Sidney Crosby scores the gold medal-winner while Alex Ovechkin gets torch duty at the closing ceremony. That's about all you need to know about how the Olympics ended if you're a Caps fan. But let's not let one sour ending obscure the fact that this was an incredible tournament for fans of hockey, both new and veteran; there's no better advocate for the game than the game itself when it's played in such a fashion.
But what about the players the Caps sent to Vancouver? Five players represented three countries, and all are returning to Washington without medals of any kind; raise your hand if you picked Sami Lepisto to medal over Ovechkin and I'll give you a loonie.
Take a bow, Lars. [NHL]
Now that the games are behind us, let's review the Olympic exploits of the Washington contingent and rate them, figure-skating style, based on expectations:
Semyon Varlamov, Russia - 10.0
The young Russian didn't play a single minute at the Olympics, and that's just as the Caps wanted it. He was there to learn while not getting re-injured, and watching games from the press box next to Vlad Tretiak isn't a bad way to do that. Incidentally, the Caps first player back from Vancouver made 30 saves for Hershey last night, so it appears that he's finding his game. Let's hope all that knowledge turns into wins in D.C. come April.
Nicklas Backstrom, Sweden - 9.1
Many observers expected the Olympics to be
Backstrom's Bäckström's turn in the spotlight, and the young Swede did not disappoint, leading his team in scoring (1G, 5A) while averaging around 19 minutes in six games, without taking a single penalty. More impressively, it appears the young Swede has firmly planted himself as Sweden's top pivot, skating more minutes than Henrik Sedin and Henrik Zetterberg. For a national team that prides itself in skill down the middle as the Swedes do, that's worth celebrating (and rewarding with a long-term deal).
Tomas Fleischmann, Czech Republic - 6.2
Not a bad showing for Flash, who posted three points (1G, 2A) in five games while skating second- and third-line minutes for a plucky Czech squad that was ultimately bounced by
Ovechkin's shoulderRussia. He played mostly at center, but it will be interesting to see if he stays there when the Caps take the ice on Wednesday in Buffalo.
Alex Ovechkin, Russia - 4.5
Perhaps the most hyped player in the tournament, from gap-toothed grin to flame-adorned skates, Ovechkin registered two goals, two assists, one symbolic hit for the ages and one unproductive shootout, while averaging more than 18 minutes in four games for a dysfunctional, miserably-coached Russian squad, of which he was the face. That's the good news. The bad news: Ovechkin's off-ice behavior, primarily an embarrassing camera-shoving incident, has damaged his off-ice image worse than his team's on-ice performance against Canada. For a fan base that takes anything negative written about Ovechkin as a personal affront, that matters in this equation, if not on the ice. Oh, and now it's Crosby 2, Ovechkin 0. Your move, Alex.
Alexander Semin, Russia - 3.1
A disappointing tournament for Ovechkin's linemate, but what were you really expecting? Yes, he showed nice chemistry with Ovechkin on occasion, and yes, his pass to Evgeni Malkin for the goal of the olympics was a thing of beauty, but twice the number of PIMs (4) as points (2) is simply unacceptable...and yet, not entirely unexpected either. Sigh. But on the plus side: Semin can throw his weight around when it matters least!