Firepower and Lots More
Big, fast, skilful and determined to assault the enemy net with four strong lines. Scary talented. That helped them erect an early 3-0 lead over Latvia, traditionally an easy mark for Russia.
After that, the Russians didn't exactly fall apart. They just, well, seemed to get sloppy and lose interest, not in competing but in playing a team game in all three zones.With the Latvians not a threat after that early push, the Russians gave up chances, forcing Evgeny Nabokov to come up with some good stops in the second period, and reverted to either going for long bomb passes or individual rushes.
While Canada in a romp over Norway started slowly then gained momentum, the Russians looked best in the first period, then tailed off.
Even so, a fourth goal by Evgeny Malkin late in the second gave Russia a four-goal bulge that would be more than enough in their opening salvo aimed at collecting Olympic hockey gold for the first time since 1992.
Then, when Latvia's Herberts Vasiljevs put a puck past Nabokov early in the third, the Russians quickly produced three quick goals to grab a 7-1 lead and cruised to the finish, finally winning 8-2.
Reigning NHL Hart Trophy winner Alex Ovechkin, tied with Sidney Crosby with 42 goals at the Olympic break, had a fairly quiet night and still potted two goals. He scored late in the first period off a feed from Washington teammate Alexander Semin and then again early in the third.
Otherwise, he wasn't his usual physical presence while playing much less than he usually does with the Capitals, particularly in powerplay situations.
Clearly, the Russians - with 14 NHL players and nine from the KHL - have more than enough firepower. It's the other parts of their game that will be worth watching as this tournament progresses. When you have a team on which Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk are second line players, offence isn't going to be a problem.