Four Montreal Canadiens will take part in win or go home games tomorrow at the 2014 Winter Olympics. The Preliminary Round is complete, and after a day off today, the bottom eight teams will take part in the Qualification Round.
The four winning teams will move on to play Wednesday in the Quarterfinals, and the teams that lose tomorrow will have come to the end of the Olympic Games.
Two Habs players will be suiting up for the host Russians when they take on Norway tomorrow. Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin will be two of the eight defensemen playing for Russia, and both will play a prominent role in the host nation’s chances of winning a medal in hockey.
Markov leads Russia’s blue liners in ice time with 19:21 per game and has been the quarterback on their power play. Emelin plays on the second pairing with Evgeny Medvedev and has averaged 13:35 per game in the Preliminary Round.
Russia started off the tournament with an uninspiring 5-2 win over lowly Slovenia. Russia started the game off with a pair of early goals and it appeared they would dominate Slovenia, whose lone NHLer is Anze Kopitar. However, Russia’s offense stunted and the underdogs made a game of it, staying within one after forty minutes. Markov and Emelin were both held scoreless, but Russia would eventually pull away in the third to avoid disaster in front of their home fans.
Russia’s second game was against the United States and was the most hyped of the Preliminary Round. It did not disappoint, and Markov assisted on a pair of Pavel Datsyuk goals, before Russia eventually fell 3-2 in an eight round shootout.
Their final round robin game was against Slovakia who had struggled in their first two games. The Slovaks elected to go with a goaltending change and Jan Laco who is having an excellent season with Donbass in the KHL played the game of his life. Russia outshot Slovakia 36-27 following the overtime period, but the game remained scoreless and headed to another shootout. Russia would win this one on a pair of goals from infamous KHLers Alex Radulov and Ilya Kovalchuk.
Their record, thanks to the pair of shootouts left them with six points in the standings. This leaves Russia fifth in the overall standings, and though they miss out on the bye to the Quarterfinals, they are the top seed in the Qualification Round, and will face Norway who were ranked last in the Preliminary Round.
Norway started out the Olympic Games with some promise, playing a solid game against Canada, and avoiding the blowout that everyone predicted. The Norwegians played a tight defensive game and fell to Canada 3-1. They followed that game up with a disappointing performance against Finland, getting blown out of the rink by a 6-1 score. After losing the first pair of games, Norway still had a chance to move up the standings in their final game against Austria. In fact, Norway should have been able to move up the standings against the Austrians, but they were again defeated 3-1.
Norway’s only NHL player is winger Mats Zuccarello of the New York Rangers. They also have a few former NHLers in winger Patrick Thoresen and physical defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen. Norway has struggled to score goals all tournament, and have fished 12 out of their own net in just three games.
This is the perfect opponent for the high powered Russian roster to take advantage of and get their game on the right track. Missing out on a bye to the Quarters may just become a blessing in disguise for the host team.