SOCHI, Russia – This will be the lasting image of Team Russia from the Sochi 2014 Winter Games: Defenseman Alexei Yemelin was down on the ice Wednesday, bleeding from his mouth, having just taken a stick to the mouth. But he had also been whistled for tripping seconds before. On the ensuing power play, Finland scored to take a two-goal lead. Russia was bloodied, bowed and undermanned, and soon they would be out of the tournament.
With a 3-1 loss to the Finns at the Bolshoy Ice Dome, the Russians were bounced from a tournament many of them had waited their entire careers to play in, on their home soil, in the primes of their careers. They came with dreams of ending their nation’s 22-year gold medal drought, and they leave having failed to medal at all for the third straight Winter Games.
Russian goalie Semyon Varlamov was yanked in the second period, having allowed three goals on 15 shots. Sergei Bobrovsky was stellar in his place the rest of the way, but Russia’s biggest problem was in the other goal. Despite generating plentiful scoring chances, they could not solve Finland goalie Tuukka Rask.
There are certain to be questions in Russia about Alex Ovechkin’s inability to score in these Games; he had a goal on his first shift of Russia’s first game, but did not score again the rest of the tournament. His line, centered by Evgeni Malkin, had no chemistry. And on the power play, Ovechkin was unable to get untracked from the point position where Russia put him, further from the goal than he is used to with the Washington Capitals.
But Ovechkin was hardly the only Russian player who struggled to score. Russia scored just 12 non-shootout goals in its five games here.
Four years ago, in Vancouver, Team Canada overcame the pressure, the scrutiny and the expectations, winning the gold medal. In Russia these past eight days, the pressure, the scrutiny and the expectations were just as massive, but the result was far less.