The second-guessing is underway in Russia following the host country’s 3-1 loss to Finland in the quarterfinals at the Olympics. Head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov may end up being the most second-guessed coach in history when all is said and done. Questions of all kinds will persist and apparently did in his post-game press conference from an outraged Russian media.
As he tries to leave, Bilyaletdinov cornered at the door pic.twitter.com/QGlC2sQYNS— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) February 19, 2014
Before he left, there was another question for the coach and it was one he didn’t have an answer more. Why didn’t his team score more?
Russian coach singles out Alex Ovechkin. "I can not explain" how he didn't score more than one goal.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) February 19, 2014
When you’re about to be Public Enemy No. 1 in your own country, sometimes it’s easier to throw the players under the bus.
Ovechkin scored just one goal at the Olympics and it came on his first shift of the first game against Slovenia. He finished with just two points in five games. Ovechkin did, however, lead Russia with 24 shots on goal, which is 15 more than Russia’s top-utilized forward, Ilya Kovalchuk, who happened to score three times.
In a sense, Bilyaletdinov is right. There is no explanation for one of the great goal scorers in the game not scoring, but it’s unfair to that much on the shoulders of Russia’s biggest hockey star. The fact he got 24 shots away with every single team looking to shut him down is rather impressive.
Ovechkin had a golden opportunity in Wednesday’s game against Finland when he had a point-blank chance robbed by the sliding pad of Tuukka Rask. He scores there and this isn’t a conversation, but because he didn’t it is a big one. And it will be an overblown one soon.
Over his NHL career, 12.3 percent of the shots he takes find the back of the net. In Sochi, it was only 4.17. That's hockey sometimes.
There’s plenty of questions for Bilyaletdinov as well, though, when it comes to Ovechkin’s usage. Ovechkin was utilized on the point on the power play and not from his more lethal position on the half wall, where his one-time shots are usually can’t miss. He was also on the team’s second line, with Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Radulov up top with Pavel Datsyuk.
There are a lot of reasons Russia lost in this tournament, but it is unfair to single out Ovechkin as a major reason. Of course, you’d expect the NHL’s leading goal scorer to do more in the tournament, but even the best can’t be goal-scoring robots all the time. For Ovechkin and company, this was the most unfortunate time for his many shots to not fall.
Though Russia will demand one, sometimes there is no explanation.