SOCHI, Russia – In broken English, Russian goalie Sergei Bobrovsky perfectly summed up the fractured spirit many Russians own today.
"I've got empty inside," Bobrovsky said.
The Russian hockey team carried the hopes of its nation. The team was expected to win on its home ice. Oddsmakers said so. Many in the news media said the same. People in Russia believed it. Russian star Alex Ovechkin said before the Olympics that a gold medal would be worth "$50 billion." That happens to be the estimated cost of putting on these Sochi Games.
But the Finns upset the Russians' plans Wednesday with a 3-1 win in the quarterfinals that knocks Ovechkin and Co. out of the tournament.
No gold. No medal. No hope of the team redeeming itself in the eyes of the Russian people.
"Disappointment that we lose the home advantage," said Russian captain Pavel Datsyuk. "But it is hard to win when you do not score."
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The Russians were expected to be a dynamic offensive machine, but Ovechkin and Malkin haven't scored since the team's opener against Slovenia.
"It's difficult to explain why they didn't score, the players who score on their teams, especially Alexander Ovechkin, who scored only in the first game," coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov said through a translator. "I cannot explain this."
The defense wasn't good enough. Goalie Semyon Varlamov couldn't come up with the big save when it was needed against Finland. Kontinental Hockey League forward Alexander Radulov seemed to frustrate his coach with his inconsistency.
Russia's talent well isn't as deep as it once was. This Russian relied too much on their top four players. Their secondary players didn't measure up to secondary players on the other teams.
What we might have seen in these Games in the end of the Russians' mystique in hockey.
For decades, the Soviets were dominant in hockey, but the truth is that the Russians haven't been dominant since the Iron Curtain fell.
The last hockey gold medal the Russians won at the Olympics was in 1992 when they entered as the Unified Team. But since then, the hockey world has tried to hang onto the notion that Russia's skilled players are always going to be superior to the skilled players of other countries.
Ovechkin, Malkin, Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk excite the Russian people like they are the modern-day Beatles. But the truth is that those players, as skilled as they are, and the Russian machine do not intimidate the opposition the way they once did. The Finns, for example, have a winning record against the Russians in international competition since 1994.
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When the post-mortems are complete, Ovechkin will receive a large portion of the blame. That's what happens when you are a flamboyant star. That's part of the job description. With great glory and money comes greater responsibility.
The Russians were looking for Ovechkin to rise up and carry the team offensively. He was not able to do that. He scored 77 seconds into Russia's first game against Slovenia, and then added an assist by the 4-minute mark. Then, we didn't see him again on the score sheet.
His tournament line: one goal, one assist in five games. No points against the USA, Slovakia, Norway and the Finns.
We don't know exactly what Ovechkin thought went wrong because he did some TV interviews and then blew through the interview area where a throng of print media were waiting to talk to him.
Ovechkin's supporters will remind us that it is a team game. He is not solely to blame for what happened. That is true. Clearly, the Malkin-Ovechkin mix didn't work. That wasn't only Ovechkin's fault.
Bilyaletdinov, asked why he didn't split them up, said, "That is my personal fault."
But superstars are expected to make people around them better and win championships. Mario Lemieux won two Stanley Cups and an Olympic gold medal. Wayne Gretzky and Lemieux combined on one of the most memorable goals in Canada Cup history.
In 2010, Sidney Crosby wasn't sharp in the early stages of the tournament, but when the gold medal was on the line, he produced the game-winner.
That's what superstars do. But Ovechkin didn't rise up here in Sochi. We noticed Ovechkin far more on billboards and Coke machines than we noticed him on the ice.
Follow Kevin Allen on Twitter @ByKevinAllen