May 5, 2011, 6:57 PM EST
The one silver lining about an early exit from the playoffs is the added time off to recover from injuries.
Yet in the summer of 2010, three superstar players chose to play for Russia in the World Championships tournament right after their teams were knocked out of the playoffs. Those three players would be Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin.
It’s excessive to say that all three suffered injuries because they didn’t take that time off, but I can’t say I’m shocked that all three dealt with wear and tear from playing a ton of hockey during the last few years. Datsyuk was limited to 56 regular season games in 2010-11, Malkin was forced to undergo knee surgery that cut his season in half and Ovechkin fought through issues of his own.
While Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals didn’t give many specifics about the severity of his knee injury (beyond saying it was more serious than many realized), the team admitted that he dealt with problems for about two months, according to CSN Washington.
“I don’t want to say too much but it was way more serious than all you people were thinking,” Boudreau said. “There was a reason why he wasn’t practicing to save himself for the game. You know that when something’s wrong, something’s [really] wrong and he’s never going to be one of those guys that sits there and takes days off. He would take a practice off so he could play in the game.”
Ovechkin admitted to being hurt and intimated it could be more than one injury.
“I have a couple of injuries,” he said. “But it is what it is, I get hurt, everybody gets hurt.”
OK, so he admits that he was playing hurt … but that was just for the playoffs, right? One can only imagine how much Ovechkin could benefit from the time off he could get this summer if he said “No” to the invitation to play for Team Russia once again.
Unfortunately, pride and loyalty swept logic in this case. Despite admitting that he doesn’t really want to go, Ovechkin will make the baffling – perhaps downright ludicrous – decision to play in the World Championships for Russia once again.
“Yea, I talked to President Tretiak, he asked me if I’m going and I said yes,” he said.
“I don’t want to go there but I will. I want to play in the playoffs and win the Stanley Cup but the situation is the situation. I’m going to play for my country and try to win gold.”
Look, I understand the urge to honor one’s country, but how do the Capitals feel about their $9.5 million per year man risking further injury in that tournament? It made some sense for Ovechkin to seek redemption in last year’s WC after Russia’s embarrassment in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, but why now?
A lot of the criticisms lobbed at the Capitals organization are done simply because they lost games, even if their decisions were often logical. This, however, seems like an obvious situation in which the team needs to stand its ground. Ovechkin should rest his knee (and other possible ailments), period. After all, there are plenty of gold medals he can fight for in the future when he’s in a healthier state.
Hopefully another bid for a gold medal will be worth the Capitals organization holding their breath.
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