Ovechkin takes a break during Tuesday's practice. (Photo: Carolyn Kaster)

Ovechkin takes a break during Tuesday’s practice. (Photo: Carolyn Kaster)

Backstrom answers questions at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Tuesday. (Photo: Carolyn Kaster)

The Caps sent five players to the Olympics. None of them accomplished their ultimate goal, and only one (Marcus Johansson) appears likely to come away with a medal.

The Sochi games were most disastrous for Washington’s two best players, Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin.

On Tuesday morning, Backstrom and Ovechkin talked to the DC media for the first time since their disappointments, holding successive press conferences at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.

“It’s been a couple tough days,” Backstrom said at the start of a media availability that became combative at times. “I don’t wish no one to have to go through this. It’s not fun.”

Backstrom, as we all know, had a nice tournament for Sweden before being barred from the goal medal game due to a high level pseudoephedrine in his urine, a move which Caps teammate Martin Erat called “bullshit.” Backstrom says it came from taking Zyrtec D, which is available without a prescription but not placed on pharmacy shelves.

“I’ve been taking Zyrtec D for the last seven years and I haven’t been doing anything differently,” Backstrom said. “I’ve been playing internationally, the world championship, the Olympics before.”

The center insisted he did not overdose, saying he “absolutely” follows the instructions on the package. Backstrom said he took only one pill a day. When asked if he should have been more careful, he concluded the fault lay with team doctors.

“Who do I blame?” Backstrom said. “Well I followed the doctor’s recommendation.”

“I’m not a doctor,” he added later.

Backstrom was told of the failed test just two hours before Sunday’s game against Canada. When he addressed reporters just after missing the biggest game of his life, Backstrom was crushed. He likely will not receive a silver medal for Sweden’s second place finish, though that process could take two more weeks.

“Everyone that knows me, teammates, everyone I play with, knows that it’s an allergy medicine — nothing else,” Backstrom said.

L’affaire Backstrom is a huge story in Sweden. According to the newspaper Aftonbladet, Backstrom’s comments were originally supposed to be aired live in Sweden, but the Capitals shut the broadcast down. They also only permitted Swedish reporters to ask questions in English.

Meanwhile, Ovechkin, with the Olympics being held in his homeland, scored just once. Anything less than gold was a failure for Russia, and after the team didn’t even medal, recriminations towards Ovi poured in from angry Russians. As the face of the team, he has received much of the blame, most notably from Russian head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov.

“I don’t think he mean to criticize me,” Ovechkin said of those comments. “It’s just a situation where my job to score goals. I didn’t score lots of goals out there. I scored one my first shot and that’s it.”

“I feel sorry about the game, first of all for my county people,” the Capitals captain added. “You didn’t get the results. You didn’t get any medal. The fans, the media and all the people who support Russia, family, was upset but life goes on.”

A lot of the criticism of Ovi is unjust. Bilyaletdinov misused Ovechkin, having him play on the left wing and skate the puck into the the offensive zone most of the time. Caps coach Adam Oates, meanwhile, has rekindled Ovi’s star status in the last two seasons by having use his shot rather than his skates to create offense. Owing to politics, the Russian team was also stocked with KHL, rather than NHL, players. Still, Ovechkin took responsibility.

“I’m going to criticize me,” Ovechkin said. “I have chances, I have moments to score the goals, I play with great players out there. I didn’t do it. It’s blame on me.”

To make things even worse, Ovechkin’s dad, who often visits him in Washington, had a heart attack while at the Olympics. Ovi stayed by his side in Sochi for a few extra days. On Tuesday, Ovi reported that his father was doing better and was flying back to Moscow to recover. Ovechkin was not told of what happened until a few days after the heart attack, when Russia was been eliminated by Finland in the quarterfinals.

“I understand it,” Ovechkin said of his family’s decision. “It’s a situation where all the Russian people, all the families want to get success in the Olympics. As soon as I found out that he’s in the hospital and he’s feeling not that good, he could be dying, I just forget the game when we lose against Finland.”

