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Olympic hockey: Slovakia surprises Ovechkin, Russia

Here's a hockey update from Sport-Express' Slava Malamud on Slovakia's 2-1 shootout victory over Russia late Thursday night. Malamud will be blogging for us throughout the Games:

Slovakia's first surprise on Thursday came well before the game, at the Britannia Rink, used as the practice facility.

The Slovaks held their pregame skate with one more player than usual, as their general manager and ex-Cap great Peter Bondra donned full gear and practiced with the team.

This motivational ploy before the game with the tournament's favorite may not be so surprising when you consider that Bondra, at 42, would actually fit right in with his players. Exactly half of the Slovakian roster is on the wrong side of 30, making it the oldest squad at the Games. Still, this isn't what GMs normally do and it just underscored the closeness and camaraderie that the Slovaks have always been known for, as well as the loose and pressure-free attitude of Bondra's squad.

During the game, of course, it was a certain current Capital who was trying to apply the pressure on Slovaks, in the most physical sense of the word. Alex Ovechkin's hits on Lubos Bartecko, Pavol Demitra and especially the gigantic Zdeno Chara were of highlight quality.

"Ovechkin, Semin and Datsyuk are obviously the best players in the world," Chara said after the game. "It's challenging to play against those guys. But I loved [Ovehckin's hit]. We always battle hard. I was tired and was trying to get the puck out of our zone. I knew he was going to hit me, but I lost my balance and he put me down on the ice. That's what the best players do. We are good friends off the ice but on the ice we compete and go after each other."

"I am always determined to play hard," confirmed Ovechkin. "If there is a chance to hit, why not hit? What else was there to do? I had to fire up the team and I tried to do what I could."

Russia, which didn't have a power-play unit in the first game, this time assembled a team of all-stars for that purpose. With Ovechkin and Sergei Gonchar at the points, and Ilya Kovalchuk, Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Semin up front, this special team was quickly nicknamed the Super Five by Russian journalists. Unfortunately, the Supers were a complete bust, going 0 for 4 before Coach Bykov went back to using his regular line combos on the power play.

Ovechkin's other highlights came in the shootout, where he had three chances, scoring on one.

"The third attempt, I asked for it myself," Ovechkin said. "Actually, I had the goalie beaten but the puck just jumped on me. If it didn't, I would've scored. Malkin also had a jumping-puck problem."

Coach Bykov's explanation of Ovechkin's shootout workload was a bit different, though.

"It was our decision [to give him three attempts]," he said. "It was based on the fact that Ovechkin was one of the few players who battled hard."

By Slava Malamud  |  February 19, 2010; 10:19 AM ET
Categories:  Alex Ovechkin , Ice hockey , Vancouver 2010  
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Next: Win a medal. Now what? Welcome to the mixed zone.

Comments

PLEASE. Don't use "Slovakian". It's Slovak, as in: "Exactly half of the Slovak roster . . . "

Posted by: bmschumacher | February 19, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Will they pull a Pluschenko and claim that they were robbed?

Posted by: Lefty_ | February 19, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

This is exactly why I love the Olympics. You think you know what's going to happen and then fate takes a little turn.

Congratulations to the Slovak team!

Posted by: TerryMcT | February 19, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Loved Ovie's physical play. Was laughing when he knocked Chara off his skates. That's the difference between Crosby and Ovie. Ovie dishes out the hits left and right, and if somebody hits him, they know he's going to flatten them the next chance he gets. Saw Crosby getting punished in the Canada game. Besides looking towards the ref with puppy dog eyes for a call, he didn't do jack squat to dissuade the other team.

Posted by: futbolclif | February 19, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

the mystery about the Caps and the shootout continues.

for some reason great scorers like Ovechkin and Semin for Washington simply come up lame in the shootouts.

you would figure these guys would excel one on one with the goalie but in fact their results have been less than special.

