Russia is coming in as the number 1 ranked country in the world & the odds on favorite to win the Gold. Back to Back Gold medalists at the World Championships, they have regained the top ranking that they let slip away after the end of the Soviet Union. Only a few years ago they were ranked down as low as 7th, but have come roaring back & will be looking to cement their ranking here.
Of course, this roster will feature some of the most prominent talents in the NHL in Ovechkin, Malkin & Semin. But not to be outdone is the home grown Russian hockey league the KHL which will make up a notable chunk of this roster.
In goal, its Nabokovs job to lose. Ilya Bryzgalov may make a serious case for the spot, but they will go with Nabby first & if he stumbles, then maybe Bryzgalov gets a chance to shine. I expect Varlamov to be the 3rd goalie, if Khabibulin is not back (which I dont think he will be. The KHL goalies will likely be on the outside looking in for this Olympics.
Defensively, Sergei Gonchar will lead the pack offensively, with Markov giving support. They will look to Volchenkov & Vishnevsky to be the defensive defensemen here. It is probably the Russian weakness, but still a competent bunch.
Forwards are so oozing with offensive skill they should probably be forced to play with their hands cuffed together, just to make it a bit more fair. Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, Malkin, Semin are names every North American knows as offensive dynamos. Butit might be Morozov, Zaripov, Shushinski & Radulov that visitors to Vancouver go away remembering as they will add their own offensive impact to the team. Offense will never be a problem for this bunch, so much so, that guys like Kovalev & Kozlov from the NHL & Yashin, Mozyakin & Filatov in the KHL will likely be overlooked, or werent even considered.
Evgeni Nabokov- SAN JOSE SHARKS (NHL) Barring injury or a horrid choke job, Nabby will be the starter thru the tourney.
Ilya Bryzgalov- PHOENIX COYOTES (NHL) Ilya will certainly have the teams confidence if starter Nabokov falters, but he will more than likely be here as a back up & maybe get 1 or 2 starts against the weaker opponents.
Semyon Varlamov- WASHINGTON CAPITALS (NHL) Just here for the experience. Only injury would ever see him even on the bench, playing is highly unlikely.
Sergei Gonchar- PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (NHL) The Russian PP #1 unit QB, Sergei will probably take regular shifts with a more defensively sound dman to balance out his offense driven game.
Andrei Markov- MONTREAL CANADIENS (NHL) Despite a serious injury, he is still being considered a lock for the team since he just came back from injury well ahead of schedule. If healthy, he is a lock to QB the 2nd PP unit & take 1st line ES minutes.
Fedor Tyutin- COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS (NHL) Expect to log lots of PK time, as well as regular shifts.
Anton Volchenkov- OTTAWA SENATORS (NHL) Expected to be a shut down dman who will get lots of PK minutes as well.
Denis Grebishkov- EDMONTON OILERS (NHL) Will fill out a top 6 unit well, may even get top 4 unit minutes.
Ilya Nikulin- KAZAN AK BARS (KHL) Despite a soft -4 plus minus rating, Nikulin has done well at both ends of the ice this season & will likely get 3rd line minutes here.
Vitali Vishnevsky- YAROSLAVL LOKOMOTIV (KHL)- Has been consistent at both ends of the ice all year. His +20 is by far the tops of all Russian contenders for a defenseman spot.
Alexander Ovechkin- WASHINGTON CAPITALS (NHL) I kno, I know. Shocker that I added Ovi. In other ground breaking news, its been reported the earth rotates around the sun.
Alexander Semin- WASHINGTON CAPITALS (NHL) Ovi needs his sidekick to go to Vancouver with. luckily for him Semin is also quite the skilled hockey player too, so he wont be there just to hang out with Ovi & party.
Ilya Kovalchuk- ATLANTA THRASHERS (NHL) When Ovechkin isnt on the ice, expect Kovalchuk to be terrifying goaltenders with his impressive array of shots.
Pavel Datsyuk- DETROIT RED WINGS (NHL) A guy thats been far over a pt per game player for 4 straight seasons isnt usually seen as a checker, but Pavel will take that role here, all while making the checking line incredibly dangerous offensively as well.
Alexander Frolov- LOS ANGELES KINGS (NHL) Even with only 6 pts in the last 12 games, Alex has probably done enough early on to stick on the team as a 3rd liner.
Evgeni Malkin- PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (NHL) The man likely to centre Kovalchuk, Evgeni is a playoff MVP of the recent Stanley Cup champions & the Art Ross Trophy winner for league scoring champion. Yet he will probably be on the 2nd line here.