The question now is whether Backstrom and Ovechkin will return to the NHL defeated. After Russia failed to medal in 2010, Ovi came back a shell of his pre-Olympic self. Since Alex Ovechkin is basically the entire Capitals offense, a decline in his fantastic goal scoring pace could doom Washington’s playoff chances.

“This is my third Olympics and we did not get success,” Ovechkin said. “In Vancouver it was tough loss and this is a very tough loss for me and for Russia, but I’m almost 30. I have to handle it. I have to fight through it.”

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  • Josh Carey

    I LOVED Nicky’s response when the guy said “shouldn’t you also be responsible for what you take” and his response when the lady asked how it was possible to make a mistake at such a high level. I wish someone would have smacked those reporters.

  • Matt

    I wish the olympics had gone differently, but what can you do. just have to pick up and move on.

    that said, i think the guys are handling it well, but at the same time i really kind of wish we had gotten a little something like this from ovi for the lulz (could you imagine the reaction he would get…):

  • Chris Cerullo


  • Swedish RMNB’ers – how did this press conference come off in your homeland? How was the coverage? Aftonbladet seemed to be very frustrated.

  • Owen

    this whole situation just makes me feel so upset. nicky is one of the most classy, respectful, stand up guys in the nhl. he deserved to play in that game more than anyone, and if he doesn’t get the medal he rightfully earned, i’ll lose the little faith i had for the IOC. his focus is in the right place though–we need to win games ASAP. through thick and thin, i’ll always wear my #19 jersey

  • CapsCast

    Part of me feels really bad for them, but the other part of me remembers that they have world-class talent, super-hot girlfriends, fame, and ridiculously large bank accounts. After the dust settles, I think they’ll be alright.

  • yv

    I’m more worried how Nicky would be and play than Ovi, who is more tougher and experienced in handling disappointments and media attacks in the past. Since, probe B was also positive according to Swedish Olympic site, it looks like chances for Nicky for getting silver medal are very slim.
    Ovi responded quite well on Qs, but his farther should definitely quit smoking, considering what Ovi said that he also had heart attack before in Washington.

  • Simonezero

    I concur with Mr. Erat. Nicky gave a good interview considering the circumstances, clearly as the professional he is. Feels weird that it’s just Tuesday and this all went down on Sunday. I’m still hoping they finalize it as a 1 game suspension and he gets his god damn silver.

  • Tadd

    Great piece, Chris. Glad to have a none-tabloid face in the crowd. Swedish media is going bananas about this, quoting everyone from Jari Kurri to forever enemy Kristian Huselius about pseudoephedrin.

  • Karl Johan

    Its a big pretty big deal. All over Expressen and Aftonbladet. But more
    importantly, it was in SvD and on SverigesRadio which are more
    newsworthy sources as opposed to the tabloidy Expressen and Aftonbladet.

    A lot of the articles my buddies sent me back home / discussion
    was about the impact it had not just on Backi but on everyone else
    before the game. Imagine being in the locker room getting super jacked
    up for the biggest game ever (all we could think about was Forsberg ’98)
    and you all of a sudden have IOC officials everywhere and Backstrom is
    banned for who knows what? Must have totally thrown everyone off…..

  • Igor Kleyner

    Sick and tired of this pseudo-doping nonsense – but since everybody else is not a doctor but can’t wait to play on on TV… I must say MSM reporters could have done their homework a little bit better.
    Here is a question I was hoping to hear: “You have been taking one pill per day. The recommended dose is one pill every 12 hours – and that’s for all adults and children over 12 years old. Why are you on a regimen that is only half of what deemed effective for even those whose body weight is less than half of yours? Or how about this one: “When did you take the pill on Tuesday (day before the game)?”
    And here is why it’s important: if he in fact took one pill the morning before the game, and the one before that was 24 hours earlier – he is the unluckiest man alive, or his metabolism is very unusual indeed. But if the previous pill was taken in the evening – he had about 50% chance to be over the limit, especially if the “morning” pill was taken about 4 hours before the test. And since he was probably dehydrated after the game – even higher chance. And you don’t even need to be a doctor to realize that – all it takes is a few minutes on

  • Andrew

    1:23 – “Next question”. Ice cold.

