Russian violence makes no sense to Ovechkin

 

 
 
 
 
Erik Condra (C) keeps the puck away from Alex Ovechkin (L) and Marcus Johansson (R) in the 2nd period as the Ottawa Senators take on the Washington Capitals in NHL action at the Canadian Tire Centre, December 30, 2013.
 

Erik Condra (C) keeps the puck away from Alex Ovechkin (L) and Marcus Johansson (R) in the 2nd period as the Ottawa Senators take on the Washington Capitals in NHL action at the Canadian Tire Centre, December 30, 2013.

Photograph by: Wayne Cuddington, Ottawa Citizen

He hails from Moscow, an 11-hour car ride from Volgograd, but for Alex Ovechkin the recent bomb attacks in Russia hit close to home.

Ovechkin, the Washington Capitals captain, is in many ways the face of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, which open in little over a month’s time – now in the dark shadow of strategic bombings that are making the world nervous.

Two attacks, believed to be the work of separatist militants, at a Volgograd train station Sunday and then a bus bomb on Monday have left more than 30 people dead and more than 100 injured, many with injuries so grave the fatality total will rise. Hearing the news from his homeland, Ovechkin was visibly upset, speaking as his Capitals prepared to meet the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre.

“It’s awful,” Ovechkin said. “I don’t know why people are doing that kind of stuff. I feel sorry about the families and the people with that. It’s a tragedy.”

No one is more excited about the upcoming Winter Olympics than Ovechkin, who once vowed he would participate in the Games even if the NHL chose not to allow its players to go. In late September, Ovechkin realized a dream by carrying the Olympic torch as it made its way toward Sochi. Could the work of terrorists sabotage Ovie’s Olympics and hurt even more innocent people?

While in Ottawa Monday, Ovechkin had strong words for the suicide bombers.

“Just live your life,” Ovechkin said. “Why do you have to carry a bomb with you and push the button and destroy you and destroy everybody. If you want to do it, do it by yourself somewhere in a forest or in the mountains.

Nobody is going to care about it. This is just stupid.”

The attacks in Volgograd are about 650 kilometres from Sochi, but the concern is that the rebels behind the bombings will try to make an impact closer to the Games as the Games themselves get closer. Ovechkin tried to reassure the world that Sochi will be safe when the Olympics open on Feb. 7.

“I’m sure it’s the kind of situation where somebody maybe wants to make people afraid,” Ovechkin said. “There’s some bad things out there but I don’t think it’s going to happen at the Olympics because there’s going to be lots of security there and I’m sure the Russian government will do everything possible to protect the people and the athletes.”

PESKY SENS, REVISITED

Senators players get hurt, and younger teammates step in to fill the void. Where have we seen this scenario before?

Oh, yes. For nearly the entire, lockout-shrunken 2012-13 NHL season, as Ottawa lost centre Jason Spezza, defencemen Erik Karlsson and Jared Cowen, plus goaltender Craig Anderson, among others, for long stretches of the season.

Oddly, this season the Ottawa Senators have been one of the league’s healthiest teams, yet also one of its most disappointing

Is there a correlation? Perhaps. Of necessity, last year’s group worked hard, relishing the role of an underdog capable of beating anyone on a given night. That mindset carried the Senators all the way to the second playoff round before being outdone by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Just past the halfway point to the current season, the Senators are outside a playoff position trying to get in. This week they’re missing a captain (Spezza) and assistant captain (Chris Phillips), a rare occasion of key players being out due to injury. Versus Washington, another of Ottawa’s leaders went down when assistant captain Chris Neil left early in the first period following a collision with Ovechkin.

Spezza’s absence has given 20-year-old Mika Zibanejad an opportunity to play first line minutes at the centre position. Against the Capitals, he showed what he could do in a gorgeous two-on-one passing play, a back-and-forth with Cory Conacher that ended with Zibanejad scoring his ninth goal of the season to tie the game 1-1 in the first.

“I’ve played with those two before,” Zibanejad said of his linemates Milan Michalek and Conacher. “I feel it’s a good line, with a lot of speed and a lot of character. I think we can use our speed to our advantage and get something going.”

They did on that play. Then, a Kyle Turris goal, a beauty deke off a Bobby Ryan backhand pass, gave the Senators a lead they would take to the bank.

Beforehand, Zibanejad was asked to explain how it was that the so-called Pesky Sens of last season managed to be a playoff team with so many top players missing.

“It’s hard to say. Being a bit of an underdog and not having the pressure, you just go play and keep it simple,” Zibanejad said. “We worked very hard last year, and we’ve shown that at times this year. We can outwork teams and if it comes down to the last five minutes to get that goal and get the win — hopefully we do more of that now.

“Last year we were pesky. We outworked teams. It wasn’t always pretty.”

Zibanejad declared it was time to “win more than one game in a row.”

Done. With a sometimes pretty 3-1 victory over Washington.

Incredibly, the Senators had not recorded consecutive wins since Nov. 9, a period of 51 days.

“Has it been that long?” asked defenceman Marc Methot.

Yes. It only seemed longer.

wscanlan@ottawacitizen.com twitter.com/HockeyScanner

 
 
 
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Erik Condra (C) keeps the puck away from Alex Ovechkin (L) and Marcus Johansson (R) in the 2nd period as the Ottawa Senators take on the Washington Capitals in NHL action at the Canadian Tire Centre, December 30, 2013.
 

Erik Condra (C) keeps the puck away from Alex Ovechkin (L) and Marcus Johansson (R) in the 2nd period as the Ottawa Senators take on the Washington Capitals in NHL action at the Canadian Tire Centre, December 30, 2013.

Photograph by: Wayne Cuddington, Ottawa Citizen

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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