February 19 2014 12:22PM
It's not what it looks like...
Today was the start of the significant knockout rounds in the Mens Hockey component of the Olympics, and as such, all three Leafs participants had a chance for their Gold Medal Hopes to either be closer to realization or completely taken away. Nikolai Kulemin and Russia took on the Finns, Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk faced off against the Czechs. Here's what went down:
All good things must come to an end, as Kulemin learned today against the Finnish National Team. In the most important game that he or any of his teammates will likely ever play in their home country, Tuukka Rask stood tall and several mistakes were made that lead to the Russian's being eliminated via a 3-1 loss.
Over the course of the tournament, Kulemin averaged 14:46 ice time per game, and contributed eight shots and zero points. In fact, he wasn't on the ice for a goal the entire tournament, and only on for two goals against (both on the penalty kill). While the tournament wasn't the offensive confidence boost that we were hoping to see from him, it's nice to see that he was pretty successful in his shutdown role. His 6.5 shots per 60 minutes were also pretty middle of the pack on the Russian team.
Heading across town to Shayba Arena, it appears that Phil Kessel has a crippling addiction to smelling salts:
But seriously, the Americans made Ondrej Pavelec look like he shouldn't be an NHL starter (mind you, that happens most of the time anyway). First to get a puck past him? None other than JVR.
Goals from Dustin Brown, David Backes, and Zach Parise chased Pavelec out of the net, and in came Alexander Salak. But that was of no issue to The Phil, who scored his fifth of the tournament:
In the end, Kessel and van Riemsdyk both played about 15 minutes each, and took two and four shots respectively in a 5-2 win. Our worst nightmare will be confirmed on Friday as the high-flying Americans, lead by two white-hot Leafs, take on Team Canada in the Semi Finals.