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Is Ovechkin Playing Through an Injury?

Here's another insightful contribution from our good friend Slava Malamud at Sport Express:

First, a disclaimer: the following is nothing more than this writer's private opinion. I will not claim to have it on good authority, if my own judgment and powers of observation cannot be considered as such. I do, however, feel confident enough to share my opinion, for what it's worth. And it is as follows: Alexander Ovechkin is playing hurt, and it's a lower-body injury.

Last year, after Game 7 against Philadelphia, Alex admitted in an interview with me that he played the last month or so of the season on painkillers. Whether it was a single injury or an accumulation of aches and pains suffered throughout the season, it was bad enough to hamper him significantly. It would not surprise me in the least to find out that this is the case this year as well. One cannot play the style Ovie does, being tops in the league in ice time and in the top ten in hits and enter the postseason in perfect shape. Which is definitely why Dmitry Kapitonov is here right now, seeing as he is a strength and conditioning guru in Dynamo Moscow. But this is probably a bit more than just a general fatigue we have here.

Watching Ovechkin skate behind the play in the first round, I couldn't help but notice that he is skating upright pretty much all the time. Alex just doesn't do this, as a rule. The healthy Alex, at least. Now he never pulls up when he is about to hit someone and his shoulders are still heat-seeking missles, so this would tell you his upper body is OK. But the way he skates, the eery similarities between last year and this year - that is a what makes me concerned. Not oh-no-the-Caps-goose-is-cooked kind of concerned, mind you. Even last year, painkillers and all, Ovie was still effective enough to play a key role on the Russian world championships team.

And to lighten the mood, here is your Varlamov Anecdote of the Day (as a part of what I hope will be a continuing effort to educate DC fans on their goalie of the future).

Did you know that Varly started playing goal at the age of eight, before he could even skate properly? It's a fact. He hated little bandy sticks (bandy is a popular Northern European sport... ah, shoot, you know how to use Wikipedia!) that other mite-level players had to use, but once he saw a goalie stick, he fell in love immediately. And when his coach showed him the glove and the blocker, there was no turning back. His first pads, however, were hand-made by his coach. From a bigger pair of pads. Some horsehair was involved in the process.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  April 30, 2009; 4:18 PM ET
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I certainly hope not, but if so rest up!, skate only to loosen up then strap em on Satuday to rout the flighless fowls

Posted by: Redwolf1 | April 30, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

That's not good

Posted by: theredskin | April 30, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Pure balderdash to give the Pens something to think about before Saturday. Move along, nothing to see here.

Posted by: snakegriffin | April 30, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Zornado | April 30, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

I read Ted is on the NHL Hour on xm from 4-5pm. Anyway we can get a transcript after the interview?

Little concerned about Ovi but hopefully the 3 days of rest helps.

Posted by: Moose33 | April 30, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Balderdash is a good word. Kapitonov is here, maybe the guy leaves tomorrow and Ovie works with him.

Posted by: CodePoetry | April 30, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

I can promise you whatever injuries Ovie is playing with, it hurts them more then it hurts him..

Posted by: SA-Town | April 30, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: lylewimbledon | April 30, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

If anyone knows how to rise to the occassion, its Ovie (well, Feds too.....) This is THE series. I fear even the Cup finals may pale compared to this. Ovie will play 110% every single shift.

Caps in 7! Retooled or not, the Penguins are not better than the Caps.

Posted by: RedBirdie | April 30, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

so you are saying that after playing 79 regular season games plus 7 gueling playoff games in 12 days, ovie might be hurting a bit? this is a shock!

rest assured, caps nation. if you think ovie isnt going to be at the top of his game in a series against cindy and malkin, you just havent been paying attention to the man.

Posted by: dcsportsfan1 | April 30, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

I love stories about the players when they were kids, so thanks for the Varlamov flashback. My favorite is when Ovi was a 3 year old he cried when he couldn't get a hockey stick from a Soviet era toy store. Priceless!

