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Russia's top two lines are more explosive than any other team's at the Olympics. The Malkin-Ovechkin combination has proven lethal time after time and will get extra punch from Ovi's old teammate Alexander Semin on the other wing. On the second line, the highly skilled Pavel Datsyuk will center snipers Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Radulov. Add the scoring prowess of young guns like Tarasenko and Nichushkin, and Russia should have no trouble putting goals on the board.
As the Olympics get set to begin, North Americans are being bombarded by tales of cramped athletes' quarters, unfinished hotels and subpar living conditions.
Rest assured, Team Russia will see none of this. Like any host nation, Russian authorities have high expectations for their athletes and will do anything in their power to give them the edge. The hockey players are being carefully shielded from the international media, and you can bet that luxury will be the order of the day for the Russian team—as long as it's winning.
Slava Voynov's a world-class defenseman. Andrei Markov's pretty good when he's healthy. But that's about the best that can be said for the Russian defense corps. The rest of the group is made up of mid-level defenders who would typically be second- or third-pairing guys in the NHL.
It's a good thing this Russian team is poised to score a lot of goals and has good goaltending; it will need both to make up for the opportunities the defense will hand over to the opposition.
As I wrote about Team Sweden yesterday, the Russians aren't the only ones gunning for gold at these Games. Team Russia certainly has a right to be considered among the favorites, and after Canada's home-ice win in 2010, it seems plausible that a nation can help spur its home team to victory. The tournament will feature other worthy contenders like Canada, the U.S. and the Swedes. Hockey's a game of inches, and as we've seen before, once the teams get onto the ice, anything can happen.