Three Washington Capitals named to Olympic team, while others await
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Everywhere Mike Green looked during the Washington Capitals' recent three-day visit to Vancouver, the high-scoring defenseman was reminded of the question that's consumed him since summer: Will he, or won't he, make Team Canada's final cut?
The five Olympic rings and the words "Vancouver 2010" adorned everything from billboards to taxicabs. Every other story on sports television, it seemed, focused on the approaching Games. Each morning after practice, a gaggle of reporters gathered around Green's locker room stall at GM Place to capture his thoughts on the matter.
"It would be pretty cool," he said. "Because the atmosphere is so crazy. The whole vibe -- the city was already buzzing for the Olympics."
Whether Green will experience that buzz in February, though, is uncertain. Hockey Canada is scheduled to announce its 23-man roster Wednesday morning, and Green remains a controversial candidate because of the style of game he plays.
If Green makes the cut, he'll join a handful of his Washington teammates in the Olympic Village. If he doesn't, it will be another near miss in a young career already marked by a pair of high-profile snubs. In January, Green did not receive an invitation to the All-Star Game in Montreal, despite posting 26 points in 28 games. In June, he finished second in Norris Trophy voting for the league's top defenseman, narrowly losing out to Boston's Zdeno Chara, a three-time finalist.
"I'll be nervous, obviously," said Green, who'll be in San Jose with the Capitals when the announcement is made on live television in Canada. "You get kind of excited for that day, but you don't want to get too excited."
After a brief pause to collect his thoughts and take a sip of his sports drink, Green added, "But this is a little bit bigger than an All-Star Game or an award."
While Green is sweating it out, many of his Capitals teammates figure to be at ease in the coming hours and days as the International Ice Hockey Federation unveils the provisional rosters for the 12 nations that will compete for Olympic gold beginning in 49 days.
On Friday, the IIHF announced that Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Semyon Varlamov will represent Russia in Vancouver. It comes as no surprise that Ovechkin, the NHL's two-time MVP, a 2006 Olympian and potential team captain, and Semin made the cut. Varlamov's selection as the third goalie behind veterans Evgeni Nabokov and Ilya Bryzgalov, however, was somewhat unexpected. But the 21-year-old rookie's strong play coupled with the fact he might be his country's starter in 2014 likely loomed large in Russia's decision.
Now the question is how many more Capitals will join their Russian comrades.
Nicklas Backstrom, who is tied for seventh in scoring with 42 points, is expected to be named Sunday to Team Sweden; Milan Jurcina, a 2006 Olympian, should be on Slovakia's roster again when it's announced Tuesday; and Tomas Fleischmann, who is tied for second among his countrymen in goals with 14 despite missing 11 games with a blood clot, is expected to be among the Czechs chosen Wednesday.
"I can tell you, I won't be finishing any checks on Ovie," Backstrom said with a sly smile. "It's going to be a little bit weird [facing off against his NHL teammates], maybe. We're going to fight against each other on the ice. But that's something about hockey: We'll still be friends after."