Except Ovechkin isn’t going. The Russian Hockey Federation said he had been dealing with a lower-body injury and “finished the NHL playoffs on pain numbing injections.”
So the speculation began: How badly was Ovechkin hurt during the Capitals’ round two defeat? Was there a physical reason he was so underwhelming in big spots against the Penguins, including a scoreless Game 7 that saw him on the ice for both Pittsburgh goals in a 2-0 loss?
On Friday, Ovechkin revealed that he injured his knee on that low hit from Nazem Kadri in the Capitals’ opening-round win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, and had been taking pain relief injections to deal with that injury.
Here’s that hit again:
On top of that, Ovechkin said he hurt his hamstring in Game 3 against the Penguins. Which explains a lot.
Please recall that Game 4 was a disaster for the Capitals. Sidney Crosby was out of the lineup for Pittsburgh. They had a chance to even the series at 2-2. But they lost that game on the road, and Ovechkin had no points and just four shot attempts. Before Game 5, coach Barry Trotz made the decision to drop Ovechkin to the third line with Lars Eller and Tom Wilson, ostensibly for better offensive balance on the team but also because Ovechkin hadn’t been any good.
So now, perhaps, some clarity on that: An injured Ovechkin was a drag on Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie, and the promotion of Andre Burkovsky to the top line was a series-salvaging move.
It might also add some context to Trotz’s words after the Game 7 loss. “I just … yeah … emotionally right now, I don’t want to answer that question,” he said. “I think ‘you win or lose as a team’ is probably my best answer right now. Emotionally, I don’t think I want to answer that question right now.”
Maybe the emotions were less about being critical of Ovechkin than the sad continuation of his losing legacy, this time aided by injury.
According to Tom Gulitti, Ovechkin said he doesn’t need surgery on the injuries.
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