Marian Hossaâ€™s highlight of the day was almost beating Yevgeni Nabokov, who was looking shaky to begin withâ€”and this pretty much sums up Slovakiaâ€™s situation in the World Championships right now. They have lost two of their three games so far, having only beat Slovenia, a team which failed to win any games during the preliminary rounds and is en route to the relegation round. Their last two games were both 4-3 losses in regulation, first to Germany and then today to Russia. (iihf.com)
The game felt like yo-yo as the teams took turns with the lead, but Russia tied it at the end of the second period and remained strong until the endâ€”and the fact that the Slovaks missed several great chances to pull ahead during the third period did not hurt. Shortly before the end of the third, Russian captain Alexei Morozov got the puck past Halak to give the game to the Russians, leaving Slovakia behind even with an extra attacker in the last few moments of the third. The real superstar of the night, however, was Ilya Kovalchuk: he assisted on three out of the four goals scored on Halak. (For a more in-depth game summary, you can go here.)
The situation is beginning to look dire for Slovakia after this loss. When it comes to team stats, they pretty much only break the top ten in rankings for penalties, penalty killing, and attendanceâ€”and they squeak by as eleventh in scoring efficiency. Their goaltending numbers are as shaky as Nabokov was, placing them fifteenth out of sixteen teamsâ€”a rather disappointing place to be when you are the host country and your goaltender is none other than the Bluesâ€™ Jaroslav Halak. Hossaâ€™s numbers arenâ€™t stellar, either. He broke even in plus minus during this game but failed to score on any of his five shots on goal. As a matter of fact, he has only notched one assist during the tournament so far despite logging almost forty minutes of ice time over two games. At least his plus/minus is currently at +1?
The pressure seems to be getting to the host team, and going into the Qualification round having lost two of three games will make it very difficult for the Slovaks to get to either medal gameâ€”but not impossible. The Slovaks recognize the difficulty in their situation, and they have taken responsibility for it, as stated by Milan Jurcina: â€œWe have to play better as a team. We have to attack with five guys and defend with five guys. It was a little better today than in the game against Germany, though.â€
They will not be playing again until Friday, so hopefully the couple of days off will help them regroup. Slovensko do toho!
As a last note for today: Group Bâ€™s Canada has gone through the Preliminary Round undefeated and currently has eight points, tied at most points for the tournament with Germany, who is on top of Group A. They will be taking a well-deserved couple of days off before taking on the third team in Group C (which will most likely be Norway) on Friday. Even though none of our boys is on the squad, we can still celebrate over former Blackhawk, Thrashers captain, and Team Canada alternate captain Andrew Ladd, who is a +1 so far despite not having tallied any points. Go, Ladder! Go, Canada!