THN in Sochi: Host Russians make it to final eight

Russia’s dream of winning a gold medal on home ice remains alive after a win in the quarterfinal over Norway. Finland will pose a much more difficult challenge for the Russians, who have had a rather up-and-down effort so far.

SOCHI – Russia enters its quarterfinal game against Finland knowing one thing – it is going to have to be better than it was today to keeps its dream of winning a gold medal on home soil alive.

The Russians won 4-0 over Norway in their qualification game, but the two teams were scoreless after the first period. The big guns on every team in the tournament, with a few exceptions, seem to be struggling to create offense and the Russians are no different. Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin scored on the very first shift of the very first game in the tournament and hasn’t found the back of the net since.

“I’m pretty sure Finland is going to be ready for tomorrow,” Ovechkin said of the looming quarterfinal game, “and we’re going to be ready, too.”

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At times, the Russians have looked dominant and other times very ordinary. They needed a shootout to defeat Slovakia 1-0 in the preliminary round, but during their 3-2 shootout loss to USA, they were in control for very long periods of the game. The uneven effort and results have many in the host country nervous and the players rallying around each other.

“Forget about lines. We talk about the team,” said Russian captain Pavel Datsyuk,who turned in another terrific performance with three assists. When asked how the team played, he said: “We were OK.” They’re going to have to be more than that if they hope to win the next three games and take the gold medal.