• Russia flattens France

    From IIHF News@1:266/404 to All on Fri May 4 21:00:50 2018
    Russia scored three first-period goals in just 3:14 and never looked back in a 7-0 romp over France to kick off the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in

    Kirill Kaprizov led the way with two goals and an assist. Yevgeni Dadonov added
    a goal and an assist. Pavel Buchnevich (who also had an assist), Alexander Barabanov, and Maxim Shalunov all got their first career World Championship goals for Russia. Captain Pavel Datsyuk, Nikita Zaitsev, Nikita Nesterov, Mikhail Grigorenko, and Dinar Khafizullin chipped in a pair of assists apiece.

    It was a normal game, we made some mistakes as well, said Kaprizov. "We'll need
    to keep improving from game to game. We allowed a few turnovers, and the coaches are telling us all about it. Even so, it's good to start with a big win."

    Kaprizov didn't distinguish himself during CSKA Moscow's run to the Gagarin Cup
    final, which Ak Bars Kazan won in five games. But the flashy 21-year-old winger
    seems to have recovered from that disappointing defeat. His two goals were as many as he recorded in the entire KHL playoffs.

    Overall, it was an impressive start for Russia, which is questing for its first
    IIHF World Championship gold medal since Minsk 2014 under new head coach Ilya Vorobyov. Oleg Znarok, who medalled at all four of his Worlds from Minsk onward, stepped down from his position in mid-April after leading the Olympic Athletes from Russia to gold in PyeongChang.

    The game wasn't as easy as it looked, said Datsyuk. "The French skated well, the arena was a bit stuffy and the ice wasn't as good as we might have hoped. We'll have to get used to it. The good thing is that we all play on the same ice."

    Goaltender Vasili Koshechkin, who backstopped the Olympic Athletes from Russia to gold in PyeongChang, enjoyed an easy shutout, as his mates outshot France 39-10. The towering 35-year-old Metallurg Magnitogorsk netminder, now on his sixth World Championship squad, was voted to the Olympic all-star team with his
    1.38 GAA and 93.7 save percentage.

    Florian Hardy, who starred in France's historic 2-1 upset over Russia in 2013, was unable to replicate those heroics, as the veteran netminder received little
    protection. He was pulled in favor of Ronan Quemener to start the third period.

    The way we beat them last time was keeping the score close the whole game, said
    French coach Dave Henderson. The Russian team got frustrated and we were on a high. Everything was going our way. Today it was 0-3 after the first period so it was much more difficult."

    This could be a challenging year for Henderson's squad. Star goalie Cristobal Huet has ended his distinguished career at age 42, and longtime captain Laurent
    Meunier is now an assistant coach. The French are also without key NHLers Antoine Roussel (Dallas Stars) and Pierre Edouard-Bellemare (Vegas Golden Knights). They came ninth last year in Paris, which increased expectations.

    France has a key game coming up against Belarus on Saturday, while Russia takes
    on newly promoted Austria on Sunday.

    The opening goal at 7:08 was eerily familiar. It echoed the final goal Russia scored at the 2018 Olympics. As on the overtime gold-medal winner against Germany in February, Kaprizov scored on a one-timer high to the glove side. The
    pass came from Dadonov, who had circled behind the French goal line.

    The Russian power play clicked for a 2-0 lead just 1:10 later. Hardy surrendered a juicy rebound on Mikhail Grigorenko's slapshot and failed to track the puck, enabling Buchnevich to swat it into the open side.

    Defensive lapses plagued Les Bleus. At 10:22, Dadonov made it 3-0 from the slot, converting a short pass from Kaprizov as Hardy slid the wrong way.

    It's really good playing with Zhenya [Dadonov], said Kaprizov.

    In the second period, the Russians eased up, but still managed to extend their lead. Datsyuk, a just-minted IIHF Triple Gold Club member, stole the puck inside the French blue line in classic Datsyukian fashion and found an unchecked Kaprizov down low. He fired it through Hardy's legs at 17:59.

    Kaprizov continues to burnish his reputation. Prior to finishing second in Olympic scoring (5-4-9) behind Nikita Gusev, he led the 2017 World Juniors in goals and points (9-3-12). He has earned IIHF medals three years in a row (2016
    U20 silver, 2017 U20 bronze, 2018 Olympic gold).

    I was calmer today [than on my Olympic debut], said Kaprizov. "The Olympics were my first big international tournament."

    In the third period, Vorobyov's men turned on the jets again. Russia went up 5-0 on a flukey goal at 2:36. Barabanov stickhandled in off the side boards and
    flung the puck toward the net, and it deflected in off the pants of defenceman Florian Chakiachvili.

    At 4:50, Shalunov had all day to line up his wrister from the faceoff circle, which flew high past Quemener's blocker for Russia's first power play marker of
    these Worlds. With 2:47 left, Anisimov rounded out the scoring at 7-0, as he converted a rebound with another man advantage.

    In the first game you're looking to get into form, to gain some confidence ahead of the rest of the competition, said Buchnevich. "The French are a decent
    team but I don't think the game against Russia is the key one for them in this tournament."

    Of course, history shows there is no place for Russian complacency despite the sparkling start.

    The last time Russia opened an IIHF World Championship against France was on home ice. It was an 8-1 victory at the 2000 tournament in St. Petersburg. Maxim
    Sushinsky scored a hat trick with Russian President Vladimir Putin in attendance.

    That was the high point for the host nation, which then lost to the U.S.,Switzerland, Belarus, and Latvia, and finished eleventh overall. Russian fans will hope Friday's win does not portend a similar outcome.

    Lucas Aykroyd

    --- SBBSecho 3.04-Win32
    * Origin: TequilaMockingbird Online - Toms River, NJ (1:266/404)