Is it, though? If you ignore the propaganda and tv drama, I don't think anyone seriously considered them a contender. They were long shots at a medal at best.
Really? The vast majority of prognosticators had Russia medaling, with a smattering of gold predictions, even:http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=704466http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/olympics-fourth-place-medal/puck-daddy-s-sochi-olympic-hockey-medal-predictions-050019478.html
Yeah. Over at Deadspin I think they nailed it with this:"Some of the best players in the world are Russian, but Russia is not one of the best hockey nations in the world, and has not been for a long time. Olympic success has dried up since other nations began sending their pros, and the Russian/USSR national team has not won a best-on-best tournament since 1981's Canada Cup. Russian hockey dominance is a Cold War-era relic."
The key is team depth. Malkin-Ovi-Kovalchuck is as unbeatable a line combination as you can put together in the games, but they're not relentless like the USA and Canada lines. According to the internet commentary, Russia's 4th line in particular got burned. (Canada's struggling to score, but that's what you get when you pick Crosby's buddy Chris Kunitz over Giroux. Karma.) Paradoxically, the larger ice seems to be favoring defensive teams, who can block shots and prevent breakaways. As more teams try to carry the puck up ice, fewer turnover opportunities. That hurts Russia whose scorers at least in the NHL game tend to be more opporunistic.Russia really should have beaten Finland, though, especially at home, and they certainly could have beaten the Americans. You can't read too much into a single elimination game.
I agree with a lot of this, but the depth problem is largely due to Russia's stupid insistence on bringing a bunch of KHL players where there were likely better alternatives in the NHL. Between the puzzling personnel decisions, and then questionable deployment (starting Varlamov in an elimination game, not having Ovechkin in his usual spot on the PP, etc.), Russia's loss is on management/coaching.