Posted by: tempusfugitrgv | April 30, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: lylewimbledon | April 30, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Russian machine not broke, just needs Russian mechanic for annual maintanance to keep the warranty up...

Im sure it is nothing a little shot of cortison and lidacaine can't cure for 3 hours.

Posted by: cadlecreek1 | April 30, 2009 5:01 PM | Report abuse

A 75% OV is still > 100% sucksburg.

Posted by: Rocc00 | April 30, 2009 5:10 PM | Report abuse

"Russian machine not broke, just needs Russian mechanic for annual maintanance to keep the warranty up..."

lol love it

Posted by: apollak8 | April 30, 2009 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Love Tarik's coverage and all...but to throw this out there....well at least there is a disclaimer on it which shows that he's a pro at what he does and that he's not trying to spread rumors...

That's fine and all if you think he's playing hurt...but at the same time all NHL guys at this point (round 2) have bumps and bruises...I mean Richards with a bum shoulder and maybe two of them and Drury has a broken hand thru round one.....

So Ovie didn't dominate Game 7....I think then the rest of the team was hurt since they all played the same way thru the first 40 minutes....and then we started to come on in the last 20.....

At least Tarik is keeping us really up to date :-)

Posted by: rdiehljr | April 30, 2009 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Based on game 7, im more concerned with green's health (and whether he had a concussion) then ovechkin's.

Posted by: PindarPushkin | April 30, 2009 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Poll on ESPN- Which player will have the biggest impact on the Pens-Caps series?

Sidney- 20%

Evgeni- 31%

OVIE- 49%

LOL Sidney!!

Posted by: rachel216 | April 30, 2009 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Sorry if this has been discussed here already (who can keep up with these constant new posts?!) but why is Brian Pothier not a Masterton finalist? Zednik, I can understand but Chelios? Does being an old geezer get you a Masterton these days? Pothier should have been a slam dunk.

Posted by: CAP-lanta | April 30, 2009 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Everyone is a little banged up this time of year and there is for sure going to be players on all the teams who shouldnt be playing.

I am more concerned about Varly's stamina through the next round. He didnt play that much when he was here. He was hurt for awhile prior to the playoffs as well. I dont know how much he played down in Hershey when he was there. One cure is for the Caps to play solid defense in front of him.

Posted by: bigschu8 | April 30, 2009 5:47 PM | Report abuse

OV may not have been on the scoreboard in Game 7 but ask the Rangers how much of an impact & a concern he was - I'd guess to a man they would say 110%.

Posted by: Rocc00 | April 30, 2009 5:54 PM | Report abuse

I read Ted is on the NHL Hour on xm from 4-5pm. Anyway we can get a transcript after the interview?

Posted by: Moose33 | April 30, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

itunes the podcast of the show either tonight or tomorrow.

Posted by: freakinandpeakin | April 30, 2009 5:55 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: lylewimbledon | April 30, 2009 5:57 PM | Report abuse

lylewimbledon: We get it! Penguins suck! lol! =) Let's say that after we beat them. :)

Posted by: rachel216 | April 30, 2009 6:05 PM | Report abuse

While I hate reading this I really don't doubt that Ovie will bring his A game. Let doubters doubt, Ovie loves nothing more than proving his critics wrong. I will be beyond shocked if he isn't an absolute beast Saturday.

I do however agree with concerns about Green, he looked more than a little beat up in game 7 after getting thrown around. Hope he's getting the R&R he need to heal.

Posted by: mrszilla | April 30, 2009 6:07 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Zornado | April 30, 2009 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Do they have a slightly different selection of fan gear @ Kettler & VZN than on the sites?

Posted by: Rocc00 | April 30, 2009 6:08 PM | Report abuse

@lylewimbledon: Stay classy, man.

Posted by: Dalliquippa | April 30, 2009 6:13 PM | Report abuse

Pure speculation on Slava's part although I've also mentioned that Ovie and Greenie looked like they were far from 100% during the first few games of round 1. It was later revealed that Green was suffering from flu, so I was right about him, at least. Let's hope a few days of rest will help everyone out.


