Photo: Paul Vernon / AP
The results of the start round of the Stanley Cup turned out not very successful for the Russian team, which in order to increase the chances of success at the World Championships that opens in Denmark in a week, obviously will not prevent the strengthening of the NHL. After the regular championship and the first round of play-off, quite a few elite domestic hockey players were released, but most of them will not be able to take part in the championship because of injuries. In this regard, the relevance for the national team gets the next round of the Stanley Cup. After it, one of the superstars of Russian hockey – such as Evgeni Malkin or Alexander Ovechkin – will definitely be released.
The starting round of the Stanley Cup ended with the seventh match in the only of eight series stretching to the maximum distance. This is a series between the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The top was taken by Bostonians, who defeated rivals with a score of 7: 4. The result of this meeting was for the Russian Hockey Federation (FHR) the reason to announce the call to the national team of the defender of “Toronto” Nikita Zaitsev.
Zaitsev, who played a very worthy season for the Leafs, can be considered a good boost for the national team, which on Thursday started the final stage of preparations for the World Championship in Denmark with the match with the Finns in the Swedish stage of Eurotour. It opens on May 4, and at this superiority the Russians can add one more prestigious title to the title of Olympic champions won in February in Pyeongchang. This “double” for the year was only once – in 2006, the Olympics and the World Cup were won by the Swedes. It should be taken into account that it will be more difficult to succeed at the Danish tournament than in Korean. In Pyeongchang, all teams were forced to do without hockey players of the NHL, which, at least temporarily, abandoned the Olympic project. Because of the demarche of the North American League, the Russian team gained a certain advantage over its main competitors: Canadians, Americans and Swedes missed a lot more top players. In Denmark, these teams will be staffed much more powerful.
Meanwhile, the reasons to believe that the Russian team in terms of brightness of the composition will significantly add to the Olympics, yet – while the results of the regular NHL championship and the first round of play-off should inspire optimism. After them, a whole group of Russian hockey players freed themselves, who showed themselves well during the season. However, optimism quickly came to naught.
What ended the 1/8 finals of the Stanley Cup
So it turned out that during the last two weeks, half of the news regarding the team was about which of the Russian players refused to travel to Denmark, citing injury or fatigue. For these reasons, goalkeeper “Columbus Blue Jackets” Sergei Bobrovsky, defenders of “Colorado Avalanche” and “Philadelphia Flyers” Nikita Zadorov and Ivan Provorov, forwards of “Columbus”, “St. Louis Blues”, “Dallas Stars” and “New York Rangers” Artemy Panarin, Vladimir Tarasenko, Alexander Radulov and Vladislav Namestnikov. In all these cases, we are talking about players whose level and form would allow them to claim a position in the leading units. In the case, say, with Bobrovsky, Panarin, Tarasenko, Radulov – about real superstars, potential leaders.
At the moment, the “American landing” in the Russian team looks both quantitatively and qualitatively extremely modest.
At the Swedish stage of Euro Tour in the Russian application there are only four strikers from the NHL. This – Eugene Dadonov with Maxim Mamin from the “Florida Panthers”, Paul Buchnevich from the “New York Rangers” and Nikita Soshnikov of the “St. Louis”. Of these, only Dadonov and Buchnevich had good statistics in the regular season and were among the key characters in their clubs. The situation is aggravated by the fact that there are losses among those “iron” candidates who played at home, in the KHL. For example, two world champions of the Pyeongchang variant of the team refused to give up the World Championship: defender Vyacheslav Voinov and striker Ilya Kovalchuk.
In this situation, for the coaching staff of the Russian team, which in April, instead of the unexpectedly resigned Oleg Znarka led by Ilya Vorobyev, the next round of the Stanley Cup seems to acquire additional urgency: it will end during the group stage of the championship, before the play-off, really important matches. After him, several celebrities are likely to be available for an invitation to the national team.
Interest is primarily in the pair that brought the “Pittsburgh Penguins” and “Washington Capitals.” For “Pittsburgh” and “Washington” there are two, probably the main genius of Russian hockey this century – forwards Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin. Departure “Washington” will release for the team along with Ovechkin two more excellent hockey players – striker Yevgeny Kuznetsov and defender Dmitry Orlov.
There is another series that can theoretically strengthen it. In “Tampa Bay Lightning”, which will confront the “Boston”, there is one of the best scorers in the “regular season” and the kick-off round play-off Nikita Kucherov, one of the best goalkeepers of the world, Andrei Vasilevsky, as well as a promising defender Mikhail Sergachev.
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