Photo credit: Bruce Bennett/AFP
Less than 24 hours after their controversial loss to the United States, Russia hopes to bounce back against Slovakia against whom they wrap up their preliminary schedule against. Either we'll see a team deflated by Saturday's loss or we'll see a squad too fired up from said loss not to come out strong and win. The good news for the Russians is that the Slovakians are 0-2-0 - but while they have next to no chance of advance, Slovakia would like to play the role of spoiler.
There is an outside chance that Russia will not advance to the medal round. Should they pick up a regulation win, they will move on. If not, it all depends on the outcome of the US/Slovenia game, scheduled to start at the same time. But more on that later.
Despite Saturday's loss, goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky had an outstanding game and played much better than Semyon Varlamov did in Thursday in his country's narrow escape of the aforementioned Slovenia. But if the Russians have Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk going, they should have an easier time winning. Datsyuk had two goals and another in the shootout loss to the US while Kovalchuk added a couple more in the extra session. Evgeni Malkin, however, despite the number of chances he had, failed to score. Of course, that is more of a testament to the outstanding play of American goaltender Jonathan Quick.
Being the host country, Russia entered this tournament with enormous pressure to win. It's hard to believe this team will simply lay down. Instead, expect the Russians to come out firing on all cylinders against the Slovaks.
Enjoy the game!