The Russians swore this team they were sending their best. Pinky-swore it, in fact. But several mind-numbing coaching decisions and two critical injuries have negated what could easily have been a, super series. Here's who's stood out for the Russians- and who is out all together- as the series comes back to Canada 4-0 in favor of the red and white (the other red and white).
Alexei Cherepanov– The word 'playmaker' is obviously not in the Russian dictionary, because one of the best U20 goal-scorers in the world was without one in the first one and 1/3 games of the Super Series. Never in the same class as Evgeni Malkin or Alexander Ovechkin, Cherepanov was nevertheless given the dubious task of dragging along two fourth-line players while being relied upon for offense. Oh yeah, and he was benched a lot, too. The much-maligned first round selection of the New York Rangers still shone from time to time, demonstrating at least the awareness required to produce with better linemates. However, Brandon Sutter exposed one area of deficiency in the young winger's game: head-up awareness. A hard, awkward check knocked 'Cherry' out of the first period Game 2, and it was reported yesterday that he was done for the series.
Egor Averin– A personal favorite of yours truly before the 2007 Draft, more than one team is now regretting the decision to pass on the hyper-talented winger. Dangerous on numerous shifts in Game 1, the crafty forward displayed the puck skills, speed and agility that earned him high marks in the first place. But it was perhaps what Averin didn't do that impressed the most. Derided for the usual qualities Russian prospects are derided for- motivation, work ethic, and defensive prowess- Averin was never the reason his team lost. Like Cherepanov, Averin will not have a chance to improve his stock any further, as he too is out for the series with a concussion.
Slava Voinov- "…overall stellar play put the 2008-eligible rearguard into the upper echelon of his draft class." You'd think some people would have listened the first time I mentioned Voinov, the aforementioned tidbit coming from an article on the Under 18s earlier this year. Instead, the extremely skilled defenseman is earning rave reviews after seemingly coming out of nowhere. I'll say it again: Voinov is a tremendous player, playing the point on the powerplay with unmatched zeal and confidence. He can stickhandle and wire wristshots like a forward, and pass like the best of his peers. While he hasn't torn up the scoreboard, Voinov has demonstrated some terrific skill.
Maxim Mayorov– We called him a poor man's Ovechkin in the Prospect Report, and now you know why. When full of steam, no one on the Russian roster is harder to defend than the 6'2, 180 lbs left wing. Blessed with good speed, soft hands, and of course a big frame, Mayorov has earned plenty of fanfare with his patented drives on net. One of the more interesting subplots of the 2007 Draft was Scott Howson trading three fifth round picks in order to move ahead of his former employer- the Edmonton Oilers- in order to snag the enigmatic winger for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Alexander Vasyunov – One major disappointment has been winger Alexander Vasyunov. Hyped as a terrific scorer not only by us but most observers, the New Jersey Devils prospect was expected
to be a major component of t