  • Well the journalists not being allowed to ask questions in Swedish… how has that been received? Is English universally known over there? Also, the live press conference, was that on TV’s? Only online on Aftonbladet’s website?

  • I don’t want to be that guy, but they are fair questions. This should not have happened, no matter how unreasonable the rule is.

  • Sage Confucius

    I take Zyrtec-D once a day when I get up. I’m curious what my levels would be over time, especially given that I usually take it with a cup of coffee. Caffeine apparently enhances its effects. There are so many variables that could affect serum levels.

  • Sage Confucius

    Agreed. There is no way the team was mentally and emotionally ready to play the gold medal game. It wouldn’t have mattered if they player had been from Canada. The negative effect would have been the same. As such, the Swedes never had a chance.

  • BrazGoalie

    Honestly though, after the first years money means nothing. Hot girlfriends become old. People want new stuff. He wants the gold medal representing his country, representing the Swedish citizens. That is something more valuable than money.

  • Yo8

    I agree. I think he and the team should have talked with someone in charge of the Olympic health issues instead of his doctor. If I’m correct they can give you whatever you need under the Olympic rules. If he would have done that, then this wouldn’t had happen.

    A Romanian gymnast got her gold medal strip because she took cough medicine. It should be well known by now that you just can’t take “simple” medicine without asking the Olympic committee.

  • Igor Kleyner

    Which is why a real doctor takes Nicky’s bottle and gives him one with original Zyrtec, with no D, no pseudoephedrine, and no worries. Main ingredient is exactly the same.

  • ATPinDC

    Mean Lars in full effect. Channel that, Nicky! Use it against the NHL teams!

  • ATPinDC

    Unfortunately, the “D” is the bit that actually helps you breathe.

  • ATPinDC

    Great info here. Interesting that the Caps didn’t let the Swedish reporters ask questions in Swedish or broadcast the presser live.

    Also, I don’t know if it’s chance, or if you all specifically chose Nicky’s death glare for the freeze frame on the video (or if someone at monumental did), but it’s great.

    I really liked both Nick and Alex’s tones in these pressers. Alex was contrite, but not crushed. He seemed to have good perspective on it.

    Nick seemed focused and angry, which is how I would like him to be.

    I hope they can both channel their feelings into great Caps hockey.

  • Igor Kleyner

    Actually the other component (Cetirizine) is the main antihistamine and what makes Zyrtec Zyrtec, so to speak; pseudoephedrine has been around for ages.

  • ATPinDC

    I know. I take Zyrtec & pseudoephedrine separately. Can’t have one without the other to battle the allergies.

  • Adam Schwager

    The actually signs of Pseudoephedrine don’t show up for about a month after taken so the real “overdose” was in late January

  • billy

    Based on my experience with Sudafed, the non-pseudoephedrine version = bullshit. I always ask for the version that I can use to make meth.

  • billy

    I thought I disliked Huselius when I inevitably auto-drafted him as my final LW in fantasy hockey, and he inevitably spent 60 games on the IR, but nope… my dislike had not yet begun.

  • cobra617

    Yeah, Nicky needs to play it cool. If he shows any emotion, people would chalk it up to Zyrtec D rage.

  • Ghenghiz Cohen

    It seems to me the Swedish team should have refused to play. They could have just not show up. There could have been a walkout before the game started. There is still an option along these lines as last positive action: all the players on team Sweden could return their silver medals to the IOC with a missive containing the reasons for doing so and suggesting where they could put them. Just a thought.

