Sochi may be 5,500 miles from Washington, but the collapse of the Russian ice hockey team in the Winter Olympics this past week hit the nation’s capital pretty hard.
Of course, we were thrilled that the United States played a part in showing Russia the Olympic exit door — the shots of Vladimir Putin watching the games with increasing levels of agita were eerily reminiscent of “Rocky IV.” But it was hard not to wonder how disappointing his home nation might affect Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin.
After all, the Great 8 was one of the faces, if not the face, of the Sochi Games, right up there with tennis star Maria Sharapova and figure skater Evgeni Plushenko.
It all started so well, with Ovechkin scoring a goal on his first shift of the first game Team Russia played. But that was the only goal he would score in the entire tournament as Russia fell to Finland in the quarterfinals — not even able to compete for the bronze medal.
Team Russia’s loss was still fresh as Ovechkin was cast as the reason for the premature elimination. “It’s difficult to explain why we didn’t score, especially with the players who usually score for their [professional] teams,” said Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, the coach. “Especially Alexander Ovechkin, who has scored about 40 goals. I cannot explain it so far.” Ouch.
Not everyone was so hard on Ovechkin. Here’s The Washington Post’s editorial board on the blame game: “Whatever complex stew of national insecurity and lost-empire nostalgia might be motivating Russia’s leaders and some of its hockey fans isn’t Ovi’s fault.”
Maybe not. But for a Capitals team struggling to make the playoffs, the idea of a distracted and dejected superstar isn’t encouraging. Ovechkin’s week was made all the more difficult by the news that his father had undergone heart surgery. He wasn’t told that news until after the Olympics ended for the Russian hockey team.
Alex Ovechkin, for bearing the brunt of a nation’s angst, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.
Have a candidate for the Worst Week in Washington? E-mail Chris Cillizza at firstname.lastname@example.org.