The Top 6 Reasons Why Russians Are Really Good At Hockey

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by Puck

Hockey Correspondent and Occasional Shakespeare Character, White Cover Magazine

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If you couldn’t figure it out — and I wouldn’t expect you to from what I can only guess is a very vague title that matters just to me and my mind — this isn’t really a Top 6 Reasons Why ‘Something’ column. It’s really just a way to list off the Russian All-NHL All-Star Team. As in, one Russian for each position and why.

Here we go. They’re all pretty obvious.

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Center: Pavel Datsyuk

No offence to Evgeni Malkin and his Hart Trophy… or his Conn Smythe Trophy. Pavel Datsyuk is a wizard and, yes, I’m completely biased.

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Left Wing: Alex Ovechkin

You know how everyone thought he was dead and gone?

Ovechkin is now tied with Steven Stamkos with an NHL-leading 26 goals in this shortened season. Look out, Sidney. Your old nemesis is on his way to a third Hart Trophy.

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Right Wing: Ilya Kovalchuk

I’m pretty sure Ilya Kovalchuk’s been a left wing for most of his life, but THANK THE LORD he switched, otherwise this roster spot would have been filled by Alex Semin, Nail Yakupov, or Vladimir Tarasenko. No, seriously… those are the other top three scoring Russians in 2013.

Despite the lack of competition, it would have been treacherous to the game to leave Kovy off this list. His shot, his puck handling, and his explosiveness is matched by only a couple others in the NHL — and both of them are on this list.

At times, there’s nobody else as dangerous on the planet, and that includes the Soviet automobile industry.

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Defenseman 1: Andrei Markov

We’ve all been waiting for Markov to get healthy and go all “quarterback” along the Bell Centre’s blue line. It’s happened.

Markov leads all Russian blue liners with 24 points through 39 games, and it’s his first full season since 2009. It would have been pretty easy to forget about Markov, or to simply dismiss him because of his China Doll thing. He also stirred up a tiny bit of controversy by reportedly wanting to remain in the KHL.

Screw it. Markov’s fantastic, and the Habs are reaping all the rewards in Twenty-Thirteen.

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Defenseman 2: TBD

This is a pretty light area of expertise for the Russians, and it was damn well exploited by Canada in the 2010 Winter Olympics. I know how lame TBD looks, and it is. Still, who do I put here?

Anton Volchenkov? Fedor Tyutin? Sergei Gonchar?

None are bad, but none are anything worth bragging about.

If I had to pick one, I’d put my money on L.A.’s Slava Voynov. He’s got a longer career in front of him and his 23 points lead all Los Angeles blue liners. And, yeah, that includes CBC’s Spank Bank star Drew Doughty.

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Goalie: Evgeni Nabokov

I’m a huge fan of the younger guns who have been forced to carry their teams through better and worse in 2013: Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov and Columbus’s Sergei Bobrovsky.

I’ve never given up on Ilya Bryzgalov, because we all saw what he was capable of in Phoenix.

If I was taking stock on entire career’s worth, I’d go with Nikolai Khabibulin, who’s been one of the best goalies in the NHL ever since he first laced on those old Winnipeg Jets pads in 1995. Of course, if I was basing this on a career, I’d have picked Sergei Gonchar, too.

Evgeni Nabokov, though, is still the man. The New York Islanders are in a playoff position because of him and John Tavares, but mostly him. His Calder Trophy (2000) hasn’t cursed him like it has every other goaltender who’s won it (ala Jim Carey and Steve Mason).

Nabokov’s every bit the goalie he first was when he was stoning Sharks attackers 10 years ago.