Two things are clear after Russia’s first four games in the Olympics hockey tournament:

*The Russian coach, Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, thinks Alexander Radulov is a better hockey player than Evgeni Malkin.

*So far, Bilyaletdinov is right. Radulov is playing well. Malkin is not. Radulov is playing with grit and purpose. Malkin is aimless. A turnover machine.

Sochi is where Penguins stars go to be invalidated:

*Malkin is second fiddle to a KHL guy.

*Sidney Crosby is playing just 15 minutes per game for Canada.

*Chris Kunitz got dropped to Canada’s fourth line, though he will apparently be restored to Crosby’s line for tomorrow’s quarterfinal. The entire nation of Canada is in upheaval over that decision.

Sochi is where hockey goes to be diminished:

*In terms of entertainment and furthering the sport, the level of play has been boring and embarrassing. Lots of scared hockey is being played.

*Memo to NHL: Don’t widen your rinks. The extra acreage makes coaches paranoid.

Defense first. Trap, trap, trap. Russia trapped vs. Slovenia. In the old days, Soviet tanks would have just rolled through Ljubljana.

*The stars aren’t shining. If the Olympic tournament is attracting new viewers to hockey, they’re not going to be impressed by Crosby, Ovechkin, Malkin, etc. “These guys aren’t special! Why isn’t anyone scoring?”

The playoffs will doubtless provide some memorable moments.

But I can’t wait for the NHL season to resume. It’s the best hockey in the world. Sochi has done nothing to convince otherwise.



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