It was all supposed to be different for Team Russia.
Much like the Canadians in 2010, there was one gold medal that really, really mattered to the home team during the 2014 Winter Olympics - the gold in men's ice hockey. There were quips at the beginning of the tournament that Vladimir Putin got his country to spend a record $51 billion on these games just to take home that prize.
It doesn't all feel so funny now, not when Russia was unceremoniously eliminated in the quarterfinals 3-1 by the surging Finns.
Ilya Kovalchuk put the home team up early, bu Juhamatti Aaltonen tied the game less than five minutes later, and the ageless Teemu Selanne gave Finland the lead for good before the first period was finished. A power play goal from Mikael Granlund was more than enough to put the game away as the Russian team, for all its vaunted offensive talent, struggled to score in much of the tournament.
People will point fingers for that one. Alex Ovechkin is already taking his fair share of blame. But honestly, much of it seems like small sample size statistical flukes (and, as I'm sure Josh would say, score effects). Russia outshot the Finns 38-22 in this one, forcing Tuukka Rask to play one heck of a game, and Ovechkin had 24 shots over his five games total. It only resulted in one goal for the Russian superstar, but like we saw with Tyler Seguin in the playoffs with Boston, you can only control so many variables.
As for the Dallas Stars players, Valeri Nichushkin had a game he probably won't want to save for the record books. Once again, he was basically held off the ice as the game went along, playing 3:46 with no shots. This time, however, he was also minus-2 as he, along with linemates Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexei Tereshchenko, were on the ice for both first-period goals for the Finns.
Kari Lehtonen was the backup goalie for the Finns in this one, and he and his teammates are now one win away from earning a medal. They will face Sweden for all the Nordic hockey supremacy on Friday.
We'll have a little more on that game, as well as the big boys of North American hockey, once the late games finish up today.