Russia is considered one of the few clubs with a chance to keep Canada from Olympic gold. The firepower was evident in their victory against Sweden on Thursday, but in order to win gold, they will have to shutdown other clubs. That is exactly what Evgeni Nabokov did in the 5-0 shutout.
Sweden still brings a high-powered offense, but you would not have known that thanks, to Nabokov’s efforts.
“It was totally a team effort,” said Nabokov. “I was helping them and they were helping me. It was a big game for us. We played pretty well and were disciplined. The guys were excited.”
The victory helped Russia bounce back from an opening day loss on Wednesday when they were topped by Slovakia, 5-3, without Nabokov in the pipes.
“This was a really important game for us,” said Nabokov. “We want to stay higher in the standings. You don’t want to face Canada or Czech in the quarterfinals. We have to win our game as we have good teams in our group.”
Russia is grouped with not only Slovakia and Sweden, but Latvia and Kazakhstan as well. However, all teams will have Friday off.
“We have a day off to rest,” said Nabokov. “We are still adjusting to the travel over here.
Now with their record evened at 1-1, Russia will have some time to prepare for their game with Kazakhstan on Saturday.
Lost in the shutout was that it was Nabokov was playing his first-ever game for Russia. Born in the old Soviet Union, Nabokov was not allowed to play for Russia in the 2002 Olympics because of one international contest with Kazakhstan as a teenager.
“I didn’t really think too much about it,” said Nabokov. “I was worried about getting the win. I can’t go in too emotional. I’ll probably look back on it more after the Olympics.”
While he is happy to be playing for Russia, Nabokov’s still enjoys visiting Kazakhstan and has many friends, especially those on the current team.
“I grew up with a lot of the guys, about half of them,” said Nabokov. “With five or six of them, I went to school with them for 10 years. I saw them last night for about 20 minutes.
Sharks netminding prospect Thomas Greiss
earned his first start on the international stage as he backstopped Germany in their loss to Canada.
Nabokov had a chance to speak with the 20-year-old the previous evening.
“I talked to him a little bit,” said Nabokov.
Christian Ehrhoff, who scored Germany’s only goal against Canada, liked what he saw from the Sharks prospect.
“I think he was really good,” said Ehrhoff. “He did a great job. I have never seen him play before.”
Ehrhoff also played his first game of the tournament against a current Sharks player as he was opposite Joe Thornton
“We went up against each other too often,” joked Ehrhoff. “It was fun playing against a teammate.”
COULD BE BETTER
Canada is the prohibitive favorite in Turin, but Thornton says his club can tighten up in several areas.
"We felt better today than yesterday and hopefully we will get better every day,” said Thornton. “We have a big game against Switzerland on Saturday and we are getting used to each other the more time we spend on the ice.
"I think we need to improve our goaltending, our defense and our offense, in order to make the next stage, but we will do that."
Thornton played with Canada’s best in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, but this is his first Olympics.
“It is like the World Cup, but this is a little bigger,” said Thornton.