Ovechkin down­plays Olympic trash talk­ing but Caps team­mates tell dif­fer­ent story

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY ARPON BASU

Cap­i­tals team­mates Alexan­der Semin and Se­myon Var­lamov, with Back­strom and To­mas Fleis­chmann of the Czech Repub­lic round­ing out Wash­ing­ton’s list of five Olympians.

But even though Ovechkin in­sisted he wasn’t do­ing any trash talk­ing, he be­trayed his own words only a few min­utes af­ter say­ing them.

When asked about the 14-game win streak the Cap­i­tals were rid­ing into Montreal and whether he had ever been on a sim­i­lar run at any other level of hockey, Ovechkin didn’t have to think very long to come up with a snarky an­swer.

“ World cham­pi­onships, prob­a­bly, when we beat Canada,” he said with a big, gap-toothed smile go­ing from ear to ear, be­fore adding, “in the fi­nal.”

That would be the 2008 world cham­pi­onships in Que­bec City, when Ovechkin had 12 points in nine games to help Rus­sia take the gold medal with a 5-4 over­time win over Canada in the fi­nal.

Ovechkin fa­mously dug out the “ lucky loonie” from cen­tre ice af­ter the game and gave it to Rus­sian team­mate Ilya Nikulin, who cut it in two and made two neck­laces out of the sou­venir.

Cap­i­tals de­fence­man Mike Green, who was on the los­ing Cana­dian team in that game, says Ovechkin’s jew­ellery still makes an ap­pear­ance from time to time.

“He rubs it in our face and says that he’s com­ing and this and that,” Green said with a shrug. “ What­ever.”

Green says Ovechkin is prob­a­bly the team’s big­gest pre-Olympic trash-talker, in spite of what No. 8 him­self claims. Green would love to get a chance to steal that half loonie away from his tor­men­tor, but the op­por­tu­nity sim­ply hasn’t come up.

“He keeps it close to him,” Green said, “so I can’t get at it.”

Ove­hckin’s Rus­sian team, the two-time de­fend­ing world cham­pi­ons, are widely con­sid­ered to be head­ing on a col­li­sion course to meet Canada in the gold medal game on Feb. 28.

That suits Back­strom just fine, be­cause it al­lows his Swedish team to head to Van­cou­ver un­der the radar. It’s an odd place for the Swedes to be, con­sid­er­ing they are the de­fend­ing Olympic cham­pi­ons and hold per­haps the tour­na­ment’s big­gest wild card in Peter Fors­berg. But Back­strom has no prob­lem with it.

“I think that’s good that every­one is talk­ing about Canada and Rus­sia,” Back­strom said with a grin. “It’s go­ing to be a tough tour­na­ment, but even if Rus­sia and Canada are the favourites, there’s a lot of other teams that can win. It’s just about one game, it’s not a be­stof-seven Stan­ley Cup fi­nal. So you never know what can hap­pen.”

Ob­vi­ously, both Back­strom and Ovechkin like their re­spec­tive team’s chances to win, but what about an im­par­tial ob­server who knows both play­ers very well? Some­one like Amer­i­can de­fence­man Brian Poth­ier?

When asked to choose who would win a game be­tween Ovechkin’s Rus­sians and Back­strom’s Swedes, Poth­ier gave it some thought.

“I think I’ll take Swe­den. I like Swe­den,” he said. “I know Rus­sia’s got all the fire­power you could ask for, but I think if (Hen­rik) Lundqvist plays well, they can play de­fence as a unit and they can con­trol the puck be­cause guys like (Daniel) Al­frfeds­son and Back­strom can re­ally do that.”

So, has Poth­ier told his cap­tain what he thinks of the Rus­sians chances?

“I do everyday,” he said. “I ac­tu­ally tell him the U.S. team’s go­ing to win.”

So clearly, de­spite what Ovechkin says, Olympic trash talk­ing is alive and well in the Cap­i­tals dress­ing room.

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