I don't like Crosby but you have to admit that when the puck was on his stick last night to beat Switzerland in the shootout he buried it in the net.

No reason why Crosby is at 48% on shootouts and Ovechkin is down in the 20's.

No reason at all.

Posted by: leopard09 | February 19, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

That is a stupid comparison - Crosby and Ovechkin play completely different styles of game, and Crosby is not built to lay big hits on people like Ovechkin, so of course he doesn't do that. That's like trying to argue whether Hines Ward or Wes Welker is a better receiver - they are both very good at what they do but play their game according to their strengths and are nothing alike.

I think both Ovechkin, Crosby, and many of the other super talented players in the league right now are exciting to watch whether you like them or not - people that are hung up on this Crosby crybaby stuff are annoying and are the ones that come off looking like the big crybabies.

Posted by: duffymoon | February 19, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

"That's the difference between Crosby and Ovie." No, the difference between Crosby and "Ovie" is that Crosby is clutch. With the game on his stick he won it for Team Canada. While "Ovie" went 1-3 in the shootout. Oh and then there's that other difference...Crosby has a Stanley Cup.."Ovie" has some meaningless individual awards...

Posted by: wburn42167 | February 19, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Where's the Dan Steinberg article about how the "Overrated 8" couldn't deliver last night? Or the whiny article about how the commentators hate 8? That's what I've come to expect from the Post.

Posted by: wburn42167 | February 19, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

I was a huge Bondra fan before I was an Ovie fan so I think this is great. Now as long as I still get Ovie sending Crysby through the glass in the gold medal game everything will be right with the world.

Posted by: JBaker76 | February 19, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Ovie is quite the man, throwing those cheap shots then when challenged waits for his teammates to come bail him out.

Posted by: rdzbach | February 19, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

I love how Caps fans love to dump on Sidney Crosby--the youngest person to ever captain a Stanley Cup winner. Remember, the Penguins have played the vaunted Red Wings for the last 2 Stanley Cups. Mike Babcock (coach of the Canadian Olympic team) coaches the Red Wings. Whom did he choose to go against the red-hot goalie for the Swiss (Hiller of the Anahiem Ducks) after the goalie stymied the 1st 3 shots? Crosby...he shoots & scores! Ovechkin is good, he steams all over the ice, he makes his hits & takes his shots (maybe more than other team members would like)...and he has yet to win the Cup. I guess I understand the poor DC sports fans...nothing else to cheer except the possibility that the Caps will eventually succeed. Oh, yeah, was that Ovechkin I heard whining about the condition of the ice for the game against an old Slovak team that had played the night before???

Posted by: therapidone | February 19, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

To say that Ovie's not clutch is like saying that the earth's not round: completely and verifiably incorrect and slightly humorous - but only slightly. That's it. I'm not even going to bring in #87, any other player, stats, examples of games, trophies/awards, personalities, etc. so that the horribly overdone cycle of lame and exhausting backs and forths of comparing, trashing and one-upmanship can commence once more.

I can say without subjectivity, regardless of what the other person in question here is, Ovie himself is the definition of clutch *period*. Do not feel like you need to go any further with this because it's not debatable nor is it appropriate to do so.

Now, please go back to your usual boards and/or blogs and/or anything and hope that your man and your team continue to be clutch on Sunday.

Posted by: nena1 | February 19, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

"Saw Crosby getting punished in the Canada game. Besides looking towards the ref with puppy dog eyes for a call, he didn't do jack squat to dissuade the other team."

Yeah...Crosby didn't do anything but try his damndest to score the winning goal in the closing seconds of the third...and eventually win the game in a shoot out...something a certain Russian winger could follow through on...

I'll take goals over bit hits.

Oh...and go USA!

