Sunday, May 10, 2009

Russia Wins World Championships

The Russian hockey team has risen back to the top of the elite levels in international hockey by winning the World Championship held quietly over top the current Stanley Cup playoffs.

Critics on the radio and blogs were quick to choose to validate the win and declare the Russians back on the relevancy map, but the way they handled the Canadian team was pretty decisive. One would argue though the world championship rosters weren't necessarily populated with the world's best players. Crosby, Malkin, and Ovechkin are all still involved with their teams in the playoffs and unavailable to their respective countries. The back to back gold medal wins also vaults the Russians past the Canadians in the IIHF rankings.

Russia was once thought of as a hockey program in disaray. They put together a miserable outing in 2004's World cup and a poorer showing in 2006s Olympics and World Championships. It was only a matter of time before the Russians developed more players and cycled out some older ones. Young faces like Malkin are sure to keep the Russian hockey team in the top ranks of international sports.

As far as the game itself, Russia took advantage of its chances.
"It was like a playoff game," Radulov said. "Instead of being a best-of-seven, it was a best of one. We know the way they play, and they know the way we operate. I think we started the game better than they did, but by the second period they got more shots. Our goalie was outstanding."
The familiar "Koval-chick" was the tournament's most valuable player because apparently he was out there for so long everybody just remembered him the best.
And then there was tournament MVP Ilya Kovalchuk. He was double-shifted all night long by coach Vyacheslav Bykov, and by the end of the night the superstar had played more than half of the game – 30:33, to be exact.
The next big challenge for the international players and teams will be in Vancouver for the Winter Olympics. Can the North Americans recover and get back the top rankings on their home ice?

IIHF.com
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