Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and the team he’s now captaining, the Russian National Team, arrived in Minsk, Belarus earlier today for the 2014 World Championships, which begin tomorrow. When Team Russia arrived at the President Hotel, they were greeted by a hotel official. Then things got weird.
As Ovechkin approached, the official came up to him and said (as translated by Fedor Fedin), “We’re welcoming all of you, dear friends, and we’ve been assigned by the Belarus National Committee manager to present you this Karavai, hoping this will be a victory Karavai.”
The official gave Ovechkin a giant loaf of bread. A victory loaf.
After scoring nine points in 16 games with the Caps, Evgeny Kuznetsov has flown back across the world to play for Russia’s national team in the upcoming World Championships. On Tuesday, Kuznetsov spoke to Vladislav Domrachev of Sport-Express after practice and talked more about his NHL debut and how his English is progressing.
Apparently the NHL is like bobsledding or something.
On Monday, Washington Capitals forwards Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Dmitry Orlov joined the Russian national team in Novogorsk, near Moscow, to get ready for the IIHF World Championships to take place in Minsk, Belarus beginning on May 9th.
According to new national team head coach Oleg Znarok, the players exercised for an hour and fifteen minutes. How exciting.
Znarok also revealed that all three Caps players will play Thursday against Germany in the Eurochallenge, an exhibition tournament to help teams prepare for the World Championships.
Afterwards, Ovechkin talked to a bunch of different Russian press members. He didn’t really say much.
But what of the Caps’ Swedes? After winning a silver medal in Sochi, Marcus Johansson will likely not represent his home country due to a broken arm. On Thursday, Pär Mårts, Sweden’s national team coach, told Svenska Dagbladet that Nicklas Backstrom has turned down an invitation to play in the tournament this year.
When asked why, Mårts said Backstrom won’t be playing “for family reasons.”
The 22-year-old Russian is joining the Sbornaya training camp in a few days, and hopes to put his country’s uniform on for the first time since he was a prominent member of the 2011 WJC gold-winning Russian team. A consolation prize, at best, as the dream of winning the Stanley Cup – or even playing for it – will remain just that at least for another year. But it made for a good conversation starter.
The 2013-14 season was a breakout year for Capitals prospect Christian Djoos. His ice time with Brynas of SHL went up from 15:35 in the previous regular season to 17:16 this year. He scored more too, getting 13 points (a goal and 12 assists) in 47 games after just eight a year ago. Also importantly, Djoos cut down on time spent in the penalty box– four minutes as opposed to 48 last season.
Djoos took over the leading role on his team’s blue line in the postseason, logging 23:26 in the playoffs as a teenager in one of the best leagues in the world. He also had a notable performance at home World Juniors, scoring a goal and getting an assist in Sweden’s disappointing goal medal game loss.
Djoos’ increased role in the postseason could be attributed to an injury to Ryan Gunderson, a University of Vermont graduate and a Brynas’ leader on the blueline for the last three seasons. Next season, Gunderson won’t be with Brynas as he’s signed with KHL newcomer Jokerit Helsinki. That gives Djoos a chance to establish himself as an elite SHL defenseman.
The Washington Capitals have until June 1st to sign Djoos, whom they selected in the seventh round of 2012 Draft. There’s been little information on whether the Caps are interested in bringing him into the organization. It’s clear that he’s not leaving Brynas, but it’s unclear whether he’ll be on loan from a NHL club or unattached.
In Narrative Land, the biggest story in the hockey world today was Adam Oates calling out Alex Ovechkin for quitting on the play that resulted in a third period goal for the Dallas Stars. But c’mon, it was already 3-0 at that point. How much would one more goal hurt? Other than, ya know, emotionally.
Thehockeymediawentalloutcovering the living ish out of this quote. How would Ovechkin react to being literally thrown under a literal bus by his head coach? By driving his six-figure price-tag car to Georgetown and shopping at the Nike Store with his two Russian bros.
So I guess Ovi’s not exactly devastated by his coach’s heel turn.
After almost an hour and a half on the ice, the players started trickling in to the locker room. Some of the guys, though, stayed on the ice a bit longer, including Dmitry Orlov, Mikhail Grabovski, and the latest addition to the Capitals roster, Evgeny Kuznetsov. The Russian-speaking troika remained on the ice, enjoying a game of King of the Hill on the center circle.
Finally, the Russian rookie and his buddies made their way to their locker room stalls, where he patiently answered RMNB’s questions until no stone was left unturned in the first chapter of what hopefully will be Kuzya’s long tenure in a red jersey with #92 on the back.
Kuzya has surprised us with his command of English and his willingness to interact with the media despite of limited language skills. Also, let’s not forget Zhenya’s love of social media, especially Instagram. Imagine how boring our lives would be without his baby pictures and Ovi doing pushups. So what if the captions are in Russian.
On Sunday, as Ovechkin’s fiancee Maria Kirilenko drove Ovechkin and Kuznetsov back to their Virginia home, the Russian machine whipped out his iPhone and started recording again. Seeing as the Capitals week-long road trip was finally over and five out of six standings points were earned, it probably seemed like a good time for more funny faces.