Posted by: LonnieBeale1 | February 19, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

"Do not feel like you need to go any further with this because it's not debatable nor is it appropriate to do so." Uhhh..sorry windbag..just because you say its not debatable doesnt make it so...I guess 8 was clutch in the Game 7 last year when your team got its ass handed to it? Yes he was clutch in the last game at VC...but honestly thats been about it...he's a pile jumper. And when he leaves your town without a Stanley Cup because the NHL wont let him play in the Olympics in 2014...I will stand up and say "I told you so.."

Posted by: wburn42167 | February 19, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Way to go, Bonzai!

Posted by: fotisov11 | February 19, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Hey "futbolclif"...in your post, you said:

"Loved Ovie's physical play." No doubt OV is a great player, but he's also dirty.

As far as Crosby "looking towards the ref with puppy dog eyes for a call, he didn't do jack squat to dissuade the other team." All he ended up doing was winning the game for Canada...go figure.

Posted by: travlinsam | February 19, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Right on cue. Yes, keep right on going with the insults and the "I told you so" attitude, wburn42167. If it's that important for you to do so, it must define who you are.

Oh, and Ovie is the definition of clutch.

Posted by: nena1 | February 19, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

nena1 Whatever lets you sleep at night. Just know that your crap hole team will never ever compare to the SC Champs...no matter how many plie jumping dirty russians you put on your team...Last time I was at a Caps vs. Pens game..I noticed that every Caps fan could spout any and all statistics about Crosby...then it dawned on me...the reason you idiots are so obsessed with him is not because you loathe him, which you do, but more importantly because he scare you..the team scares you..I'd be scared too, if your team had ended our season so many times before...

Posted by: wburn42167 | February 19, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Kovalchuk is the most over-rated player in the NHL. He can score (mostly only from the slot) but he plays NO defense, wouldn't throw a check to save his life, and couldn't care less about his team. It's amazing he wants $2 million MORE per than Ovechkin gets - and some stupid GM in the NHL will probably pay it.

Posted by: pgr88 | February 19, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Bottom line among knowledgeable hockey fans is this: If you are starting a team and have your choice of any player to pick, they would choose Ovie, hands down over Crosby. Crosby fans may not like that but it is the truth.

Posted by: rock-o | February 19, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Take it easy. Ovechkin isn't as good as we think he should be in NHL shootouts, but don't blame him for the game last night. He scored his first shot and his next two rolled on him after dekes. Maybe he shouldn't have made as many moves the second time, but he had a good game and several good chances to score in regulation.

Posted by: washcaps | February 19, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

You have to love the Pittsburgh roaches coming out of the woodwork here...the Penguins have had their heads handed to them twice by the Caps this season, and they're making hay about what Ovechkin did/didn't do in the Olympics.

Posted by: 74umgrad1 | February 19, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

74umgrad1

You need to rephrase your comment...it should say:

"You have to love the Pittsburgh roaches coming out of the woodwork here...as they bring along with them their Stanley Cup trophies (note that it's plural) to rub in the "also ran" Capitals fan faces forum."

Keep on with the hating and we'll keep on shining up those Stanley Cup trophies...and making room for some more on the shelf.

Posted by: travlinsam | February 19, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Obviously you Crosby fans did not even watch the game last night because the only clutch player from Team Canada was Brodeur. If he did not make the three great saves your boy Crosby would not even had a chance to win the game.

Go USA they did not need OT to beet the Swiss

Posted by: vashoes1 | February 19, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

wburn42167, what helps me sleep at night is living a great life, full of love, kindness, consideration for others, not taking myself too seriously and having a sense of humor (a super comfortable mattress and a mate that doesn't snore is a plus too!).

I wish you well.

On another note, the SO in the Olympics is just weird. Is it just me that thinks this? Also, especially this year, it seems like I'm watching NHL exhibition games. Maybe it's because the NBC coverage has the usual cast of characters calling the games. They continually highlight the NHL players but do so with players who aren't from the NHL or who from the other teams/leagues very rarely.