Maxim Sushinski- ST PETERSBURG SKA (KHL) People in N.A. may not take the KHL overly serious still, but Maxim Sushinski will be coming here to show you all it is serious. The leagues current scoring leader & leads the league in GWG. Dont be fooled he will be looked at to light up a 2nd line or be a quiet 3rd line scoring threat. Whichever the case, expect results from him.
Alexander Radulov- UFA SALAVAT YULAYEV (KHL) Former NHL malcontent, Alex has flourished since moving back home & is now considered a superstar there. He will come here to show that KHL players can do as good or better than NHL players & will be vying for some time on a top 2 line spot perhaps.
Alexei Morozov- KAZAN AK BARS (KHL) Leads the league in PP goals with 9. 2nd in GWGs this season. Was the playoff scoring champion last season, continually near the top of the league ins coring. Another lethal Russian offensive weapon.
Evgeni Artukhin- ANAHEIM DUCKS (NHL) The only real checking forward the NHL has to offer, a big frame at 6'4 255 lbs gives Artyukhin the edge he needs to get into this line up. His role will be unquestionably as a checker on the 4th line.
Sergei Fedorov- MAGNITOGORSK METALLURG (KHL) Former NHL offensive weapon, Sergei has turned into a defensive specialist in Russia. Expect lots of 4th line time for him & if hes pair up with Datsyuk, you could see the most offeneively lethal checking line ever put together as Feds still has some offense left in him too.
Danis Zaripov- KAZAN AK BARS (KHL) Will be on whatever line Morozov ends up on as his set up man. They are a terrific combo in the KHL.
Maxim Afinogenov- ATLANTA THRASHERS (NHL) I didnt really think when I started putting prospective teams together weeks ago he would be here in the end, but now I am more sure he will be...even if its as an extra body.
maybe- Alexander Yeremenko, Nikolai Khabibulin, Dmitri Kalinen, Dmitri Kulikov, Sergei Zubov, Oleg Tverdovsky, Vitali Atyushov, Sergei Zinoviev, Sergei Mozyakin, Oleg Saprykin, Viktor Kozlov, Alexei Mikhnov.
Since the arrival of Joe Thornton a few years ago, this team has often had a miserable signing team stigma to it. Even with great signers liek Jeremy Roenick on the team, less willing signers like Thornton, Cheechoo & others has made them a team we often begrudged having come here.
This year, its a new attitude. Even Joe Thornton was great. We came to the conclussion, maybe its Jonathan Cheechoo that brought the bad vibes?
In any case, long live the new Sharks attitude.
EVGENI NABOKOV- 1 autograph. I missed the practice they had the day before, where he signed considerably more. But even the game day skate he was a willing signer of 1 each.
THOMAS GREISS- 0 autographs. I had no items, but I did watch him sign several per person for those who had items.
DAN BOYLE- 1 autograph. Coulda got more, but to have gotten him the first time would have meant missing Heatley.
ROB BLAKE- 2 autographs. Doing multiple items again. This was something he had refrained from doing the past couple seasons. Good to see the old Blake back.
MARC EDOUARD VLASIC- 3 autographs. Willing signer of multiples.
DEREK JOSLIN- 0 autographs. had no items, Watched him sign whatever was asked of him.
JASON DEMERS, KENT HUSKINS, DOUGLAS MURRAY- no reports
JOE THORNTON- 2 autographs. Since early on his his days as a Bruin I dont think I have ever looped Joe Thornton....thill this trip. I was so stunned it happened I kept talking about it for the next hour or so. It was a shocker for a guy who over his time in SJ has signed less autographs at the rink than there are fingers on your hand...aka, less than 1 total autograph per trip.
DANY HEATLEY- 2 autographs. Willingly did 1 per, was hesitant to sign jersey numbers after the first few were presented to him though.
PATRICK MARLEAU- 2 autographs. Still one of the teams best signers.
RYANE CLOWE- 2 autographs. Still does multiples.
JOE PAVELSKI- 1 autograph. Formerly a less enthusiastic signer, Joe didnt seem put out to be doing it this time. New Sharks mentality?
DEVIN SETOGUCHI- 3 autographs. Did multiples, but his autograph has gotten even worse than the "D St" it was last year.
TORREY MITCHELL- 1 autograph. I got the raw end of the stick on him. He did multiples for everyone else, then was called away just as he got to me...so I only got 1.
BRAD STAUBITZ- 2 autographs. Did 2 without hesitation.
MANNY MALHOTRA, JED ORTMEYER, RYAN VESCE, JAMIE MCGINN, BEN FERRIERO, SCOTT NICHOL, JODY SHELLEY, FRAZER MCLAREN- no autograph reports.
Total autographs from San Jose- 22.
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From time to time I have something to say on hockey. Whether its the Vancouver Canucks, NHL in general, Womens Hockey or International Hockey...if I have something to post, it will be in here.