We continue our unexpectedly popular rip-off of Pass it to Bulis’ bandwagoners’ cheat sheets, with a look at Team Russia’s blueliners and goalies (see here for the forwards). Defence is projected to be Team Russia’s weakness, whereas goaltending, conversely, is a strength. After reading this handy guide, you’ll complete your knowledge of Team Russia, and can go out and yell shai-BOO! shai-BOO! with the best of them. (Sorry this is late, but I was failing to find the Markov picture for too long).
About: A veteran offensive-minded defenceman who plays for Kazan of the KHL. He is expected to bring leadership, having previously captained Team Russia at the world stage. He is known for his friendship with Alex Ovechkin and also has a really cute kid, a fact the automaker Skoda has shamelessly but adorably exploited for profit.
Nickname(s): Ilya “famous Nikulin who isn’t a clown” Nikulin, I could tellya but then I’d have to k-Ilya, Don Nickles
My non-existent wife thinks he looks like: Chris Martin
Expect to hear: “Nikulin, at the point…”
Don’t expect to hear: Action Bronson’s “Hookers at the Point” – unless you click that youtube link, I guess.
About: Vyacheslav Voynov is the youngest member of Team Russia’s blueline corps, and plays for the LA Kings. Although his basic possession numbers are excellent, it’s hard to tell whether that might be mostly due to playing with very good players on the Kings team. Nevertheless, he has good offensive ability and is pretty reliable defensively, as well.
Nickname(s): Slava, Voynovsy
My non-existent wife thinks he looks like: Kevin from the Backstreet Boys. I had to look through the backstreet boys image search to verify this for you. I hope you appreciate the lengths I go to to maintain journalistic integrity.
Expect to hear: “Voynov is among the better players on this shallow defensive corps”
Don’t expect to hear: “Vyacheslav is set to be the most popular boys name in 2014”
About: One of Russia’s few defensive defencemen, Tyutin plays for the Columbus Blue Jackets. A generally steady presence, it’s okay to know little to nothing about him because nobody watches the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Nickname(s): Darn Tyootin, Tyoodles, Tsar Fyodor I Ivanovich
My non-existent wife thinks he looks like: Ощыузр Пщквщт-Дуфмшее (that’s Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, but written with a cyrillic keyboard layout)
Expect to hear: “Tyutin is one of the few stay-at-home defencemen on the roster”
Don’t expect to hear: “Tyutin is one of the few stay-at-home moms on the roster”
About: Nikita Nikitin also plays for the Blue Jackets. He has a big body and can occasionally shine offensively (especially if that occasion is the 2011-12 NHL season). He is a third-pairing defenceman for Columbus, so he’s not exactly an all-star.
Nickname(s): Nikita Nikitievich Nikitin from Nikitaville, Stan Mikita, Nikki-Tikki-Tavvi, Nikita Uncreativeovich
My non-existent wife thinks he looks like: Ilya Nikulin
Expect to hear: people making fun of Nikitin’s name
Don’t expect to hear: people making fun of Nikitin’s name within earshot of Nikitin
About: Alexei Yemelin plays defence for the Montreal Canadiens, where he is occasionally Andrei Markov’s defence partner. A physical presence and one of the NHL’s few remaining aficionados of the hip check, he can also get under the skin of opponents, which might be a plus, although his team often gets outplayed when he is on the ice.
Nickname(s): Boom, The People’s Democratic Republic of South-East Yemelin
My non-existent wife thinks he looks like: Ben Affleck
Expect to hear: “What a crushing hit by Yemelin”
Don’t expect to hear: “what a soul-crushing exposition of existential angst by Yemelin”
About: Anton Belov is a marginal third pairing defenceman on NHL’s most defensively hapless team – the Edmonton Oilers. And yet, he might be on team Russia’s first defensive pairing. And that’s kind of hilarious, unless you want Russia to do well, in which case it is sad.
