Since the middle of December, Alex Ovechkin has been asked every question under the sun about the upcoming Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
What’s it like to see your face on a Coke can? How does it feel to be the face of Russia? What will it be like to face teammates Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson? Who’s the favorite to win the gold? Will you play right wing or left wing? What’s your favorite color? Which do you prefer, boxers or briefs?
OK, maybe not every question under the sun. But you get the idea.
“It’s tough,” Ovechkin admitted. “All the time the same questions, but it is what it is. It’s something I have to do and I do it.”
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Through it all, the Capitals’ 28-year-old captain has somehow managed to lead the Capitals and the NHL with 39 goals. He’s on pace for 57 goals, his highest total since cranking out a career-high 65 goals six years ago.
His goal in Detroit Friday night with seven seconds remaining secured a point for the Capitals. His overtime goal against the Red Wings on Super Bowl Sunday earned them two more points.
Somehow, Ovechkin has been able to enjoy his best offensive season in six years while satisfying interview request after interview request and photo shoot after photo shoot.
“There is a lot thrown on the guy and I don’t think any of us can really understand how much it is,” Capitals teammate Brooks Laich said.
“But once he gets out on the ice he’s free of all that [media], so him getting out on the ice is really enjoyable. You see him jumping after goals. You see the enthusiasm back again. It’s great to see. He’s a big part of our team and almost every game he’s going to get us a goal. I think he’s done a great job.”
Ovechkin said he’s spent the past few weeks just trying to get through the demands so that he can have enough energy to play at a high level for his country in Sochi.
“Of course, you want as many days off as possible to just don’t think about hockey,” he said. “Don’t think about sticks or skates or anything. But the schedule right now is very hard.”
The Caps were given Wednesday off and conclude their pre-Olympic schedule with games against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday and New Jersey Devils on Saturday nights.
Despite the grind Laich said he sees a different Alex Ovechkin than he saw in previous seasons. He sees a more consistent and more emotional player night in and night out.
“I think he’s matured,” Laich said. “He’s in a better place now and can handle more of that responsibility.
“At the start of last year I remember he scored a goal against Toronto on the power play and he kind of [calmly] tapped the guys on the shoulder sort of thing. That’s not our Ovi. That’s not how he goes. We know him differently than that.
“He brings that enthusiasm almost every night, no matter what the situation. That’s something unique about him. We really like it. It’s infectious. It gives us a smile on the bench and the fans seem to like it, too. And it’s back.”
Strachan sent back to Hershey: The Capitals re-assigned defenseman Tyson Strachan to the AHL Hershey Bears on Wednesday. Strachan, 29, had played the last three games for the Caps in place of Mike Green, who has been sidelined by a concussion. His assignment could mean Green has been cleared to practice on Thursday. We'll update during the Capitals' morning skate on Thursday.