Alex Ovechkin excited to represent Russia in the Olympics
By the end of Tuesday, the 25-man rosters for the 12 teams participating in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia will be finalized.
We already know Capitals defenseman John Carlson will be making the trek to Sochi, but what about the rest of the Caps’ Olympic hopefuls?
And, perhaps more importantly, what will those selections mean to the Capitals’ hopes of making the playoffs and going deep once they get there?
Alex Ovechkin, who back in September traveled to Olympia, Greece, to begin the Olympic torch run, is a slam dunk to be on the Russian team. Ovi is the face of the Sochi Games, after all, and well, the guy leads the NHL with 31 goals.
Nicklas Backstrom is another lock with Team Sweden. The 24-year-old native of Gavle leads all NHL Swedes with 46 points in 42 games and has an excellent chance of centering the Swedes’ top line in Sochi.
That gives the Caps a minimum of three Olympians.
Caps left wing/center Marcus Johansson, 23, probably has the next best chance. With six goals and 22 assists Johansson ranks ninth in scoring among Swedish players in the NHL. He said he’s not sure if he’s played well enough to make the team, but has not made any plans for the two-week Olympic break from Feb. 9-22.
Caps defensemen Mike Green [5 goals, 16 assists, minus-11] and Karl Alzner [1 goal, 7 assists, minus-4] and goaltender Braden Holtby [13-11-2, 3.08 GAA, .910 save percentage] were invited to Team Canada’s Olympic orientation camp in August, but none of the three has been included on most of Team Canada’s projected Olympic rosters.
That leaves only Caps center Mikhail Grabovski [11 goals, 19 assists] and Caps goalie Philipp Grubauer, but since their home countries of Belarus and Germany did not make the 12-team tournament, they’ll be watching the Winter Games and not playing in them.
The Olympic tournament will be broken into three groups, with Russia, U.S., Slovakia and Slovenia in Group A, Canada, Finland, Austria and Norway in Group B, and Sweden, Czech Republic, Switzerland and Latvia in Group C.
Over the weekend, Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle openly wondered what kind of impact having players in the Olympics would have on his team’s playoff chase.
“From my experience with it in Anaheim, we had seven players go to the  Olympics and we had [Ryan] Getzlaf, [Corey] Perry and Scott Niedermayer come back and they didn't have any emotion left when they got back,” Carlyle said. “They participated in winning a gold medal, and it was difficult to get those guys back to the level that we needed them at that time, and it's understandable.
There is also ample evidence that the Olympic experience can have a positive impact on an NHL team. The Chicago Blackhawks had nine players in the 2010 Games and went on to win the Stanley Cup.
With at least three and possibly four Olympians, the Caps can only hope for the same.