Zednik signed with KHL's Lokomotiv Yaroslavl because he got sick of playing for a crappy team :)

I'm half joking, but Loko is Varly's former team and has made the Russian league finals 2 years in a row taking it to game 7 this year so just falling short of becoming champions.

Posted by: ranndino | April 30, 2009 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Only disagreement with the article: VarLAMov is no longer the Caps' goalie of the future. He's the goalie of the present (and may very well have more impact than any of the other Russians or Cindys in the series).

Posted by: SiberianTiger1 | April 30, 2009 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Penguins don't suck, they're a great team, but so are we. I think we are better though.

In this series, we will see our #2 power play work at it's best, our offense will be much more loose and get a lot more quality scoring chances. On the flip side, our penalty kill will need to continue to be solid, yes, the Pens' PP have A LOT more firepower than the Rangers. The great thing is the Pen's defense is not like the Ranger's, but the bad thing is the Pens' offense is not like the Rangers.

One more thing, it's awesome to feel like the opposing team has the goalie advantage, cause with Jose, we never had the goalie advantage. It was always the guy at the other end that had the advantage. After watching Varly, I think we have the advantage. I'm so confident in him, even the team is, Mike Green's comments said it all: "He's been the difference in this series, his consistency in every game -- it's incredible."

It's funny how the team looked timid, tense, even scared in the 1st period of game 7 and it was Varly that looked poised and unafraid. The guy is amazing.

Posted by: rachel216 | April 30, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Shout-out to all the folks from the Pens Blog who are talking about Capitals Insider!

Posted by: CapsChick | April 30, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

@ rachel216

As you know I'm Varly's #1 fan on here. However, playing against Pittsburgh will be a whole new test for him than playing against the Rangers for all the reasons you've stated. I think he will do well, but he will definitely be tested a lot more. There's no one even close to the caliber of Malkin and Crosby on the Rangers.

In any case, I feel a whole lot better knowing that Varlamov is our #1 now. We would have absolutely no chance against the Pens with Three-or-more because they would turn him into Six-or-more.

Posted by: ranndino | April 30, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse

ranndino: I agree with you, Varly will face many more shots, and also better shots at that. I think he will do well. The one game where he was really tested was game 3 and he made some incredible saves in that one. That was the one game where the Rangers had multiple quality scoring chances.

Theo made the Ranger's offense look good in game 1, they made it look so easy. But through everything, I really have to commend Theo, he's been very classy and has supported the team even though this obviously hasn't been what he wanted. Do you guys sometimes get a sad feeling when you see Theo at the end of the game when they're all huggin' Varly? For some reason I get a little sad, just cause I know he wants to be the one leading the team, and he was the guy in the regular season...

Posted by: rachel216 | April 30, 2009 7:00 PM | Report abuse

For heavens sake. Why are we making such a big deal out of Ovechkin not being in practice today?

Tarik, I love your coverage, and even your videos, but I wish you did not create a buzz about this. It will spread out of proportion and could demoralize the team or fans.

Obviously, it is not a serious injury because he walked around and did things normally. My granddaughter, an AAA goalie, and the kids on her team play through injuries and hurt all the time. All elite athletes do. So what if he has sore muscles and aches and pains and needs to rest his body? He will have had several days of rest before the game.

It's enough to be nervous about the game. We will have heart attacks if we have to also worry about Ovie. What's next? Maybe Varlamov has an infected toe nail that could turn deadly.

Posted by: caraveli | April 30, 2009 7:05 PM | Report abuse

Rachel: Yes, I do feel very sorry to see Theo trying to celebrate with the team; and very very bad to be saying, along with others, that we would not have won had he been the goalie. Maybe he had a bad year or the Caps are not a good fit but, unfortunately, it is true. He is in a very difficult position. If he doesn't act all friendly and smiley to Varly he will be seen as a sore loser. I know how much he wanted this to work for him and it makes me sad. He won games for us but just does not have the consistency this team needs to make the leap to the elite level.

