WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – With the NHL schedule set to be put on hiatus for the Winter Olympic Games, Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals finds himself in the familiar position of measuring up to Sydney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Like Crosby four years ago in Vancouver, Ovechkin is now charged with the high-pressure task of winning gold for his national hockey team, as his home country hosts the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
“He talked about the Olympics three, four years ago when the NHL hadn’t yet agreed to go to the Olympics, and he said, ‘I don’t care if we make an agreement or not, I’m going to the Olympics,’ so we knew then,” said Capitals teammate Brooks Laich — to the Junkies on 106.7 The Fan — of understanding Ovechkin’s deeply-entrenched nationalism.
“We know that he’s a very passionate Russian,” Laich said. “I played against him in the World Junior Championship when I was 19 and he was 17 — I was for Canada and he was for Russia — he’s been on the international stage a lot before, and he’s gonna be, and he’s a dominant figure on it, and there is a lot of pressure on him — much the same as there was on Crosby before Vancouver.”
Ovechkin is not only a star in his home country, but — on pace for his highest goal total in his NHL career with 39 goals through 53 games played — he is essentially being marketed as the face of the Sochi Games in Russia.
“The other thing that helps them, they’ve got a lot of other very good hockey players,” Laich said. “They’ve got [Evgeni] Malkin, they’ve got [Pavel] Datsyuk, they’ve got [Ilya] Kovalchuk, they’ve got other guys that can bear the burden as well. It’s not just gonna be Alex.”
With the weight of Russia on his shoulders, there’s now better time than now for Alex Ovechkin, still in search of the Stanley Cup that eludes him nine seasons into his NHL career, to prove he’s deserving of the nickname ‘Alexander the Great.’