Capitals

Custance: Don’t Put Russia’s Loss on Alex Ovechkin’s Shoulders

by Chris Lingebach
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Russia's Alexander Ovechkin (R) talks to Finland's Teemu Selanne at the end of the Men's Ice Hockey Play-offs Quarterfinals match between Finland and Russia at the Bolshoy Ice Dome during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 19, 2014. Finland won 3-1. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER NEMENOV (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia’s Alexander Ovechkin (R) talks to Finland’s Teemu Selanne at the end of the Men’s Ice Hockey Play-offs Quarterfinals match between Finland and Russia at the Bolshoy Ice Dome during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 19, 2014. Finland won 3-1. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER NEMENOV (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC) - Moments after Russia was eliminated from the Men’s Ice Hockey Quarterfinal Playoff – falling 3-1 to Finland – blame began pouring in for Alex Ovechkin, Russia’s face of the 2014 Sochi Games.

NBC broadcasters Mike Milbury and Jeremy Roenick, who have been largely critical of Ovechkin in the past, were hypercritical of the Capitals star immediately following the game’s conclusion, as Dan Steinberg notes in The Post.

Milbury said Ovechkin deserves “a lot” of the responsibility for Russia’s loss, and Roenick criticized Ovi’s inability to evolve his game “over time.”

On a team full of superstars, pinning this loss solely on Russia’s biggest, Ovechkin, is a bit of a cop-out, because it merely scrapes the surface of why Russia can’t seem to get over the hump on the Olympic stage, and ultimately, doesn’t tell the whole story of why the home crowd was let down.

Nor does it explain Russia’s lack of defense, particularly in the 2014 games.

Throughout the games, Russia saved just 93.28 percent of 111 shots on goal, and in its loss to Finland, 3 of just 22 shots on goal was enough to seal Russia’s fate – which included a 52-minute scoring drought after Russia scored the first goal of the game.

Photos: Team USA Rolls On to Semifinals

To emphasize this point, let’s hear from ESPN.com’s Craig Custance, who spoke with Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier, after Russia’s devastating defeat, on 106.7 The Fan:

“We’re already seeing all this criticism of Alex Ovechkin,” Custance said on Wednesday. “But to me, it comes down to coaching. I don’t put it on his shoulders. I think there was a lot of issues with the way this team was ran and put together, from the beginning.”

“Finland, tournament after tournament – it doesn’t even matter who’s hurt or who’s playing for them – they always go out, they play the same way, an effective system, and they give teams all they can handle,” he said. “They almost always find a way to get to the medal round. And with Russia, it’s the opposite. It’s almost like they find a way not to get there. “

“You’re trying to shoehorn in these KHL players, and you wonder how much politics, and having the guys that played over there in Russia and finding a way to make this team, versus picking the absolute best roster available to play in the Olympic tournament. To me, it’s that, and you just look at their defense.

“You just look at their defense. I know the Russians struggled to score goals,” Custance said. “That’s what people are gonna talk about, and that was the big puzzling thing, but you talk about the superstars in Russia – the Malkins, the Ovechkins and Pavel Datsyuk and Kovalchuck, who was outstanding in this tournament – and you’re not mentioning one defenseman. They just haven’t developed that good, young, dynamic offensive defenseman coming out of Russia like we’re seeing some of these other countries have.”

Listen to the full interview with Custance in the clip above.

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