October 20, 2019

Capitals face uphill battle to playoffs

Alex Ovechkin during warmups at Verizon Center, May 2 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

(Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

With the end of the Olympic tournament, the attention of the hockey world will shift back to the NHL and the final quarter of the regular season. One point out of the final playoff spot, the Caps face an uphill climb to reach the postseason for the seventh consecutive season.

In the last full NHL season, it took 92 points to make the playoffs. The playoff format has changed since then, but with the same number of teams qualifying his will be about the number of points teams will need to earn the last spot.

The Caps currently have 63 points with 24 games remaining on their schedule. As they currently own no tiebreakers, the team will likely need at least 30 points in those last 24 games. That would be a record slightly above .500. Doesn’t sound too hard, right?

Well, it does when you look at the schedule. [Read more…]

Still want the NHL players in the Olympics?

Henrik Zetterberg — done for the season with back surgery.

John Tavares — done for the season with knee surgery.

Alex Ovechkin — humiliated by his own national team’s coach while his father was, unknowing to Ovechkin, recovering from open heart surgery.

U.S. Men’s Team — embarrassed themselves with pathetic effort in the bronze medal game.

Now this: Nicklas Backstrom — druggie?

It’s not that extreme, but it is serious. Mild-mannered Nicklas Backstrom was suspended from Team Sweden two hours before Sunday’s gold medal final against Team Canada, which Sweden then lost 3-0. He tested for elevated levels of pseudoephedrine, a controlled substance by the IOC and the World Anti-Doping Federation. There’s a distinction here between “banned”, which you might see in a lot of lazy headlines about the incident, and “controlled”.

Pseudoephedrine is the active ingredient in many cold and allergy medicines. Backstrom takes Zyrtec-D for his allergies, and has for many years. In fact, he was taking the product during the 2010 Vancouver games. According to the IOC, pseudoephedrine is prohibited when its concentration in an athletes’ urine is greater than 150 micrograms per milliliter. According to reports, Backstrom’s level was 190.

This could have been caused by many things. Doping is one of them. Pseudoephedrine is a stimulant and can increase alertness or awareness. Abuse of the drug is similar to using AHDH medications, a common practice among athletes. However, the level of pseudoephedrine in Backstrom’s system doesn’t really indicate that to be the case.

More realistically, Backstrom took two pills instead of one and was then tested quickly thereafter.

A somber Backstrom faced the media in Sochi.

“I have nothing to hide. I’m going to speak from the heart. The last two weeks have been some of the best in my life. I was getting ready to play the biggest game of my career and two-and-a-half hours before I was pulled aside. That’s sad.”

Caps coach Adam Oates addressed Backstrom’s suspension from the Olympics after practice Sunday, which will not affect his status once the NHL resumes next week.

“It’s a blunder. It’s an innocent blunder. It’s still a blunder,” Oates said. “When we have mistakes in our league,  that summer the [general managers] all meet and they try and fix it for the next  time. To me this seems like one that the IOC will have to try to address for the next time because it’s not fair to the  athletes. It’s not. To me it’s not fair to him.”

As if league owners needed one more excuse to prohibit NHLers from playing in further Olympics.

There were several league owners who spoke on the record before the games about not wanting their players in the Olympics — Flyers owner Ed Snider was particularly loquacious about it. For the owners, this is all about the money. They gain very little other than goodwill by allowing the league to shut down for two weeks every four years to allow their players (property) to go gallivanting off around the globe risking their health to represent their country in international play.

For the players, they obviously still see it as an honor. In most countries, Olympic gold is the highest honor in sport, hockey included. But adding insult (Backstrom, the U.S. embarrassment) to injury (Zetterberg, Tavares), is it worth allowing the best the NHL has to offer to risk season-ending and career-threatening injury for a cause not relevant to the league?

The NHL receives no compensation for allowing their players to go on holiday. They certainly receive no compensation or remuneration to make up for the injured players that return. Season ticket holders receive no rebate for their team’s weakened condition. There’s no way to go back and reverse the ill will bred by the pathetic effort the U.S. men’s team exhibited in the bronze medal game. There’s no way to placate Backstrom’s disappointment being ripped from his team’s dressing room mere hours before the game, when the IOC had been sitting on the test results for several days.

