February 03, 2014

Olympic Report: Ovechkin To Be Defined By Sochi

The Olympics start this week. As a life long British Columbian, it seems so hard to believe that Vancouver 2010 was already four years ago!

The men's Olympic hockey tournament doesn't start until the following week, but let's get caught up on some of the stories heading into the Games.

The Russian Olympics will define Alexander Ovechkin's career, or so says Lucas Aykroyd of IIHF.com:

For better or for worse, the 2014 Olympics will define Alexander Ovechkin’s reputation and his place in hockey history. No hockey player – actually, no athlete – is more closely identified with these Winter Games than the 28-year-old Washington Capitals winger.

The world is waiting to see how Ovechkin will carry himself starting on February 13, when Russia opens its quest for Olympic gold against Slovenia. It’s a prize Russia hasn’t claimed since 1992.

Likely bound for his fourth Rocket Richard Trophy as the league’s top marksman, he is also a three-time winner of both MVP trophies, the media-voted Hart and the player-voted Ted Lindsay (formerly Lester Pearson). If Ovechkin retired today, he would still be a surefire inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

But Ovechkin, despite faithfully and admirably suiting up for Russia in IIHF competition at least once every year since 2002 (with the exception of 2009), has never played quite as well at either the Olympics or World Championships as he has at his NHL best. Neither his laser shot nor his offensive-zone physicality has been quite as effective.

Here's the full story.

But as Slava Malamud tells us, there's not a lot of optimism in Russia about their chances in the men's hockey tournament.

There is a lot of excitement in Russia as the home-held Olympics approach. Do not confuse the word “excitement” with “optimism”, though.

With 22 years gone since the last Olympic gold and only a measly silver and bronze to show since the country began competing under the Russian tricolour, optimism takes a distant second to cynicism in the competition for Russia’s most ubiquitous hockey emotion.

The home of the “Big Red Machine” has gotten so used, so addicted in fact, to gold during the Soviet era that the last two decades have been nothing less than depressing for the proud hockey giant when it comes to results in the Olympics.

Here's the full story.

John Sanful suggests this very well might be America's time. They have concentrated on surrounding their nucleus of Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Dustin Brown, Ryan Callahan and David Backes, and go to Sochi with 13 returning players from the 2010 Olympics.

That's a big advantage according to Parise:

“I think we have so many returning players who established a good identity (in Vancouver) and saw how we needed to play to be successful.” He said. “One of the things in a short tournament is to get better in every game.”

Here's that full story.

Women's Hockey:

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