Nickname(s): Anton “marginally better than Jeff Petry” Belov
My non-existent wife thinks he looks like: Boris Becker
Expect to hear: “Anton Belov has a higher calibre of players in front of him on Team Russia than he’s used to”
Don’t expect to hear: “Team Russia has a higher calibre of player behind them in Anton Belov, than they’re used to”
About: A defenceman for the Montreal Canadiens. Andrei Markov used to be really good, then was injured for a long time, and, since his return has been merely pretty good. Despite being in his mid-thirties, Markov can still put up big minutes, and is a force to be reckoned with on the powerplay. Especially if that powerplay also has Malkin and Ovechkin on it. My coaching strategy against Russia would be not to take penalties.
Nickname(s): Marksy, The Marksman, Ears, Injured-for-the-season-sy
My non-existent wife thinks he looks like: Mr. Bean
Expect to hear: “Markov might be Russia’s best powerplay pointman”
Don’t expect to hear: “Markov should give acting a try”
About: Yevgeny Medvedev is another veteran offensive-minded defenseman playing for Kazan in the KHL. Medvedev knows Nikulin well from years of playing with him at Ak Bars. Medvedev has an imposing shot, and hands soft enough that he often gets used in the shootout (though something tells me he’ll defer to Datsyuk and co. here). No, seriously, he’s got skills. One large criticism from the public is that he seems to just be a puppet of nefarious hockey mastermind Yevgeny Putin, and have no hockey will of his own.
Nickname(s): I don’t know, but I’m assuming like all people named Medvedev, his nickname is Bear, sort of like all people named Campbell are nicknamed Soupy
My non-existent wife thinks he looks like: Bieber
Expect to hear: “Medvedev, or is it Nikulin, I keep mixing them up”
Don’t expect to hear: “Medvedev, or is it Hal Gill, I keep mixing them up”
About: Semyon Varlamov is the starting goaltender for the Colorado Avalanche. After several undistinguished seasons in the NHL, Varlamov has been having an incredible season this year with the resurgent Avalanche and is expected to get #1 goalie duty for Russia. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, however: Varlamov was arrested and investigated earlier in the season for domestic abuse against his wife. And then a Russian official suggested it was all a nefarious Western plot to ruin Russia’s chances at the Olympics. Oh, yeah, that’s another thing you want to know: him playing well is important to Russia’s chances at the Olympics.
Nickname(s): Varly, Innocent-until-proven-guilt-sy
My non-existent wife thinks he looks like: I don’t want him having anything to do with my wife, just in case
Expect to hear: “Varlamov should get the start in goal”
Don’t expect to hear: “Varlamov should get the start as couples counsellor. Which makes a lot of sense, because there are couples counselling teams and they have starting lineups”
About: Yeryomenko is the starter for currently KHL-leading Dynamo Moscow, and three-time defending Gagarin Cup champion (side note: the Gagarin cup looks amazing). He has been a consistently good performer in the KHL, and winning all those cups has given him extensive playoff experience, something both of the other goalies lack, if you believe that’s important. I’m not sure Russia does either – Bilyaletdinov admitted that it was pre-determined that one goalie to be invited would be from the KHL (presumably similar quotas applied to skaters). Which seems to me a poorly considered precondition. But then, if Russia wasn’t into doing poorly considered shit on the basis of nationalism/patriotism, would any of us be here talking about these Olympics at all?
Nickname(s): The Yeryominator, Johnny Token-KHL-Guy
My non-existent wife thinks he looks like: Tin Tin
Expect to hear: “I wish Bryzgalov was here instead, he’s a much better quote”
Don’t expect to hear: “I wish Bryzgalov was here instead, he’s a much better goalie”
About: Borbrovsky is the starting goaltender for the Columbus Bluejackets and defending (spoiler: he probably won’t defend) Vezina trophy winner for best goaltender in the NHL. Even more than his prowess, he is beloved for the shtick where Jay Onrait pretends he (Jay) is the DA and Bobrovsky is a beat cop, and he chews him out (“you’re a loose cannon, Bobrovsky!”) or praises him during highlights. Hockey fans think that’s pretty funny. Judging by his halloween costume, Sergei thinks it’s pretty funny, too.
Nickname(s): Bob, #1 cop
My non-existent wife thinks he looks like: Dave Foley
Expect to hear: “You’re back on the force, Bobrovsky!”
Don’t expect to hear: “Use the Force, Bobrovsky!”