There’s no way Ovechkin can go back and be at his father’s side as he receives heart surgery, unaware of the situation until Team Russia was eliminated from the competition.

If the NHL wants to adopt a league-sanctioned international competition outside the regular season, where the players will have access to team and league doctors, and play under league rules, and are covered by league insurance, that’s one thing. And I’m sure if Gary Bettman thinks he can make money off of it and get the owners off his backs, he’s already exploring the idea.

The play would be better too. Under league control, the teams would have time to practice together to become cohesive teams, not just a bunch of supremely talented players thrown together and two days later put on the ice in the worldwide spotlight. No one can say the play on the ice this Olympics — as with any the NHL players have been involved with — wasn’t ragged for most of the time.

At this point, the league would be better off prohibiting their players from playing in the Olympics. It’s just not worth it for anyone involved.

Russia’s Olympic loss renews criticism towards Ovechkin

Washington Capitals fans have become accustomed to the ceaseless criticism of their team and captain Alex Ovechkin by the Canadian-based media ever since Alex Ovechkin entered the league. The words have become more stinging as the years have gone by, as season after season ends with the Caps in the same place, ousted in the first or second round of the playoffs.

With Team Russia’s loss to Tuukka Rask’s Finland team — no slouch themselves — in the Olympic Quarterfinals Wednesday, those criticisms of Ovechkin have reached new heights. Is it fair?

Ovechkin wasn’t Russia’s team captain — that responsibility fell to Pavel Datsyuk, who performed admirably (2 goals, 4 assists in five games) despite playing on one leg. But Ovechkin was certainly the “face” of Sochi’s Olympics, with his gap-toothed mug on billboards and soda machines throughout the Olympic village and venues.

Now, with the Russians failing to medal for the third straight Olympics, in their own country no less, Ovechkin is left to wear the shame for his entire country.

There’s very little mention of the lackluster KHL players forced onto the roster and into inexplicable important roles on the team, or the lack of quality defensive players for the Russian squad.

Even his coach, the Soviet-era relic Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, threw Ovechkin under the bus in his response to the initial question in his postgame press conference.

“It’s difficult to explain why we didn’t score,” Bilyaletdinov said to the international press through a translator. “The players who usually score more on their teams, especially Alex Ovechkin, who has scored 40 goals for his team so far. I can’t explain it.”

Maybe if the Russians had someone more relevant behind the bench that person wouldn’t have to explain it.

Ovechkin, who has played right wing the past two seasons, was switched back to left for the national team, with Evgeni Malkin at center and Alexander Popov on the right.

Who is Alexander Popov? He’s a 33-year-old right winger the plays in the KHL who hasn’t scored more than 10 goals since 08-09 and who’s season high for goals is 14.

Malkin was even more a ghost at these games than Ovechkin was, but with his Stanley Cup pedigree and reluctance for the spotlight in any circumstance, has avoided blame for the latest Russian failure.

On the power play, Ovechkin was slated for a traditional point position, instead of his lethal area along the half-boards on the faceoff circle, or even at the edges of the goal mouth. It seems his journey to an Olympic medal was made more difficult by those that were supposed to be leading the team.

Alex Ovechkin didn’t fail Russia. Russia failed him.

Now, the player must come back to D.C. to try to resuscitate the Caps fading playoff hopes. He’s done all that’s been asked from him in Washington and more, leading the planet in goals and oftentimes carrying the Caps squad on his back with little to no help.

Will Ovechkin have the requisite determination and drive necessary to lead the Caps after the utter disappointment of his team failing to medal in its home county? Even if he does score 25 goals in the Caps remaining 23 games, will it be enough for the Caps to qualify for the postseason?

The only thing for certain is this: If the Caps fail to make the playoffs, regardless of what Ovechkin does, he’ll once again have all the criticism and blamed heaped solely on him. Who can blame him if one day soon he says достаточный.

Enough.

NHL trying to put Olympics on ice

On Saturday morning, fans across America celebrated an absolutely incredible Olympic shootout win over Russia. People across the country woke up early and were rewarded with an amazing game that somehow lived up to all of the hype. Americans cheered and tweeted all day about USA’s incredible victory.

Meanwhile NHL commissioner Gary Bettman sat in his ivory tower, arms crossed, watching disapprovingly as his sport took center stage and NHL players did their sport proud.

Ok, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but Saturday’s game shows the absurdity of the NHL’s desire to pull its players from future Olympic participation.

