Jackets find themselves cheering on Russian teammates in Sochi
Nathan Horton was asked after practice on Wednesday if he followed any of his Blue Jackets teammates playing for Russia during the Olympics.
"Oh, absolutely," Horton told BlueJackets.com. "That's the only team I've been watching."
He wasn't alone, as more than a few of his teammates - who reconvened for practices this week at the OhioHealth Ice Haus under the direction of Craig Hartsburg, Dan Hinote and Ian Clark - said they were following along with the Russian team that included four of their Columbus comrades.
Fedor Tyutin, Artem Anisimov, Nikita Nikitin and Sergei Bobrovsky were members of a Russian team that will unfortunately be remembered for what it failed to accomplish, but they head back to the United States with a life-long memory of competing in the Olympic Games on home soil.
Horton, who has performed in some high-pressure situations throughout his hockey career, said he couldn't imagine the amount of pressure on the Russians during this Olympic tournament. While there's always a gold-medal mentality, especially with a team as skilled as the Russians, Horton said it all comes down to how the team comes together.
"They've got a great team with so much skill, and it's kind of hard to believe that they're out of the tournament now," Horton said. "Being at home, you know that's not how they wanted it to end and I'm sure they're not feeling great about it. I think it surprised a lot of people, and more so because of how skilled they are.
"But things like that happen, especially in a one-and-done format. They had a great goaltender, too."
Of course, the goaltender Horton referred to is Bobrovsky, who started only two of Russia's four games in the Olympics: the preliminary round game against Team USA (a 3-2 shootout loss) and the qualification playoff game against Norway, in which Bobrovsky recorded a 22-save shutout.
The next game was the quarterfinal matchup against Finland, but instead, Semyon Varlamov got the start in goal for Russia. The Finns, with Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen part of their management team, upset the Russians with a 3-1 victory at the Bolshoy Ice Dome and sent the "home team" packing without a medal.
"I told them before they left that I wanted them to make the final, but if they're up against Canada, I'm not cheering for them," Ryan Johansen said. "It's cool to watch them on such a big stage in their home country, and even though they fell short, I'm sure it was a great experience for them."
"I'm sure they're all disappointed, but you have to give credit to Finland. They have great hockey players and their goaltending was great. That's what's so cool about the Olympics: you have to be at your best every single game, and you saw that with Russia and Finland. When a team gets one chance, anything can happen."
The quartet of Blue Jacket Russian Olympians are due back in Columbus late Thursday/early Friday, and could rejoin the team for practice this weekend.