Sochi Winter Olympics 2014: Previewing Russia's men's hockey team

Martin Rose

Can Pavel Datsyuk overcome injury and lead Russia to gold?

2010 Olympic Performance: 6th (L) 7-3, Canada - Quarterfinals

Winnipeg Jets' representation: none

Players to Watch: Pavel Datsyuk (C), Ilya Kovalchuk (LW), Evgeni Malkin (C), Alex Ovechkin (LW)

Tournament Dark Horse: Alexander Radulov (RW)

Schedule
DATE TIME EVENT
February 13, 2014 6:30AM RUS vs. SLO
February 15, 2014 6:30AM USA vs. RUS
February 16, 2014 6:30AM RUS vs. SVK

Roster
NAME POSITION AGE LEAGUE TEAM
Artyom Anisimov C 25 NHL Columbus Blue Jackets
Pavel Datsyuk "C" C 35 NHL Detroit Red Wings
Ilya Kovalchuk LW 30 KHL SKA St. Petersburg
Nikolai Kulyomin RW 27 NHL Toronto Maple Leafs
Yevgeni Malkin C 27 NHL Pittsburgh Penguins
Valeri Nichushkin LW 18 NHL Dallas Stars
Alexander Ovechkin RW/LW 28 NHL Washington Capitals
Alexander Popov C 33 KHL Avangard Omsk
Alexander Radulov RW 27 KHL CSKA Moscow
Alexander Svitov C 31 KHL Ak Bars Kazan
Alexander Syomin RW 29 NHL Carolina Hurricanes
Vladimir Tarasenko RW 22 NHL St. Louis Blues
Viktor Tikhonov C/RW 25 KHL SKA St. Petersburg
Anton Belov D 27 NHL Edmonton Oilers
Andrei Markov D 35 NHL Montreal Canadiens
Yevgeni Medvedev D 31 KHL Ak Bars Kazan
Nikita Nikitin D 27 NHL Columbus Blue Jackets
Ilya Nikulin D 31 KHL Ak Bars Kazan
Fyodor Tyutin D 30 NHL Columbus Blue Jackets
Vyacheslav Voinov D 24 NHL Los Angeles Kings
Alexei Yemelin D 27 NHL Montreal Canadiens
Sergei Bobrovsky G 25 NHL Columbus Blue Jackets
Semyon Varlamov G 25 NHL Colorado Avalanche
Alexander Yeryomenko G 33 KHL Dynamo Moscow
Injuries
STATUS PLAYER Professional Team
IN Alexander Semin Carolina Hurricanes
OUT Sergei Soin Moscow Dynamo (KHL)
IN Alexander Svitov Ak Bars Kazan (KHL)
OUT Dmitri Kokarev Moscow Dynamo (KHL)

Strengths

Pure goal scorers: Since I was but a snot-nosed kid, I have always loved watching Russia play in international events, and more specifically at the Olympics. Why? Well, their bevy of offensive talent of course. Not many countries can rival the scoring output generated from the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk. Platooning that trio will be the equally deadly Alexander Semin, Alexander Radulov and Nikolai Kulemin. And then you still have Dallas Stars rookie Valeri Nichushkin in the mix. An abundance of ridiculously elite players have always been the staple of the Russian Federations program, even after the dissolve of the Soviet Union. Yet again, it's up to their gifted forwards to get the job done.

Mature blue-liners: The Russians boast a defensive corps that features plenty of veteran leadership, particularly in Andrei Markov and Fedor Tyutin. Ilya Nikulin is among Ak Bars Kazan's point leaders and will have familiarity playing with teammate Evgeny Medvedev. Rounding out the back-end will be Slava Voynov and Alexei Emelin who offer a blend of skill and brute physicality.

Weaknesses

One-legged Datsyuk: An interesting tidbit about Pavel Datsyuk was brought up in Elliotte Freidman's 30 Thoughts last week.  As it turns out, the Russian centre was left learned a lot from teammate Steve Yzerman who in 2002 won both an Olympic gold medal and Stanley Cup championship on one good leg. Fast forward twelve years and Datsyuk will try to accomplish the same feat. Named Russian's team captain, heavy expectations will be placed on Datsyuk to bring home the gold, but will he have enough in the tank to accomplish such a daunting task?

Living up to the pressure: Much like the Canadians men's team during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, an insane amount of pressure is being placed on Russia to capture the gold medal on their home soil. Sidney Crosby ensured that his Canada lived up to the hype four years ago but can Alex Ovechkin and his cohorts do the same?

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