Both Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly have expressed the owner’s desire to keep the players out of future Olympic tournaments and the league does have valid concerns. Fans may have had the opportunity to watch Saturday’s game because it landed on the weekend, but except for the few times the Olympics are held in North America, the foreign schedule is not conducive for a large TV audience.

It doesn’t matter how great the games are if no one is watching.

Olympic participation also means a two-to-three week break in the NHL season. That stops the league’s momentum at a time when it is no longer competing with the NFL for an audience. It is hard to bring fans back after such a long break.

There is also the obvious injury concern as players can injure themselves playing in what essentially amount to exhibition games in the NHL’s eyes.

Is it worth risking the health of the league’s best players and the fans’ patience for a tournament that most people won’t even be able to watch?

Given where the next Olympics will be held and how long it took for the NHL to approve player participation in Sochi, there will likely be a real fight for the players to represent their national teams in four years.

When the NHL first hinted its displeasure with the Olympics, Alex Ovechkin made it clear he was going to Sochi regardless, saying he would go even if the season did not pause for an Olympic break. The 2018 Olympics will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea. It is doubtful he will make same threat then.

The real fight for the future of NHL Olympic participation is going to be for Pyeongchang. With so many Canadian stars, the NHL would have had a hard time keeping the players out of Vancouver four years ago and the same goes for Sochi.

There aren’t any South Korean superstars in the NHL. While representing one’s country is always important, Pyeongchang just will not carry the same importance as either Vancouver or Sochi.

That doesn’t mean, however, that players won’t fight to play in the Olympics. Despite what the NHL may think, ending their Olympics participation would be bad for the sport and for business.

The NHL season grinds to a halt every year already for an All-Star event that many fans really do not care about. Though the All-Star break is not as long as the Olympic break, there is no question that Olympic hockey generates more interest among fans than the All-Star game.

The NHL is also underestimating the world-wide importance of the Olympics to European players. As the KHL continues to rise in prominence and popularity, it is foolish for the NHL to deny players the chance to represent their native countries.

Alex Ovechkin is one of the faces of the Sochi Olympics because that’s how important this hockey tournament is. Eventually, the Winter Olympics will return to Europe and every European player in the league will want to represent their countries in front of their friends and families.

With the ‘defection’ of superstar Ilya Kovalchuk back to Russia and the KHL, is it really smart to give the KHL another major advantage in terms of convincing European players to stay?

How about an example that hits closer to home for Caps fans. Evgeny Kuznetsov appears to finally be ready to make his NHL debut after the conclusion of the KHL season. As he watches the Sochi Olympics, you can bet there are people in his ear telling him he may never represent Russia in the Olympics if the NHL has its way.

For many players trying to decide between the NHL and KHL, the Olympics could tip the balance just a little more towards the KHL.

The NHL of course isn’t saying that players can’t represent their countries. “I’m very much a believer in the World Cup,” said Bettman during a Q&A with TSN’s Gord Miller. “I think they’re great. Doing it at a time of year in places that we can control makes a whole lot more sense for us in terms of what we try to accomplish as the NHL. And we think it’s good for international hockey as well.”

But while a world cup may solve the problem for the NHL, the NHL seems to be assuming other leagues would follow suite. Why would the KHL throw its support behind the NHL’s Olympic alternative? Any NHL-backed tournament would likely be held more frequently in North America in order to benefit the NHL’s audience.

So here’s the choice the KHL faces. They can continue to allow their players to play in an already established, popular tournament that all their players want to play in and watch as the NHL withdraws its players allowing the European teams to dominate. They can then use Olympic participation as a recruiting tool for all players considering leaving for the NHL.

Or the KHL could help the NHL with its World Cup idea that would be organized in a way that best suits the NHL.

Hmm, where’s the benefit for the KHL?

The NHL is squaring itself up for a fight with its players that will benefit a major competitor in the KHL. It’s hard to take the NHL seriously as they cite player safety when international hockey is played on a wider rink and does not allow fighting. This is strictly a business decision and it is the wrong one.

The benefits of Olympic participation, though limited, are clear in the wake of such great hockey like fans were treated to on Saturday. Abandoning the Olympics for a World Cup the rest of the world has little reason to care about is just bad business.