As far as Varly goes, I agree with Ranndino that this series will be a whole different level for him. The Pens are hoping that his inexperience will show through and they can solve him. If this happens, we are done.

But it could also be that the additional challenge energizes him and brings out even more skill and talent in him. My hunch is that this second scenario is much more likely.

Posted by: caraveli | April 30, 2009 7:17 PM | Report abuse

Caraveli: I don't think we're done if they can solve Varly. We have the offense to win a 5-4 game. MAC is good, but he's not that good.

Posted by: rachel216 | April 30, 2009 7:33 PM | Report abuse

I think Varly will be ok. He will play consistent and will give us a chance to win every night.

The team has to give him a chance and play good in front of him. If they get dominated and spend too much time on the PK, Varly can only do so much.

I think the Caps need to stay level headed and keep things in perspective. Not get to high or too low. If they can keep their heads, I think the series is ours. We all know Sid and company will lose it if they get down, we just need to let that happen and not lose it ourselves when we get down.

Posted by: bigschu8 | April 30, 2009 8:08 PM | Report abuse

Oops, revision:

One more thing, it's awesome to feel like the opposing team DOES NOT have the goalie advantage

Posted by: rachel216 | April 30, 2009 8:54 PM | Report abuse

MAC= supposed to be MAF, as in Marc Andre Fleury

my bad.

Posted by: rachel216 | April 30, 2009 8:57 PM | Report abuse

Actually I've seen Ovie skate upright (when he's away from the play) for most of his career.

Posted by: donknutts | April 30, 2009 9:39 PM | Report abuse

"your Varlamov Anecdote of the Day (as a part of what I hope will be a continuing effort to educate DC fans on their goalie of the future)"

Do, please, Slava. (And Tarik.)

Posted by: jen-s | April 30, 2009 9:46 PM | Report abuse

bigschu8 said: "We all know Sid and company will lose it if they get down ..."

Coming from a 3-0 deficit v. Flyers to win Game 6 wasn't exactly losing.

Posted by: Dalliquippa | April 30, 2009 10:24 PM | Report abuse

He skates upright when he doesn't have the puck because he's a floater and doesn't play any defense. He seems fine when the puck finally comes to him.

Posted by: SidneyCrosby | April 30, 2009 11:25 PM | Report abuse

Attn. Sydney Crosby, that is calling the kettle black, i have seen you do your fair share of cherry picking myself! AO.... thank you and have a nice day:)

Posted by: TracyMD1 | May 1, 2009 7:24 AM | Report abuse

Why even report this crap. It gives a target on Ovie's back for the Pens and makes the fans worry like hell.

Thanks for tracking this useless news down Tarik/Slava.


Posted by: blanknerc | May 1, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

He skates upright when he doesn't have the puck because he's a floater and doesn't play any defense. He seems fine when the puck finally comes to him.

Posted by: SidneyCrosby

Doesn't play any defense??? Hahahahahaha! Stop, please. Ovy plays asgood, if not better defense than Crosby or Malkin.

Posted by: Chase4 | May 1, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

@ rachel216

I do feel a little bit sorry for Theo, but there's no place for sentimentality at this level. He was given every chance to succeed as our #1 and then some. He did not take it.

Varly sat patiently and waited. I actually felt more sorry for him because I knew that he was a much better goalie and sorry for us because we kept trying to use a square wheel instead of a round one (that was in our trunk) the entire season.

Now we have a round wheel and are much better for it, so overall I don't really feel sorry. It's a tough business. You have to perform when given the chance.

Varly will be tested a lot more vs. Pittsburgh, but I believe he will do well based on the same reasons I've wanted us to make him our #1 all year. He was tested a lot more in the RSL playoffs last year than he was by the Rangers in round 1 and performed extremely well.

Maybe in the off season I'll post some of his game for Loko in the RSL playoffs if anyone is interested in seeing them. That way you would be able to see why I had so much confidence in him as well as judge the level of the Russian league for yourself.

Posted by: ranndino | May 1, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

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