Anyway, I do think that the Russian team was a little guilty of underestimating their opponent at this point of the tourny, much like the Canadian team was. The end results of both games were obviously different because of the SO but with the way the Swiss played during the regular period and OT, they definitely didn't lose that game. They tied it and they played more like a team that either wanted the win or didn't want Canada to win. Same with the Slovak team.

The rest we shall all get to see as it all unfolds. In the meantime, it's great to see Curling again!

GO CAPS!! GO USA!! (Hope Russia and Sweden do well too and please, no one get hurt!!)

Posted by: nena1 | February 19, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse


Team USA = Gold

Team Canada = Silver

Team Russia = No medal

(And it's not because of who I support in the NHL...Malkin's playing with team Russia and I think he's a fantastic player.)

I just want to see the gold come home...remembering the gold rush of 1980!!!

Posted by: travlinsam | February 19, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

There was a reason Canada went with Crosby a second time, the Canadians had a list of the best shootout scorers, the first three they went with, the fourth on the list was Rick Nash but Babcock decided to go with the number one shootout player again Crosby rather than try the 4TH on the list. The Russinas should have done their homework and and used the best player in the shootouts not the best play in the game.

Posted by: info4 | February 19, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

"That's the difference between Crosby and Ovie." No, the difference between Crosby and "Ovie" is that Crosby is clutch. With the game on his stick he won it for Team Canada. While "Ovie" went 1-3 in the shootout. Oh and then there's that other difference...Crosby has a Stanley Cup.."Ovie" has some meaningless individual awards...

Posted by wburn42167

---------------------------------------

wburn42167 - You understand that we are comparing the INDIVIDUALS Ovechkin and Crosby, right? Not the Penguins and the Capitals nor the Canadian Olympic team with the Russian Olympic team? Crosby won a TEAM award with the Stanley Cup and he was even the 2nd best member of that team with Malkin having the better stats and more GWG (the definition of clutch!) Ovechkin has more INDIVIDUAL awards, including multiple MVP awards which says the sports writers, the coaches and the players all say he is the best INDIVIDUAL player. You are correct - Crosby was more clutch in his Olympic game last night than Ovechkin was in his game. And, you are correct that the Penguins team WAS the best TEAM last season. But, you commented on "the difference between Crosby and Ovie" with an example of one game each for Crosby and Ovechkin and then how their respective TEAMS were last NHL season. I could pick any great Ovechkin game and a bad Crosby game and make a comparison, but this means nothing. If you really want to compare individuals, you MUST look at career individual stats. I guess if individual awards and stats are "meaningless" than Wayne Gretzky was just an ok player on a Stanley Cup winning team. I can't wait to ready your posts if and when Crosby starts winning some of those "meaningless individual awards..."

Posted by: discojew | February 19, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

The Canada shootout win can't be compared to the Russian shootout loss because Russia lost to a pretty good team full of veteran NHLers. Canada toyed with a potential loss to Switzerland! Unbelievable for a hand picked team of Canadian stars. Shootouts can go either way...risky fate to leave your hopes on a shootout outcome....The Russian coach seemed a little unknowledgeable about his shooters...any OV watcher would not suggest 3 shootout attempts for number 8 - why not use Radulov more. The Slovak goalie may not know his moves as well.

Posted by: yesisaiditfirst | February 19, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Shocked at the insecurity of the Pens fans like wburn42167--well, actually I'm not. Gee, I didn't know you guys had won the cup. Thanks for telling me. Didn't know that because Crosby scored the shoot-out winner, that automatically makes him the best player in the world, or that it automatically makes him clutch. Where was Crosby during the game--pretty invisible if you ask me. Just re-read what the Russian coaches said about Ovi--he was one of the few players playing hard.

If Russia wins the gold, it will be because they're the better team. If Canada wins the gold, it will be the same. Neither will mean that Ovi or Crosby is better than the other.

Take your insecurities and go back to your Pens board.

Posted by: dfe1 | February 19, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Also Pens fans, I guess Malkin isn't clutch either, huh?

