Article written by Casey Courtright - Community Contributor
Slovakia Looks To Salvage A Win
The final Round Robin game for both sides sees two teams coming off of losses. Slovakia’s tournament went from bad to worse on Saturday morning when the team lost 3-1 to Slovenia, the first win in Olympic hockey history for that nation. Meanwhile, also on Saturday morning, Russia lost an instant classic 3-2 in a shootout to Team USA, albeit controversially as a Fyodor Tyutin go-ahead goal was waved off as the net was barely dislodged. Both teams are looking to close the round robin on a winning note.
Offense - Advantage: Russia
Kovalchuk. Malkin. Ovechkin. Datsyuk. Radulov. Syomin. Tarasenko. Nichushkin. These are names that strike fear into the heart of many teams, and their combination of smooth hands, quick feet, and outstanding finishing ability tear will be able to tear through Slovakia’s mediocre defense (we’ll get to that in a bit). Meanwhile, Slovakia managed just one goal in each of their first two games, and it won’t get any easier. If this team can only score once on Robert Kristan, how can they score on Varlamov, Bobrovsky, and Yeryomenko?
Defense - Advantage: Russia
A lot of people seemed to underrate Russia’s defense. And with good reason. Anton Belov is still relatively new to North America while Yevgeni Medvedev and Ilya Nikulin were completely alien names. Slovakia, on the other hand, brought star Zdeno Chara and solid NHL defensemen in Andrej Sekera, Andrej Meszaros, and Martin Marincin. However, the Slovak defense has been downright porous, giving up odd man rushes and missing assignments, leading to scoring opportunities and goals. In fact, the only team who has allowed more goals than Slovakia so far has been Austria.
Goalkeeping - Advantage: Russia
This is an easy one. The Slovaks’ .849 save percentage between Jaroslav Halak and Peter Budaj is the worst in the tournament by far; only one other country, Norway, is below .900. It could be interesting to see who Slovakia rolls with in this one: the slumping Jaroslav Halak, the career backup Peter Budaj, or the little-known Jan Laco. For Russia, Semyon Varlamov was shaky against Slovenia while Sergei Bobrovski played very well against the USA. Their third goalie, Alexander Yeryomenko, has a large, impressive resume that includes two straight KHL playoff MVP awards, but he likely will either be in the press box or in the ball cap for this one.
Prediction: Russia 5, Slovakia 2
A lethal Russian offense rips Slovakia’s porous defense to shreds, ending the round robin on a winning note. The Slovaks’ tournament-worst PDO (shooting percentage + save percentage) of 88.3% remains subpar, and it leads to some soul-searching entering the medal rounds.
Note, game time and more info can be found at our schedule!