Sunday, February 16, 2014

Washington Capitals: That Was The Week That Was -- The Sochi Olympics: Week 1

While the Washington Capitals head into the second week of the Olympic break, what sort of week did those Caps representing their countries have in the preliminary round of men’s ice hockey?

-- Marcus Johansson recorded two shots in Sweden’s 5-3 win over Latvia.  It was the first time he had more than one shot in a game since he recorded three in Washington’s 2-0 loss to Ottawa back on January 21st.  That broke a ten-game streak in Washington (9) and Sochi (1) in which Johansson was held to one or no shots on goal.  He assisted on the insurance goal in that game to give the Swedes their final 5-3 margin.

-- Nicklas Bäckström has had a solid, if unspectacular, Olympics so far.  Third in total ice time among Team Sweden forwards, tied for second in goals scored for while on ice, tied for second in assists, tied for fourth in points.  He still is not shooting the puck, though.  Only three of Sweden’s 14 forwards are averaging fewer shots per 60 minutes than Bäckström.

-- Martin Erat has one of the three goals scored by forwards for the Czech hockey team.  He scored the first goal in Czech’s 4-2 win over Latvia (If only the Latvians were on the March schedule for the Caps instead of Boston, Pittsburgh, and the west coast teams).  It was his second Olympic goal, his first coming when he scored the Czechs’ first goal (the game-winner) in a 3-0 win over Russia for the Bronze medal in 2006.

-- John Carlson leads Team USA defensemen in scoring so far with a goal and an assist in three games.  Things certainly seem to happen when he is on the ice.  Despite having the lowest average ice time of any of the seven defensemen to dress so far for Team USA, no defenseman has been on ice for more goals scored by Team USA (5), and no defenseman has been on ice for more goals scored against the Americans (2).

-- No athlete bears a heavier weight of hopes and dreams for his country than Alex Ovechkin.  Through three games, he has not been dominant, but neither have many cracks appeared in his game.  Through three games he leads Team Russia’s forwards in total ice time (fourth among all Olympic forwards), is tied for second among the team’s forwards in points (1-1-2).  What might be among the stranger numbers involving Ovechkin is this one: 16.5.  That is his shots-per-60 minutes average through three games.  No, it does not lead all skaters.  It is not second, either.  He is third, behind Phil Kessel (20.3 shots-per-60 minutes), which might not be the most surprising turn here, but behind Krišjānis Rēdlihs?  Points if you knew he was a defenseman for Team Latvia.  And no confusing him with his brother, Miķelis Rēdlihs (20.0 shots-per-60 minutes), who is a forward for the Latvians.  OK, so Krišjānis only has five shots in 14:59 of ice time, but still.

Note: All numbers by way of

A Small World for Two Players and Persistent Narratives

The preliminaries of the Winter Olympic Games men’s ice hockey tournament are over.  Starting on Tuesday, it’s for real.  But while we have this brief hiatus in the Games, consider two players.

Player A is a forward.  He has averaged 15:43 of ice time through three games so far. He has two points, which happen to be points earned in the only goals scored for his team while he was on ice.  He has not been on ice for a goal against in more than 47 minutes of ice time (second among forwards on his team in total ice time).  The result is that he is a plus-2 in three games.

Player B is a forward.  He has averaged 20:35 in ice time through three games.  He has two points, half of the total his team has scored when he has been on ice, the four goals for being tops on his team.  He has not been on ice for a goal against in almost 62 minutes of ice time (only three forwards in the tournament have more ice time).  He is a plus-2 after three games (both of his team’s power play goals came when he was on ice).

Player A’s contributions to his team are “immeasurable.”  He is being sacrificed for the greater good of winning.  

For Player B, his perplexing Olympic slump continues. 

Player A is Sidney Crosby.

Player B is Alex Ovechkin.

The world is a small place.  The same narratives can be found anywhere in it you look.