Ovechkin: ‘It sucks. What else can I say?’

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After Canada won the gold medal at home in the 2010 Winter Games, all the Russians wanted to do was replicate that level of success. They were faced with tremendous pressure, but it was matched by their desire, to the point where as far back as 2009, Alex Ovechkin was saying that he would play in Sochi even if the NHL decided not to participate in the games.

Well, he got to represent his country at home on the biggest international stage, but that’s as far as his dream played out. Russia struggled to gain any traction in the 2014 Olympics and were eliminated courtesy of a 3-1 loss to Finland in the quarterfinals.

“It sucks,” Ovechkin said, per NHL.com’s Corey Masisak. “What else can I say?”

It all started with such promise too. Ovechkin found the back of the net just 77 seconds into the tournament, but then went the next 308:43 minutes without a goal. Although, in his defense, he was hardly the only Russia forward to fail to live up to expectations. With his nation out of the Olympics, he was left to wonder why a team with so many top-tier scorers struggled to get anything going offensively.

VIDEO: Highlights from Finland’s 3-1 win

“I don’t know. That’s a big question,” Ovechkin admitted to CBC’s Elliotte Friedman. “It’s tough. It’s the second Olympic Games that we lost in that kind of game and it’s bad.

“Team fight, team play ’til the end and nobody gave up, but we didn’t score second goal and it was pretty hard.”

And perhaps worst of all for Ovechkin, this will be another point in the argument that he can’t lead a team to glory. Whether or not that sentiment has merit, the fact that he has failed to get a medal in the Olympics or lead Washington past the second round of the playoffs remains a black mark on what has otherwise been a tremendous career thus far.

The silver lining is that at the age of 28, Ovechkin will have other opportunities to win it all on a major stage, even if his chance to claim an Olympic gold at home that was on his mind for years has slipped by in the blink of an eye.

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

graphic via NHL
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It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.

 

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.

Blackhawks bolster Central lead, shine harsh light on Penguins’ struggles

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Blame it on injuries if you want, or emphasize the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall hot finish to the season. Either way, Chicago scorched the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-1, a contest that felt more or less over by the time the first period ended 4-0 in the Blackhawks’ favor.

The Blackhawks scored by committee on Wednesday, with Artemi Panarin (goal, assist) and Patrick Kane (two assists) being the headliners. Meanwhile, former Penguin Marian Hossa has quietly climbed to 25 goals on the season.

Meanwhile, the Penguins limped through this one and have now lost four consecutive games.

With this result, the Blackhawks look like close to a lock to win the Central Division title. Meanwhile, the Metro crown is virtually unthinkable for Pittsburgh, and the Penguins might also need to accept the likelihood that they may not enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round.

They’d probably accept that more easily if they can get healthier and get back on track. Wednesday was a little worrisome in those regards.