Twitter is all abuzz with coverage of men's hockey practices today, specifically with line combinations in mind. Here are the Russian five man units:
Ovechkin-Datsyuk-Semin - Grebeshkov-Korneev
Kovalchuk-Malkin-Afinogenov - Tyutin-Gonchar
Kozlov-Fedorov-Radulov - Kalinin-Volchenkov
Zaripov-Zinoviev-Morozov - Markov-Nikulin
Wow, Datsyuk with Ovechkin and Semin. Up front this may be the strongest Russian team ever. I suspect Markov, when completely healthy, will find himself moving up to the Ovechkin unit.
This sort of stuff of course gets all the talking heads going. Many of these so-called experts try to fool us by imparting their knowledge upon them. In reality many of them are just downright ignorant.
Many of them (I won't name names, although there is one popular Team 1040 Vancouver radio host I would love to call out) will try telling you that KHL players are the weakness on the team and will lead to their downfall. They are not the same caliber as Russian NHLers left off the team with the name of Alexander Frolov from Los Angeles most commonly mentioned. That 4th line of NHL unknowns in particular is weak.
Wrong. Wrong! WRONG!
Fedorov needs no introduction. He will be the versatile forward and veteran leader this team needs. Radulov is yet another a pure sniper, like the Russians lack that. And Kozlov, well I don't know anyone who is a big fan of him, but he does provide a big body presence that they will need against Canada.
Then there is the KHL's greatest line of Zaripov, Zinoviev and Morozov. It doesn't take a lot of research to find out what these three have accomplished together. They may appear to be Russia's 4th line, but in reality they are 4th offensive juggernaut. And since most of us have never seen them in action, they are a true surprise attack. I especially like Zinoviev, who is a classic Russian centerman, elegant and economical, excellent defensively and at distributing the puck.
This surprise KHL line reminds of the Soviet Line back in 1972.
In the 1972 Summit Series the Russians shocked and awed us in game one. After we defeated them in game two we thought we had seen the best they had to offer. By now the Kharlamovs and Mikhailovs and Petrovs were common dinner table discussion.
For game three the Soviets through a whole new line at us, introducing three youngsters that we did not even know existed. Vyacheslav Anisin, Alexander Bodunov and Yuri Lebedev. This new troika was spectacular in game three. Down by 2 goals, Anisin set up each of his wingers for goals, saving a 4-4 tie in Winnipeg.
That night they were the talk of Canada, as they appeared to be the future of Soviet hockey. Time would prove that that particular game was the peak of their career, as they never really emerged as Canadians expected, anyways. But their surprise attack in this one game gave Canada a significant blow in 1972.
One game. That's all it took in 1972. That's all it will take in 2010, too.