The first game of Group B featured Team Russia and Team Sweden, the two teams that are heavily favoured to make it out of group play. Although, I still think Team North America will rule, but I digress.
Major plot points in this game include the match up between a solid Swedish defence and the Russian offensive big guns. At first, it appeared that Russia had been given a break as Henrik Lundqvist had to bow out of the game due to the flu. Jakob Markstrom filled in on his behalf and Sergei Bobrovsky was in net for team Russia, as expected.
Russians started off well with three quick shots to the net. Jacob Silfverberg answered for the Swedes with a shot that Bobrovsky was able to handle easily. The Russians were clearly trying to take advantage of Markstrom’s early start by throwing everything they could at him, but he stood tall and seemed sharp right off the bat.
Russia got the first power play of the game at 13:57 but was unable to really get going.
They came close to scoring when an Orlov slap shot got through and Malking tried to set up Panarin.
Filip Forsberg really stood out to me this period. At the 11:00 minute mark he was able to get deep, past the defense and threatens but Bobrovsky was sharp. Later in his shift, Forsberg was able to get a shot off right in the slot but again Bob stood tall. Forsberg’s great shift did not go unnoticed by Team Russia, as Ovechkin made sure to rough him up a bit on their way to the bench.
At 10:57 it was Sweden’s turn for a power play as Orlov got dinged for a delay of game. Sweden’s power play was lackluster at best. They gave a shorthanded chance to Kulemin early on and never got going. They stayed really still, were indecisive with the puck and didn’t move it around well at all. Russia did a good job of collapsing around their net, not chasing the puck at all and not letting anything through to Bobrovsky.
Ovie didn’t get much ice time at all during this period, which was really baffling to me. He only played 5:02 minutes.
Near the end of the period, Dadonov took a wrister with lots of traffic out front but Markstrom was sharp and made the glove save. Backlund had a good chance with a steal after Markov’s stick broke in his own zone but Bobrovsky was able to bail him out.
Overall, the Russians didn’t test Markstrom nearly enough.
Both teams had a quick start to the second period. Russia was getting their game going really well. Tarasenko got a good jump on Ekman-Larsson in Sweden’s zone but OEL was able to stay close on the inside and take the shot away.
Russia showed a lot of good initiative but the Swedish defense didn’t allow them any gaps or space so they weren’t able to capitalize on their good start.
At 14:59 Tarasenko almost got a quick tap in thanks to a nice steal by Kulemin who took advantage of sloppy play by the Swedes in their own zone.
About 5 minutes into the game, Sweden started to get going and took advantage of Russia’s sloppy line changes. Hornqvist skated right up the middle due to a long Malkin-line shift, which left Russia scrambling to change lines.
Up until the middle of the period, the game was back and forth and relatively even. There wasn’t much offense so the defense began to get more involved in the play.
Detroit’s Marchenko fired a rocket shot that just missed and Karlsson was playing up front a lot more.
The tide starts to change in favour of Team Sweden when a penalty was called on Russia’s Shupachev for hooking. Landeskog scored immediately with a laser one-timer from Karlsson – double screen and off the post – Bobrovsky had no chance to see it.
At 7:08, more bad luck for the Russians as Victor Hedman made it 2-0 with a great pass from Hagelin. Immediately it was apparent that there was a questionable change by Sweden, which resulted in several extra bodies on the ice. Nonetheless, Sweden wasn’t called for too many men, so the goal stood.
Ovie was very under utilized this period – at one point projected to play just over 13 minutes this game, 8 minutes less than his NHL average. It’s just another example of Russia’s different coaching strategy. Ovechkin is a change maker, so I’m not sure how it can be justified to dimish his ice-time.
The third period was more of the same from both teams. Sweden stayed steady and didn’t take their foot off the gas and Markstrom played exceptionally well considering that he was a last minute call up.
Russians played with a lot more desperation this period, putting a lot of pressure on the Swedes in the beginning of the period and spending a lot of time in their zone.
At 14:08, the already desperate Russians head on the PK thanks to a slashing penalty by Ovechkin. However, it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been as 30 seconds in Anisimov intercepted a pass and the Russians threatened shorthanded. The Russians had a good PK and as we saw before, just fell in around the net and took away the passing lanes from Sweden. Still 2-0.
Ovechkin finally broke Markstrom’s shut out with a slap shot from the top of the ice with about 30 seconds less and an empty Russian net.
With 7 seconds less Ovie does the impossible and scores again, but it looks as though he got a hand on the puck to bat it down and it didn’t touch it with his stick when he scored. To be fair, the refs called this immediately as a no-goal, but it doesn’t hurt to dream!
Clearly gloved in, but Ovie was not happy with the call!
The Russians’ play was frustrating at times and it’s too bad that they didn’t get going until the last minute. Hopefully what the coach takes away from this game is that Ovie needs to play more because he is a difference maker. Sweden played really well overall but what really stood out to me is their scary-good defense.