BRATISLAVA – There’s a first time for everything, but few people at the Orange Arena in Bratislava expected to see Germany beat Russia for the World Championship history for the first time. Even the German players weren’t sure of the win until about ten seconds remaining in the game, Andre Rankel said.
But they did win.
“We were overconfident and we thought we’d beat them easily,” Russia’s assistant coach Igor Zakharkin told IIHF.com.
“It was a matter of poor focus and concentration, and a question of being able to play quick hockey. We were a little slow, and we have to be more aggressive in the upcoming games,” he said.
On the other hand, Germany played a great game, sticking to their game plan, and forcing Russia’s skilled forwards to play on the outside. Whatever chances Russia created – and they did have their chances – Dennis Endras was there to take care of them.
“It was a day when just about everything worked in our favor," said German coach Uwe Krupp.
“Germany was hungry, they were fast and quick, and they were really disciplined in their own zone, we just couldn’t get through that,” he says.
Russia had cancelled their pre-game skate, but according to Zakharkin, that wasn’t a sign of the coaching staff taking Germany too lightly.
“Well, we thought that the players needed a little rest, so, instead, we had an off-ice session back at the hotel. Our goal is to play well in the second week of the tournament, that’s when we have to be in our best shape,” he said.
Zakharkin and head coach Vyacheslav Bykov leaned heavily on their top two lines, with Ilya Kovalchuk, Alexei Morozov, and Alexei Kaigarodov, as well as Sergei Zinoviev, Alexander Radulov, and Fyodor Tyutin. While Kovalchuk has always seen a lot of ice time in Bykov’s teams, usually the ice time is spread more evenly on all four lines.
On Friday, young Vladimir Tarasenko in the fourth line played under ten minutes.
Conincidentally, it was the top two lines who were on the ice for the German goals. The first one, Thomas Greilinger’s wrist shot that beat Yevgeni Nabokov under his arm is one he might want to have back. The veteran goaltender looked a little shaky early in the game, but Zakharkin says he thought Nabokov was “fine.”
“He made several good saves in the game. The first goal was unfortunate, but the second one was a breakaway, and the forward just did a fantastic job scoring that goal,” Zakharin said.
Despite a historic loss, Zakharin found things to be optimistic about.
“I thought there was good effort to change the game, I think we had OK speed, and we pushed hard in the third period,” he said.
The Russian forwards did push hard – and Kovalchuk played almost half the period – but at times, they seemed to simply be taking turns in trying to crack the German defense on their own. Zakharin is confident that the offense will get better as time goes on, and the players learn to know their linemates.
“That was our first game with this lineup, and with these lines, so the players haven’t found each other yet. The chemistry will be there later, we’ll be much better later in the tournament,” he said.