How will Olympics impact Caps' five participants?

How will Olympics impact Caps' five participants?
February 24, 2014, 1:30 pm
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Fifteen days ago five Capitals embarked for Sochi, Russia  with visions of gold medals dancing in their heads . When they return to Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Tuesday, only one, Marcus Johansson, will have an Olympic medal.

For very different reasons, it was an emotional two weeks for all five of the Caps’ Olympians.

- Immediately after being upset by Finland to finish fifth in the Olympic tournament, Alex Ovechkin learned his father had suffered an apparent heart attack three nights earlier.

- Defenseman John Carlson opened the men’s tournament with the Americans’ first goal, but ended his first Olympic experience on the wrong end of shutout losses to the Canadians and Finns to finish without a medal.

- Johansson, a late addition to Team Sweden, returns from Sochi with a silver medal, but his closest Capitals teammate, Nicklas Backstrom, comes home empty handed and empty hearted after being disqualified from the gold medal game against Canada for testing positive for Pseudoephedrine, a product commonly found in allergy medications.

- Left wing Marty Erat also returns empty handed after the Czechs were bounced from the tournament by the Canadian powerhouse. He was consoled, however, when he heard his wife gave birth to their second child in Nashville.

RELATED: [Ovechkin turns the page on Sochi Olympics]

Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said he’ll congratulate Johansson on his silver medal but he’s not quite sure what to say to Backstrom, who was not on the medal stand and may not receive a silver medal.

“It’s so unfortunate,” Alzner said. “I’m sure he feels terrible and I probably won’t ask him about it when he gets here. Just kind of let it go away. It’s too bad. That guy’s a difference maker and it could have been a totally different outcome with him in.”

Forced to play their final game of the tournament without star centers Henrik Sedin, Henrik Zetterberg and Backstrom, Sweden was shut out by Canada 3-0 in the gold medal game.

“I know Nicklas cares,” Capitals center/left wing Brooks Laich said. “Hockey is very important to him. He’s a very passionate guy. Also, on that team he was a leader. Every game I’ve played with him I’ve seen his intensity and emotion for the game and his will to win.

“Playing for your country in a gold medal game, that is potentially a once-in-a-lifetime shot. He’s still young [26], but that may be the only chance he ever gets to ply in an Olympic gold medal game.

“I don’t know all the circumstances, but it’s really an unfortunate break for him. He’s a good kid and I don’t think he deserved it.”

As the Capitals’ longest-tenured player, Laich has seen Johansson blossom into a solid, two-way player whose point-per-game production increased in each of his first three years with the Caps.

“Good for him, Marcus has earned it,” Laich said. “He’s played well for us this year. A lot of the headlines go to Nicky and Ovi, but he’s a big part of that line, too. I’m really happy to see our little boy up there on TV getting a medal.”

With Canada’s win over Sweden, Laich won back the bottle of whiskey he lost to Capitals assistant coach Calle Johansson when Sweden won the 2013 World Championships.

Laich and Alzner said Canada was touted for having the most talented offensive forwards in the men’s Olympic tournament, but it was their team defense – Laich called it “suffocating” that prevailed over the U.S. and Sweden.

“I liked what [Jonathan] Toews said at the end there,” Alzner said. “People were panicking about the [low] amount of goals Canada was scoring. But that’s not what they were trying to do.

“If they wanted to take chances they had guys who can take chances and maybe they’re winning games 6-4, but not winning the way they wanted. I think it’s more impressive to win the gold with three goals against than to win the gold scoring 30 goals.”