Posted by: dfe1 | February 19, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Yo, dfe1,
Crosby was hardly invisible during the game & in the last minutes of regulation, he came very close to scoring the game winner. I will admit, however, that the Swiss did a tremendous job in shadowing him & keeping him bottled up.

For all the Caps fans who believe that Sid whines, will you please explain the whining of Ovie after the game when he began crying about the condition of the ice against a Slovak team, playing on the same ice, that has a LOT of players over 30 years old AND played a game the night before?

I'd be more than happy to see this all end:
Gold - USA,
Silver - Canada,
Bronze - Slovakia or Czech Republic
Crying in their beer (or vodka): Russia

Posted by: therapidone | February 19, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Oh, yeah, another thing. Given the assertion that Canada's losing to Switzerland (didn't happen 2010) would be a bigger upset than Russia's losing to Slovakia (did happen 2010). Please note that in 2006, the Swiss beat the Canadians in Turino!! It seems that the Swiss play the Canadians pretty tough in the Olympics.

Posted by: therapidone | February 19, 2010 5:59 PM | Report abuse

@therapidone, I don't call explaining why the puck rolled off his stick complaining--just stating a fact. If there's one thing about Ovi, he doesn't back down from admitting a mistake, I've heard him do it time and time again. He was just stating a fact of what happened in his instance.

No excuse for Russia not to win it in regulation though. As you pointed out Slovakia played the night before--Russia should have had this but failed. BUt I wouldn't put the blame on Ovi--one of the few players out there who played hard.

Posted by: dfe1 | February 19, 2010 6:42 PM | Report abuse

Harking back to the Caps-Pens series last year in the playoffs, someone made a very valid and realistic point that if you switched OV to Pittsburgh, and Crosby to the Caps, Pittsburgh would win in 5 games, not 7. OV is the better team player hands down -- historical Lemiux won and gifted NHL Stanley Cups aside (Yeah, the NHL gifted the Pens the cup last year but that's a topic for another time).

Go Team USA!

Posted by: LloydChristmas | February 19, 2010 9:36 PM | Report abuse

nena,clutch. game 7, second round last year? You know a fun game to play? take a drink every time the 'ol great 8 turns the puck over. And if you want to get really loaded, if he doesn't skate back on D, take another one....its great, probably won't remember much of the games though...

Posted by: yinsrjags | February 20, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

lloyd christmas. Perfect. You're certainly as dumb as your name leads on. That's a valid point? that's the most asinine comment yet! "someone made a valid point..." Classic! I guess us "roaches" enjoy the amusement??

Posted by: yinsrjags | February 20, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

The best thing about the Swiss game was Crosby getting the stick to the nose, too bad it wasn't an eye.

Posted by: zcxnissan | February 20, 2010 11:57 PM | Report abuse

I'm not a fan of Crosby's. No reason, I guess. I like Ovechkin's style of play, but not a fan of his either. Both are great players at THEIR style of hockey. The styles are not the same. A poster asked which player one would select if only one could be picked. I think that would depend on the coach' and team's style of play and philosophy. You wouldn't/couldn't go wrong picking either. This ridiculous continuing argument over the players' complaining and Caps vs. Pens re: last year is dumb. Past is past. Enjoy the Olympics for what it is, a good hockey tournament. I hope the US wins gold, but I think the team to watch is the one that almost appeards to be forgotten: Sweden. That team is loaded,

Posted by: kernelsquid13 | February 21, 2010 12:40 AM | Report abuse

"zcxnissan"

I see some pretty stupid comments here, but yours takes the cake. Anyone that wishes an injury on another player for no other reason other than hate, is a jerk.

Real fans don't wish their competitors to get injured...what they wish for is a good game and a continued rivalry that makes posting commments in forums like this fun.

Your comment, on the other hand, shows just how infantile your mind is in regards to this sport.

Posted by: travlinsam | February 22, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

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