  • Catherine__M

    Perhaps we could all take stock about what really matters in life here, and maybe I’m just Pollyanna over here (or Angry Feminist who is sick of seeing her entire sex’s woth measured by a largely uncontrollable and superficial matrix) but I’d replace “super hot girlfriend” with “partner who loves and supports them”, and add in the existance healthy new baby daughter for Backstrom and fortunately healthy father, after a serious scare for Ovi.

    Plus, I think all you have to do is look at the thousands of pro athletes with “ridiculously large bank accounts” a few years after retirement and ask them how happy that’s keeping them…If they still have anything in them.

    I’d also venture to guess that these very serious disappointments are one of those dashed live dreams/goals that may stick around, as they do for all of us….even after (gasp!) the girlfriends’ hotness fades, BrazGoalie.

  • CapsCast

    You sound like a delight. Is it the trend of professional athletes dating very attractive women exclusively you find deplorable and misogynistic, or is it me noticing it and commenting on it? The next time I post on RMNB I will run it by you, Catherine_M, so you can give it the ‘women’s studies’ edit. Cool?

  • Igor Kleyner

    If you are from an imaginary planet somewhere between Sun and Mercury where a “month” would be a few Earth hours long – you are absolutely correct. Sochi is a weird place for sure, but the last time I was there, it was still on Earth (admittedly, that was almost 30 years ago). And on Earth, peak concentration of PDE in urine occurs 4-6 hours after ingesting.

  • Catherine__M

    And you sound like a jealous pathetic loser who hides behind an anonymous screenname trashing others while living vicariously through professional athletes.

    Yeah, I get that pro athletes wind date attractive women. What else is new? I don’t find that deplorable or misogynistic at all. Because chances are, (unlike you) they’ve identified something about those women that they also find attractive and worthy. They may be highly accomplished athletes in their own right, they may share common goals and values etc etc.
    “Hot girls” for these guys are a dime a dozen, and yet these two men have found women they want to be with long term, who feel the same about that–THAT is the special thing, not the ability to pick up a hot chick. But people like you seem to only fixate on the “hot” part. And it’s really telling about your character and your priorities. Gross.

  • Alright, guys. Let’s dial it back.

    Catherine__M’s point, as far as I’m concerned is perfectly valid, and I didn’t think it was a slight against @CapsCast or an undoing of what he said.

    @CapCast: I think pretty girls are great too, but I don’t think Catherine’s comment must be taken as a personal offense against you. I took it as a general culture statement, and not anything like saying you’re a bad person

    Either way, no need for name-calling. That’s against the rules: We can talk about the things people SAY and DO without assuming we know what kind of people they ARE. At least, that makes for better comment threads.

  • Igor Kleyner

    Considering that Sudafed is nothing but pseudoephedrine, your aforementioned experience with it is not very surprising at all.

  • CapsCast

    Fair enough, my apologies to Catherine_M. I actually agree with the gist of her first post. It was more of a time/place thing that annoyed me. No worries.

  • Catherine__M

    Yeah, sorry. It’s a pet peeve I’m able to ignore 99 times out of 100 (it is honestly one of the most common if not the most common comment whenever anyone feels bad for a pro athlete after a setback). CapCast just drew the “lucky” number. I’ll go make mine nicer.
    But it’s still a valid point. These women aren’t prize heifers. They have other qualities. And all the hotness and all the money in the world are not more important than the lives of your loved ones and won’t change the fact that both Ovi and Backstrom failed at something extremely important to them, and that kind of disappointment and regret can last a lifetime.

  • Sage Confucius

    People who take Zyrtec-D usually need the D. I wouldn’t take it if I didn’t need it. The regular Zyrtec only stops my runny nose. It does nothing for all the crap building up in my sinuses. That’s the difference the decongestant makes.

  • Andrew Walker

    There is precious little faith to be had in an organization that removes wrestling from the Olympics. Corrupt and incompetent, all the way down.