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.
Like the two teams prior, I only went for the Wings prior to the game. This was bad for me, as it was day 3 of their trip here & it seems a couple of the players were under the assumption they must have signed for everyone by then. That being said, considering I put in just barely over 1/2 hr & missed 2 guys before I got there, really decent performance.
CHRIS OSGOOD- 1 autograph. He didnt look too keen on signing, but did for the people who asked. Like I said, day 3 is often the breaking point for players.
JIM HOWARD- 2 autographs. Happily did all items presented to him.
NICK LIDSTROM- 1 autograph. As usual, Nick made sure everyone got 1 item & took pictures with a few fans even.
BRIAN RAFALSKI- 1 autograph. Presented 2 items, he did 1. Still for day 3 I am just happy he signed. Hes had a history of being an unhappy signer at times.
NIKLAS KRONWALL- 1 autograph. 2 items presented, 1 signed. Happened a lot.
BRAD STUART- 1 autograph. Signed willingly.
BRETT LEBDA, JONATHAN ERIKSSON, DEREK MEECH & ANDREAS LILJA- no reports
PAVEL DATSYUK- 1 autograph. Made sure that everyone got 1, and didnt sign multiples for anyone.
HENRIK ZETTERBERG- 1 autograph. Signed 1 for everyone. Declined pictures with though.
TOMAS HOLMSTROM- 0 autographs. 1 of the few guys who didnt stop. I suspect he just assumed because it was day 3 that he had got us all already. Hes got a history of being a tough signer, but usually makes sure that everyone gets 1 on a trip.
JASON WILLIAMS- 2 autographs. Willing to do multiples without hesitation.
DAN CLEARY- 1 autograph. Considering he didnt sign a single thing for me last season, despite multiple requests. I'll take 1, even though 2 items were preseneted to him & barely anyone was asking him.
VALTTERI FILPPULA- 2 autographs. Signed both items without hesitation.
TODD BERTUZZI- 0 autographs. Disappointed in Todd. As a visitor since his trade away from here hes been a great signer. Today not so much. He told everyone he would get us when he came back to the bus, then signed for a whole 2 or 3 people out of the dozen or so waiting.
PATRICK EAVES- 1 autograph. Only had 1 item, he did it without a problem.
BRAD MAY- 0 autographs. Shockingly, I had nothing for 1 of my all time favorite players. But he did sign for everyone who asked.
DARREN HELM, KIRK MALTBY, KRIS DRAPER, JUSTIN ABDELKADER & VILLE LEINO- no reports
Total Detroit autographs- 15.
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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.