Four Columbus Blue Jackets players have been lacing up the skates for Team Russia during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Their first contest against massive underdog in Team Slovenia yielded them a report card of mixed results and a bit of drama. Well, the Jackets and the rest of their Russian counterparts came out flying against an elite, skilled Team USA. Their newest round of grades (mostly) reflects this. Here they are:
Artem Anisimov (D+): Anisomov is certainly a respectable player who brings a great dynamic to his centering of Russia’s third line, but tonight was not his night. He was mostly invisible and only had two shots on net. In the NHL, he hovers around 50 percent in the faceoff dot but only won a minuscule 4-of-12 against Team USA. Just how bad is that? Well, by comparison, Vancouver Canucks‘ Ryan Kesler dominated the dot, winning 80 percent of his faceoffs despite of having an injured hand through much of the game. Ouch. If Anisimov wants to see 13:29 time on ice again, he has to elevate his game from here on out.
Sergei Bobrovsky (A-): Colorado Avalanche‘s Semyon Varlamov got the start in Russia’s first game against Slovenia. It looked like the starting goaltender position was his to lose. Well, whatever he did or didn’t do, Bobrovsky was given the starting nod against Team USA, making him Russia’s top goaltending cop. He didn’t squander his opportunity. Not including the shootout results, he saved 31-of-33, good for an outstanding .939 save percentage. The two goals that got behind him in regulation were virtually impossible to stop. He looked big in the net, played angles deftly, frustrated Americans immensely and gave Russia’s blue-liners a calming, reassuring presence. His stuffing of Chicago Blackhawks‘ Patrick Kane on a clean breakaway in overtime and making it look so easy should be the stuff of legends. Many on social media are having fun at Bob’s expense due to St. Louis Blues‘ T.J. Oshie getting 4-of-6 shootout goals into his cage. People should remember it took eight rounds to beat the netminder and that he made outstanding saves off crazy bounces and deflections in regulation, helping give the world one of the best, most entertaining hockey games in recent memory. He also gave Columbus a special moment. Never before had so many millions around the world had their eyes solely fixed on a pro player from a Columbus club team.
Nikita Nikitin (A-): It was a night and day turn around for the big blue-liner. Nikitin looked out of place for much of the Slovenia game and got caught out of position and flat-footed, directly leading to a Slovene goal that seemed to throw Russia into a funk for much of the game. This time, the matter between his ears was firing on all cylinders, making great decisions in his own end and connecting on some impressive, lengthy stretch passes. Surprisingly, the third-pair Nikitin had a bit more time on ice than his second-pair Columbus counterpart, Fedor Tyutin, 14:53 to 13:43 respectively. This is probably due to Nikitan being utilized so much on the Russian power play — which is saying something when Russia was down for a stretch and needed a goal badly. The coaches’ faith in Nikitin’s abilities to perform and having a boom of a slap shot doesn’t hurt either.
Fedor Tyutin (B+): Tyutin was mostly invisible this game — and that’s just fine with Jackets fans. He looked calm and poised in his own zone as he used his big frame to nudge away U.S. skaters to win battles for the puck before they could really begin. There was one point in the game where Tyutin was the focus of the world’s attention for a few brief minutes. Much like the Slovenia game, Tyutin wasn’t afraid to take low-percentage shots from extreme angles on the point, knowing ugly rebound goals look the same on the scoreboard. Midway through the third, Tyutin took another one of these shots that found its way just under the crossbar, giving Russia a 3-2 lead and causing publicly stoic Vladamir Putin to leap out of his seat. As you probably know, the goal was disallowed due to the U.S.’s net being slightly off its moorings. Poor Tyutin. The man was one fluky nudge of the net away from being a national hero.
Russia’s game against Team Slovakia was listless and Bobrovsky didn’t play. All Blue Jackets’ skaters get a C- for this lackluster effort.