But this was his only shot at an Olympics in Russia. He wasn’t the captain of his team but he was its face. He went to great lengths to be part of the pre-Games torch relay just as the Caps were beginning preseason. Before the NHL went all-in with these Games, Ovechkin made it clear he’d be going anyway.
The Games in his beloved Russia? No way he was missing that.
Is Ovechkin drained? How quickly will the endless questions — and they will continue to come fast and furious — wear on him?
Does he sulk and disappear? Or does he use this disappointment as some sort of fuel and go on another of his 15-goals-in-10-games kind of runs? The fear, frankly, is that the hangover will last longer than anyone including Ovi would like.
Let’s say he does go on a goals barrage and carry the Caps into the playoffs. Maybe they win a couple of series. Maybe he wins his fourth MVP.
He still won’t have an Olympic medal. He’ll still have the memory of the sorrow in Sochi.
His mental toughness will be tested like never before. His teammates will do whatever they can to help him get past the disappointment. For all the Caps’ flaws, bad character isn’t on the list. They’ll remind Ovi how important he is to their chances, how much they need him.
The burden, though, is all on Ovi. Only he can chase these demons from his head. Only he can get his mind right and get ready to be a force for the Capitals again.
The Olympic hockey tournament rolls on, with a pair of what should be terrific semifinals on Friday. Finland plays Sweden in what should be a goalie showcase: Tuukka Rask against Henrik Lundqvist. That’s as good as it gets. Team USA plays Canada in a rematch of the 2010 gold medal game won by Canada on Sidney Crosby’s overtime goal.
Winners play Sunday for the gold. Losers play Saturday for the bronze.
Hopefully for Caps fans, the Ovechkin part doesn’t apply to the rest of this season. We’ll know soon enough.