Ovechkin, Carlson both score in easy wins for Russia and U.S.

Alex Ovechkin scored on his first shift of the 2014 Winter Olympics, while John Carlson started Team U.S.A.’s scoring frenzy as both Russian and the U.S. won their first game of the round-robin section of the tournament.

Ovechkin’s blast from the left wing started the scoring for Team Russia as they knocked off Slovenia 5-2. The Great 8 added an assist later on.

Carlson took a drop pass from Phil Kessel on a break and fired a rocket past Jaroslav Halak as Team U.S.A. cruised past Slovakia 7-1.

Nick Backstrom had an assist on Erik Karlsson’s second goal in Team Sweden’s 4-2 victory over Czech Republic, while Marcus Johansson was a healthy scratch. Martin Erat did not record a point in the contest.

 

What to watch for from the five Caps headed to Sochi

(photo courtesy Washington Capitals)

(photo courtesy Washington Capitals)

With the Olympic games underway, Washington Capitals fans will soon be seeing some familiar faces competing in Sochi.

Five Caps will be making the trek to Russia to represent their respective countries. Here are a few things fans should be watching for:

Alex Ovechkin

Obviously the most pressure will be on the Great 8 himself as he tries to carry the host nation to gold. Russia was embarrassed in Vancouver as they were handed a 7-3 drubbing by Canada in the quarterfinals. The Russians have not earned a medal since taking bronze in 2002 and the pressure is on for this team to get back on the medal stand.

Pavel Datsyuk will captain the team, but even so Ovechkin will be one of this team’s leaders as he is among the nation’s biggest stars. He has already been one of the faces of the these Olympics as he unveiled the team’s new jersey and was the first Russian to carry the Olympic torch in Greece as it began its long trek to Sochi.

The question is how will he handle the pressure?

Hockey is a big-time sport in Russia. Players do not dream of growing up and playing for the Stanley Cup. For them, the Olympics are really the pinnacle of the sport. After multiple playoff failures in Washington, some have questioned whether Ovechkin’s leadership is partly to blame.

If he can lead his team back to Olympic glory, he will have answered just about every question about whether he can handle the pressure on the biggest stage. Carrying the weight of Washington will seem like a cakewalk after carrying a nation.

Nicklas Backstrom

Backstrom’s elite skills are often overshadowed by the other superstar on the Caps’ roster. Sweden is absolutely loaded with talent and is one of the favorites to win the gold. The Olympics will offer him the chance to show how good he really is to fans who think of him more as Ovechkin’s sidekick.

It is easy to forget how good offensively Backstrom really is when it seems all he has to do is pass to Ovechkin and watch the show. Backstrom will be an intricate part of Sweden’s offense and a major reason for their success depending on how far they go.

Backstrom can remind the world on the Olympic stage that he’s pretty good too.

Marcus Johansson

With Henrik Sedin’s withdrawal from the Olympics, Johansson got his chance to join Backstrom on team Sweden. Though he is third on the Caps in points with 36, he only has seven goals. He has played incredibly passive this season when on the top line, deferring too much to his teammates.

Anyone can be put on a line with Backstrom and Ovechkin and feed them the puck, but Johansson wasn’t placed on the top line just to be a third wheel. He has his own offensive skills that he just is not utilizing right now in NHL play.

The fact that Johansson was replaced on the top line by Martin Erat is a pretty big sign that he’s not living up to Adam Oates’ expectations for his top left wing.

The Olympics will offer Johansson a chance to be more aggressive offensively. As a replacement player he may not get too much playing time, but hopefully he will take advantage of the time he does get on the ice. He’ll be playing with some good players, but on one of the lower lines he won’t be as overshadowed as he is in Washington. If he can show some aggressiveness in Sochi and bring that mentality home, it will be a huge boon for the Caps.

Martin Erat

Thank goodness he got his first goal of the season Saturday just prior to the Olympic break. Had Erat gone to Sochi and scored before he could even tally one goal this season in the NHL, there would be a lot of pretty bitter Caps fans waiting for him when he got home.

Lost amid his struggles this season is the fact that Erat is still a top-six NHL forward, evidenced by the fact that he is going to Sochi to play for the Czech Republic. Yes, he was called up to replace Vladimir Sobotka, but it is still is a major honor and a vote of confidence from the hockey community.

