Team Russia never really got their acts together and got bounced in the quarterfinals today by Finland, 3-1. It's not unexpected- even with several key injuries the Finns are always a tough international out (and having Tuukka Rask in net helps a lot too). But, for the Pittsburgh Penguins, focus immediately shifts to how this will effect star center Evgeni Malkin moving forward for the rest of the NHL season.
Russia's barely dead, but the piling on has already begun:
When I watch Russia losing, I see the Pens season collapsing. Geno will tank once he gets back. Won't be able to handle this. #WPXIOlympics— Mark Madden (@MarkMaddenX) February 19, 2014
There's no doubt this will effect Malkin. The whole country of Russia has been looking forward to the hockey tournament since they were announced as Olympic hosts several years ago. Hockey is the marquee event and the one they wanted to win, from the public presence of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on down to all the citizens and players. It was vitally important and they fell well short under the pressure.
However, 2014 won't be the first time that Malkin will have to deal with Olympic disappointment. Malkin and the Russians got blown out 7-3 by the Canadians en route to Sidney Crosby 's gold medal moment in Vancouver. How did Malkin fare then?
Pre-Olympics (2009-10): 55 games played, 21 goals, 44 assists, -2, 80 penalty minutes
Post Olympics: (2009-10): 12 gp, 7g, 5a, -4, 20 PIMs
The verdict? Malkin produced better before the Olympics, but a point-per-game rate over a relatively short 12 game sample size post-Olympics shows that he didn't dog it or collapse.
And, keep in mind that Malkin's most common linemates that season down the stretch were Ruslan Fedotenko (who scored a dull 11 goals and 19 assists in 80 games that season) and trade deadline acquisition Alexei Ponikarovsky (who scored 2 goals and 9 points in 16 games with the Pens). This season Malkin will have two much, much better linemates in James Neal and Finnish foe Jussi Jokinen, which ought to set him up better.
There's no doubt that emotionally Malkin must be in the dumps right now. It was a big disappointment to lose with Russia on home soil, and Malkin didn't score a goal since the first period of the first game. You won't have to tell him that, he knows that he didn't produce like he was counted on. There's no sugar-coating that, but it's over.
Hockey players live for "the next one". There's always a next game, a new task to focus on and move on to. Malkin gets eight days off to decompress, get back to Pittsburgh and get ready to move on for that next one. He's a hockey player, he's a professional, he's got no other option. I'm sorry for his disappointment, but give him enough credit as a professional and former MVP and scoring champion to know that Sochi isn't going to be the cloud that hangs over him or the Penguins season for the rest of the year. If anything, having a playoff run and chance for the Stanley Cup should serve as more motivation for Malkin to move on to looking forward to working for.