Photo credit: Sport-Express
While the Washington Capitals season ended painfully last night after a 5-0 game seven loss to the New York Rangers, Alex Ovechkin will continue playing hockey. The Capitals revealed before his final press conference of the season that Ovi has been invited to Finland to join his comrades on the Russian National team competing in the 2013 World Championships. He will be flying over this afternoon.
“This morning they just called me and asked if I’m healthy and ready to go,” Ovi told reporters at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “I said ‘Yeah, I’m ready to go.’ I’m still wanting to play. I don’t want to take off, I don’t want to watch games. I want to play hockey.”
“I’m in good shape,” he added. “Mentally I think I’m ready.”
Ovechkin will join top prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov, who plans to begin his professional career with the Capitals at some point after the Olympics next season.
Kuznetsov, despite matching or surpassing his goal and point totals from last season, has drawn some criticism from the Russian media for his struggles. He even got a verbal smack down from Vladislav Tretiak, the greatest Russian goalie of all-time before the World Championships.
“We want Kuznetsov to take responsibility,” Tretiak told Andrey Kuznetsov of Sport-Express. “There’s a lot of talk about with him, but I haven’t seen Evgeny playing like a leader with the national team. Though at his age, it’s time to take over the leadership role.”
“It’s time to understand that gold medal of Buffalo WJC is history and that you need to show yourself right now,” Tretiak continued. “Amazing chances like a World Championship roster spot won’t last forever.”
Kuzya wasn’t given a roster spot initially. The team lost their first three games before falling meekly to France and Finland. Against Slovakia on Sunday, Kuznetsov was finally given his chance, playing on the third line with Artem Anisimov of the Blue Jackets and Islanders prospect Kirill Petrov. On Tuesday after scoring two goals for the gold medal winning Russia in last year’s World Championships, Kuznetsov tallied his first goal of this season’s tournament, a blistering one timer from the top of the left circle.
Kuznetsov scores at the 1:50 mark.
While Ovechkin and Kuznetsov are friends, Ovechkin has criticized the 21-year-old hometown hero of Chelyabinsk for staying in Russia, saying “I think he’s outgrown the KHL level” and “he needs to move on.”
However, when asked Tuesday about what he thinks Kuznetsov might bring to the Caps in the future, Ovi was terse.
“To be honest with you I didn’t see his game, but I’m going to watch his game soon,” he told RMNB’s Chris Gordon.
They will now try to win gold together for the second time in two years. Russia will play the USA on Thursday in the quarterfinals.
Additional reporting by Fedor Fedin and Chris Gordon.