Sochi now offers Erat the chance to showcase his talents to other prospective NHL teams. The biggest problem Erat has had in Washington is that he just does not fit anywhere into Oates’ lineup. As a result, he has been passed around from line to line and his production has decreased. It’s hard to convince other teams that Erat is a top-six forward when he’s playing on the fourth line and can’t score.

Hopefully Erat will be a better fit for head coach Alois Hadamczik. With a coach who can utilize Erat, he can show that he can still contribute on another NHL team.

John Carlson

Carlson will be the first Capital ever to represent the United States in the Olympics. Widely considered to be the best defenseman on the Caps’ roster, it will be interesting to see where Carlson is in the lineup and how he is utilized by USA coach Dan Bylsma.

If Carlson seems overwhelmed by the tough competition, it will tell fans a lot about the state of the Caps’ defense. This also could be very important for the Caps’ other top offensive playmaker on the blue line, Mike Green.

There has been speculation surrounding Green all season long with his declining production about whether he could be on the trade block. Though a trade before the deadline is not likely to happen, if Carlson plays well it may make McPhee feel better about a possible move in the offseason.
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JJ Regan is a Contributor to District Sports Page. He is an aspiring sports journalist currently earning his master’s degree in interactive journalism from American University and has his own website at regansports.com. He is also a digital freelancer for Comcast SportsNet Washington and Baltimore and is a contributor for Yahoo Sports on the Capitals and Redskins. JJ follows all D.C. sports but specializes in the Capitals. You can follow him on Twitter @TheDC_Sportsguy.

Marcus Johansson named as injury replacement for Team Sweden

Marcus Johansson during warmups at Verizon Center (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Marcus Johansson during warmups at Verizon Center (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Washington Capitals LW/C Marcus Johansson was named to Sweden’s Olympic hockey team early Friday, according to multiple industry sources. Johansson, 23, will replaced the injured Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks, who was forced to withdraw due to a rib injury.

Johansson becomes the fifth Caps player to represent his nation in Sochi, joining Alex Ovechkin (Russia), Nick Backstrom (Sweden), John Carlson (U.S.A.) and Martin Erat (Czech Republic), who was named this week as an injury replacement himself.

Johansson has had an up-and-down season, though he’s well on his way to posting his best numbers as an NHLer. After his two-assist performance in Thursday’s 4-2 win over Winnipeg, through 57 games, he has seven goals and 29 assists, third on the Caps with 36 points, despite shooting a career-low 9.3 percent.

The forward will bring speed and skating ability to the bigger international ice sheet, and his passing creativity in recent weeks shows a young player starting to tap into his raw talent. Though his shot is still a work in progress, especially considering his seeming reluctance to use the weapon, he has exhibited some craftiness around the goal and his backhanded assist on Troy Brouwer’s first goal Thursday was a true gem.

This is Johansson’s first Olympics. He represented Sweden in the  2010 World Junior championships.

Caps’ Carlson has Olympic “dream come true”

After John Carlson did the photo-op thing in front of the White House Wednesday evening after being named to the U.S. Men’s Olympic team, he did a telephone press conference as well for media members that couldn’t schlep downtown. The following is the transcript. Please enjoy responsibly.

On his initial reaction and where he heard the news:

“I feel great about it. It’s a dream come true. I was watching the [Winter Classic] at home with my girlfriend and just waiting and waiting finally saw the kid skate up with my jersey on and was pretty relieved. It’s been a good start, first half of the season but obviously with this at the back of your mind you’re always wondering, so it’s nice that it’s come to an end now and obviously even better that I made the team.

On WJC teammates Cam Fowler and Derek Stepan making the team as well:

When I went to lunch with Mathieu Perreault when [the Ducks] were in town Cam was there too, so it’s always nice to catch up with them and I’m looking forward to being on the same team with him again.

Going back to the summer practice at Kettler, did you feel good about chances?

I always knew that I had a great shot to make the team, I just needed to do my job and it would all play out. But I don’t make those decisions, so you never know. So it made it even better today when I found out. Obviously it’s a thrilling experience and positive. I’m just looking forward to getting over there now.

On his favorite Olympic memories:

I think last Olympics was probably the funnest for me to watch. Just based off the competition and knowing people in the games and playing against some of them in certain situations. That was pretty cool. But I don’t think much could beat the ‘Miracle on Ice’ in 1980.

