Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 09/28/13 at 06:10 PM ET
from Dave Sheinin of The Washington Post,
His 10-month-old engagement to Russian tennis star Maria Kirilenko has grounded him and brought purpose to his home life. On the ice, his strong relationship with second-year Capitals Coach Adam Oates , his growing comfort with last year’s switch from left to right wing and the late-spring resurgence that brought him his third Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player have silenced those who only 18 months ago were questioning whether he was still an elite player.
At the same time, however, his career is still at least partly defined by the two glaring omissions on his résumé: an Olympic gold medal and a Stanley Cup title. The quest for both will dominate the next nine months for Ovechkin, bringing with it a perhaps unprecedented level of pressure and scrutiny — both in Russia, the host country for an Olympics for only the second time in its history, and in Washington, where each maddening flame-out in the playoffs, such as the first-round loss to the New York Rangers in May, both draws further attention to Ovechkin’s lack of a Cup title and lowers the Capitals’ window by another year.
“It’s not something I can relate to, because I don’t think I’ve ever had that much burden or responsibility on my shoulders. But you can definitely see it,” said Capitals goaltender coach Olaf Kolzig, who was the face of the franchise before Ovechkin’s arrival in 2005. “He seems really at peace now. But having said that, there are still expectations to win the Stanley Cup here, and with each year that passes, there’s more and more pressure. And then, you add the Olympics in his home country, and — wow. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles it.”
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