I've often said Eric Duhatschek is the best in the hockey writing business, and he proves it yet again in this must read piece on Alex Ovechkin and his defining moment.
He is a ubiquitous presence here, his smiling, gap-toothed grin plastered all over everything, from Coca-Cola cans to luggage tags to billboards all over town.
These may turn out to be Alexander Ovechkin’s Olympics, if the masses and/or the corporate sponsors have a say. Ovechkin was greeted as a conquering hero Monday, when the full Russian team – NHLers joining their KHL brethren – arrived for practice at the Bolshoi Ice Palace in preparation for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games men’s hockey tournament.Ovechkin was greeted by fans at the airport, mobbed by volunteers in the athletes village and surrounded by reporters in the mixed zone. Other Russian players may be more integral to the final outcome – Pavel Datsyuk is the glue up front, either Sergei Bobrovsky or Semyon Varlamov will have to provide a better brand of goaltending than what the team got four years ago – but Ovechkin is the player who captivates the audiences. He is a brand unto himself, his personality larger than life.
Read the full article here.
I wish Ovechkin in particular all the best in Sochi. The pressure is immense but the opportunity here is too great a story not to cheer for. I've often thought Sidney Crosby is a player of destiny. Ovechkin, for all his greatness, hasn't had the same team success. Maybe now is the time he can seize the moment.
Here are some other "must read" articles for you:
Ralph Kreuger Hopes His Work Pays Off For Canada - A nice summation of Kreuger's quiet contributions to Team Canada by Stephen Whyno. His tireless and tedious work may be Canada's secret weapon. It is necessary work because Dave King says the big ice is a big problem.
Canada's Goaltending: Two separate articles here profiling Carey Price and Roberto Luongo. Luongo never got enough credit for his amazing play in 2010, but as much as I'd like to see him get a chance to redeem himself for the past couple of NHL seasons I suspect the red-hot Price will get the nod by the elimination round.
Roy MacGregor looks at the growing parity in women's hockey. It is excellent news that Sweden and Finland and maybe Switzerland are making stronger showings in 2014. They are benefiting from strong goaltending. Hopefully their skaters continue to evolve to make these nations true contenders. Jennifer Botterill also comments on this parity.
Mike Johnston of SportsNet gives us our first look at the practice line combinations of the top teams. It's our first glimpse into what the various coaching staffs are thinking, but Roy MacGregor warns us to watch for the line combo blender in the opening games.
Steve Yzerman defends the NHL's participation in the Olympics. As always there is lots of talk about the future of the NHL's role - if any at all - at the Olympics. The players and the fans love it, but both have to understand that the NHL's concerns are warranted and significant. It's good to see such a respected voice chime in on this.
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