On the roster construction:

I think we have a great team. USA hockey’s doing great over the past five years or ten years now with such strong teams. It’s a positive and I’m looking forward to being on that team.

On what he feels are the strengths of the team:

I think skating. I think even in the last Olympics for the U.S. they were a really fast team. We’re hard on the puck and can skate with any other team and I think that’s important on the big surface like they said. It’s always nice to have that. We’ve got tons of skill and size and creative as well, but I think skating is going to be important in this one.

On hitting Ovi and the possibility of playing against Caps teammates:

It’ll be difference playing again some of your good friends and stuff like that but that’ll make the experience even better, I think in my mind.

On the team’s plan between now and going over to Russia:

I’m sure there’ll be a ton of information they’ll have to give us. They gave us a lot even just in the summer camp, just to kind of guide us into it a little bit. I talked to [Penguins GM and U.S. Olympic ass’t GM] Ray Shero a little bit today just for a few minutes, just about congratulatory messages and just chatting real quick. I’m sure they’ll be in touch in the next week or so.

On the challenges of the larger international 100 foot rink:

I just think the angles, more for goalies, for sure it’s huge. For defensemen, your positioning is even more paramount, I think. Making sure that you’re staying in the middle of the ice and get a feel for that aspect of defense. Obviously in the corners and stuff, the battles will be the same. It’ll be fun, being on the open ice. I talked to Marty Erat about it a little bit. He’s trying to tell me few tips about it here and there on the differences and what-not. It’ll be a change, but a great change, for a great thing.

On the Penguins influence and if getting along with everyone will be a problem:

I don’t think so at all. I think even meeting everyone this summer it’s almost like everyone’s friends off the ice even with people you might not like on the ice. In particular, I don’t ‘not-like’ anyone so I don’t think we’ll have to worry about that. It’s a cool tournament in the same sense of the World Juniors where they’re people you need to gel with together right away and you get over there and playing the next day, so there’s a lot more onus on that aspect of the game and I think that everyone’s obviously willing to do what it takes to win.

Comparing attention of the World Juniors to the Olympics:

[The WJC] is a mini version of the Olympics in a sense. I’m happy with my past experience with that, being able to win that tournament was great. It’s a whole different animal playing in another different country, with the atmosphere and the ice and all the teams that will be there will add to how cool it is.

On Ovechkin’s comments that Carlson belonged on Team U.S.A.:

I think it’s great, obviously. We’ve got a close team and it’s nice to hear that, especially from your captain. I’m just glad to be on the team and contribute [to the Caps] and obviously that’s just rolled over in another dream of mine.

John Carlson’s “chance of a lifetime” on Team USA

Photo credit: Monumental Network

Photo credit: Monumental Network

Wednesday evening, John Carlson, newly selected to represent the US in Sochi, Russia in the 2014 Olympics, held court for reporters and fans in front of the White House mere hours after receiving the good news. After being invited to the US team’s orientation camp in August, it was widely speculated that Carlson had a good chance to make the Olympic team, and his strong play in the early part of the season, especially in Mike Green’s absence, undoubtedly made the decision easy for the selection committee.

Carlson fielded questions about the strength of the US team, his safety in Russia, the possibility of playing against his current teammates, and his reaction to the news of his selection. He is the first Capitals player so far to be named to a national Olympic team. Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom will most likely be representing their respective countries, Russia and Sweden, in Sochi as well. Teammates Karl Alzner and Braden Holtby were invited to Team Canada’s orientation camp over the summer, but don’t appear to be in the mix for a spot on the Canadian Olympic team at the moment.

The former London Knight has represented the US before, in the 2010 World Junior Ice Hockey Championship tournament. He scored the game-winning goal in overtime against Team Canada, and was named to  NHL.com’s All-Time World Junior Championship team in December 2010.

The full transcript of Carlson’s scrum is below.

Where were you when you found out?

Just at home. I was watching the game [Winter Classic], and then just waiting, trying to wait patiently , but it seemed like the game was five hours long.

Did you get a text in advance?

No, nothing. And then I had everyone, like all my family and stuff, texting me ‘Do you get a heads up? Have you heard anything?’ Everyone thought that I would get to hear something before that, but obviously the outcome was great, so it doesn’t really matter. It was definitely an experience.

What does it mean to not only be representing your country but also DC?

