The Russians look for revenge on Sunday after a shootout loss to the Americans yesterday as they host the disappointing Slovaks in what is likely their last meaningful contest of the Games.
The Slovaks were the talk of the tournament in Vancouver four years ago as they were a break away from knocking off the eventual gold medallists from Canada but a fourth place finish was very respectable and led to pretty high expectations coming into Sochi. However, the Slovaks led by Zdeno Chara and Marian Hossa have easily been the biggest disappointment of these Games as they were romped by the Americans in their tournament opener and loss a shocker to the Slovenians yesterday which was the icing on the cake for a very subpar effort from a team expected to contend for a medal. Now if it is even possible things go from bad to worse as they take on a Russian team looking to avenge a heartbreaker to the US yesterday after a controversial no-goal call forced a shootout session that was dominated by US forward TJ Oshie in what was an instant classic.
Russia has the weight of the world’s biggest nation on their shoulders as the Men’s Hockey tournament is the pinnacle of these Games not only from a patriotic standpoint but a political one as well. Alex Ovechkin is clearly the face of the Olympics for the Russian Federation and the loss to the United States yesterday must be incredibly tough to swallow and I feel like the Russians are going to come out swinging here against the Slovaks. Typically this would be a relatively competitive game as the Russians are a bit weaker on the blue line and Slovakia normally has a number of weapons up front but I think at this point all things are thrown out the window in terms of the parity between the two clubs on paper and you have to look at the intangibles. Russia are three goal favourites here and while that may seem like a big number you have to remember that Slovakia just lost to Slovenia by two goals and Russia absolutely needs a win here to regain some confidence. I look for Russia to absolutely steamroll the Slovaks here in a game that’ll be over by the end of the second period.