September 04, 2016

World Cup of Hockey Previews: Russia

Teams better be on their best behavior when playing Russia.

It must be a coach's dream to select a power play from the likes of Alexander Ovechkin, Vladimir Tarasenko, Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeny Malkin, Evgeni Kuznetsov and Nikita Kucherov.

Fire power will not be a problem. 

The Russians of course included four KHL players, perhaps out of principle if nothing else. Former Red Wing standout Datsyuk was obvious, though not too many people know much about Evgeny Dadonov, Vadim Shipachev and Ivan Telegin.

What is more interesting is who they chose to leave off the roster from the KHL. Alex Radulov, who has returned to the NHL this summer, and Ilya Kovalchuk offer even more firepower but are somehow polarizing presences on Russian teams in the past. By leaving both off the Russians are looking for a more well rounded team that could find better team chemistry early - a vital must in such short tournaments.

Russia has three very good choices in net with Sergei Bobrovsky, Semyon Varlamov and Andrei Vasilevskiy. 

But the Russian's weak spot will undoubtedly be their back blue line. This no-name collection may be the weakest group in the tourney. So weak that Russians initially tried to named KHLer Slava Voynov to the team. The NHL vetoed the move, to no surprise, as he remains suspended by the NHL for his 2015 domestic assault charges.

Russia will be vulnerable at five-on-five, especially if opponents can keep the Russian D busy in their own zone. The Russian power play should be lethal, but this NHL-tournament will probably be called more leniently than IIHF events where their PP has made such a difference in the past.

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