shikin mishandled a weak shot and then appeared to fall down as the Finish player attempted a wrap around which was ultimately poked in. But mostly it was going to be about Kuznetsov, the Washington Capital first rounder who is highly skilled and comes with some personality as well. In the middle of a nice KHL campaign in Chelyabinsk, Kuznetsov brought some high expectations into the tournament, but absent a terrible roughing penalty that put his team down 2 men, he had done nothing virtually nothing against the Fins, who were about to skate away with a well-deserved 3-1 win. That all changed when Kuznetsov took the puck to the net at the end of a uneventful power play and poked in the rebound against Finland's goalie Joni Ortio, who was fantastic all game, to give the Russians some life. And then 2 minutes or so later he did this:

The defenseman he undressed is Sami Vatanen who is their best player and a future NHL star. A gorgeous move at any time of any game, but down by one with a minute and a half to go in an elimination game, it's really a legendary play. Oh yea, he won the game in overtime with a sick shot:

Unfortunately, the Russians have almost no chance today playing on only 15 hours turnaround time against a Swedish team that is stacked and was resting and relaxing while they watched Finland and Russia slug it out. But it was an inspired performance by both teams and some real genius by Kuznetsov.

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