It’s obviously an honor to represent your country, and I feel a bond with DC, so I think it’s really cool even that we get to do something like this – stand in front of the White House. I’ve always loved this city, so it’s got a lot of meaning. That meaning is the same for me, getting a chance to play for my country, I’ve only done it twice before, and it’s a whole other level.

Any concerns about safety?

No comment.

Who have you heard from since you heard the news?

Right now just talking to my family, my parents, and my brother, and stuff like that. Then Ray Shero called me from the team, and just talked to him for five minutes, maybe. That was it. I think we got an email, and I guess they’ll just let us know what the protocol is.

What do you know, and what did Ray fill you in on?

Not much. He just said ‘congrats, you deserve it,’ and ‘keep playing well’.  I think they’re coming to play us before or we’re going there before, so he said we’ll grab a minute to talk.

You got a taste of the orientation camp, what was that atmosphere like?

When I heard that I was named to that, it was still an honor for me. With a unique tournament like that, it’s important to get together and take care of a lot of stuff so you don’t have to worry about it towards the tournament. Obviously, being such a short tournament, everyone knowing each other is a big part of it, too.

Have you ever been to Russia?

No.

What are your thoughts about that?

I think it’ll be great. I heard that the village is going to be unlike anything else, because they just built everything. Everything is going to be close, and easily accessible for all of us. I’m really looking forward to it.

Have you thought about the possibility of facing Alex [Ovechkin] and Nick [Backstrom] on the other side?

Honestly, I haven’t, but I was thinking the other day, I was like ‘okay, let me just make sure, pay a little more attention to what they’re doing out there, just in case’. I guess I gotta keep my eye on them now.

Do you have friends on that team that you’ve played with before?

I’ve played with a bunch of them- not a bunch- a handful, probably, over the years, and at World Juniors. The hockey world is so small that, you go to the camp, and I didn’t think I’d know too many people, and then ten minutes later, you’re like, I actually know over half of them right away.

Can you lean on your 2010 World Juniors experience, and what you got out of that?

Absolutely. I think any type of hockey experience you can take a lot out of, and I see that being for our country as well. It was pretty cool. I’m just looking forward to being a part of this team over there, and it’s going to be a chance of a lifetime.

What kind of team do you think Team USA will be?

What they did with the kids was pretty cool, but once they got to my name, I kind of lost track of everything else. After fifteen minutes of calling people and stuff like that, and hearing from Sergey [Capitals PR], I was like ‘oh, let me look who else is on there’, so I rewinded it. It’s a great team, I think very dynamic players that give the Caps problems all the time, so I think [with] the big ice surface, that we’re going to be pretty fast. I think they were the last Olympics, and that’s all I can really think about right now.

 

Photo credit: Monumental Network

Photo credit: Monumental Network

Carlson named to U.S. Olympic Team

(photo courtesy Washington Capitals)

(photo courtesy Washington Capitals)

Defenseman John Carlson was named to the U.S. Men’s Olympic team Wednesday. The announcement was name at the conclusion of the Winter Classic, where Toronto beat Detroit in a shootout.

From the Caps press release:

Carlson, 23, will be making his first Olympic appearance. The 6’3”, 212-pound defenseman from Natick, Massachusetts, ranks tied for fifth among NHL defensemen in goals this season (7), first among Washington skaters in blocked shots (83) and average ice time (24:41) and second on the team in shots (107). In the last two seasons, Carlson ranks third in goals (13) among NHL defensemen born in the United States, trailing only Keith Yandle (16) and Dustin Byfluglien (15). In 274 career NHL games with Washington, Carlson has tallied 112 points (30 goals, 82 assists) and a plus-26 rating.

Carlson led the Hershey Bears, the Capitals’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, to the Calder Cup championship in 2010, collecting seven points (two goals, five assists) in 13 playoff games. Carlson scored the cup-clinching goal in Game 6 of the 2010 Calder Cup finals against the Texas Stars. That same year, Carlson scored the overtime, game-winning goal to help the United States win the gold medal at the 2010 World Junior Championship (WJC) against Canada. He posted three goals and four assists in seven tournament games as an alternate captain and was named to the WJC All-Star Team. In addition, Carlson helped Hershey win the 2009 Calder Cup championship, collecting three points (one goal, two assists) in 16 playoff games.

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