Alex Ovechkin's Trip to World Championship Brings Closure to a Painful Season

Robert WoodCorrespondent IMay 28, 2014

Russia forward Alexander Ovechkin celebrates as he holds up the trophy after Russia defeated Finland 5-2 in the gold medal match at the Ice Hockey World Championship in Minsk, Belarus, Sunday, May 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
Darko Bandic/Associated Press

Washington Capitals fans know all too well that Alex Ovechkin had a nightmare season in 2013-14. 

Hell, the entire hockey world knows that. 

That nightmare status was cemented when Ovechkin's Capitals were excluded from the postseason party for the first time since 2006-07. It cost both the general manager and the head coach their jobs. 

But that was not the biggest disappointment from Ovechkin's standpoint. That occurred in his homeland, during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. 

Ovechkin and his Russian teammates were expected to win gold, even if they were not the odds-on favorites. But the hosts did not win gold. In fact, they did not even medalfor the third straight Olympic Games.

Significant blame for that disastrous defeat could be laid at the feet of Ovechkin. He scored only one goal with one assist for Russia, tallying zero points after the 3:54 mark of the first period of the first game of the preliminary round. 

To say that Ovechkin needed to atone to Mother Russia for his hockey sins is to say that Lake Baikal is pretty deep. 

For Ovechkin, this journey down the path to redemption began at this year's IIHF World Championship in Minsk, Belarus. In a move that may expedite the redemption process, Ovi wore the captan's "C" for Russia for the first time in any competition. 

Ovechkin scored four goals with seven assists for 11 points in nine games at the Worlds, with eight PIMs and a plus-six rating. Ovechkin added one game-winning goal and two power-play goals while compiling a tournament-leading 52 shots on goal. The Moscow native finished fourth on Team Russia in points, and eighth in the entire tournament in that category. 

Ovi showed up in the gold-medal game as well. He scored the game-tying goal, nullifying Finland's final tally of the contest a mere 0:43 after they scored it. Peter Hassett of Russian Machine Never Breaks pointed out that "it was an uncommon Ovi goalmoving laterally in front of the goal mouth, the kind of thing you don’t often see from a scoring winger." 

On the strength of his performance throughout the tournament, Ovechkin was named one of the three best players of each team for Russia, as selected by the coaches. He was joined by fellow NHLers Sergei Bobrovsky and Evgeni Malkin. A postgame recap published by USA Today Sports stated that these three standouts and all their Russian teammates "cruised through this tournament from the start, winning all its 10 games. The Russians scored the most goals of any team (42) and yielded the least (10)." 

The victory in the gold-medal game proved even more significant. USA Today noted that "the Russian team gained a measure of redemption after a painful loss to Finland in the quarterfinals of the Sochi Olympics just three months ago." 

Now, even Ovechkin knows that the Worlds and the Olympics are apples and oranges. He stated as much in his postgame press conference (see video below; Ovechkin's comments begin at 0:45 mark). When asked if this victory made up for Sochi, Ovehckin said "I don't think you can compare this one," adding that they were "two different tournaments, two different level." 

So, to fully regain the praise and adulation of Russian hockey fans, Ovechkin will have to wait another four years. In the meantime, Ovechkin can officially enter the offseason on a more positive note, on the strength of his accomplishments as captain of the national team at a major international competition. 

Having done this, Ovi can recharge physically and refresh mentally as he looks forward to the 2014-15 season. At the same time, the 2013-14 season will no longer be recalled as a nightmare. Merely a bad memory that may quickly be replaced with more rewarding ones. 


Note: All player information and statistics courtesy of unless noted otherwise.