Grades for Every Washington Capital at the 2014 Winter Olympics So Far
The round-robin phase of the 2014 Olympic hockey tournament is officially over, and there has been no shortage of surprising results thus far in Sochi.
Teams such as Switzerland and Slovenia have put together some very impressive performances, while others, such as the host team, failed to meet the lofty expectations that lay before them during the preliminary round.
Like many other NHL squads, the Capitals have sent a number of their most talented players to Russia, and though these games have no statistical impact on Washington's postseason outlook, Adam Oates has to be hoping that his top guns return to D.C. having gained some much-needed momentum while playing on the world's biggest stage.
Heading into the most critical portion of the tournament, here's a look at how each Washington Capital in Sochi has performed so far.
For a guy who had managed just two goals in nearly a year since arriving in Washington, Martin Erat's play in Sochi has to have been at least somewhat encouraging for George McPhee and the rest of Washington's brain trust.
As of now, Erat's one of just four Czechs to have a goal at the Olympics. Though that's the only point he's registered, he's been relatively dangerous on a consistent basis, which is pretty remarkable given that he was initially left off the national team's roster.
That being said, Erat saw very little ice time in the Czech Republic's stunning loss to the Swiss, so one has to wonder how much the 32-year-old will play from here on out.
Expectations weren't high for Erat heading into the games, so with a goal and a plus-one rating, it's not as if the three-time Olympian has disappointed. But at the same time, this is a guy who was a reliable 50-point man for nearly a decade in Nashville, and though he's been among his country's most effective offensive threats in Sochi, he's capable of more.
The Olympics started out with a very literal bang for Alex Ovechkin, as the Russian superstar sent a laser into the top right corner just over a minute into Russia's first game against Slovenia.
From there, Washington's captain orchestrated a clever setup to deliver Evgeni Malkin a breakaway for Russia's second goal of the tournament a few minutes later, but Ovechkin's struggled to produce since then.
Against the Americans, Ovechkin had some flashes of brilliance, but was shut down once again by a more physical North American defense corps.
The following day, Ovechkin failed to get on the board again against an inferior Slovakian squad, but Russian fans have to take solace in that the three-time NHL MVP was just an inch away from ending the game in overtime.
At this point, Russia has to be feeling the heat, but against a comparatively weak Norwegian team, Ovechkin has a golden opportunity to get things back on track.
He hasn't played badly, but he hasn't made a consistent impact either, and as the world's best scorer, more is expected of him. One of the downfalls of this Russian team is the lack of depth up front, which puts an inordinate amount of pressure on Ovechkin, Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Alexander Semin, Alexander Radulov and Ilya Kovalchuk to put points on the board. Given the prolific rate at which Ovechkin's been scoring for the last 12 months, one has to think he'll bounce back.
Heading into the games, Nicklas Backstrom was expected to be Sweden's top playmaker without former Hart Trophy winner Henrik Sedin in the fold.
And against the Czech Republic, Backstrom was solid, creating chances for his teammates. He set up Erik Karlsson's power-play blast to put the game out of reach.
But since then, as NHL.com reports, captain Henrik Zetterberg has been ruled out for the rest of the tournament, so there will be even more pressure on Backstrom to elevate his game.
As one of the game's premier passers, Backstrom just has to be better in order for Sweden to earn a medal, because while two assists in three contests would be good for a lot of guys, it's simply average for a player of this caliber.
Backstrom has been buzzing in the offensive zone at times, but has suffered from the same bad habits that have often plagued him in Washington. In particular, Backstrom's unwillingness to shoot the puck on the power play gives opposing teams the ability to cheat toward Karlsson or Daniel Alfredsson at the point, thus minimizing their effectiveness on the one-timer. In order to prevent this, Backstrom has to make his foes respect his deceptively accurate shot by using it more frequently.
Though not uniformly viewed as a lock going into the United States' selection process, John Carlson quickly made the most of his opportunity to represent his country.
In his team's opening game of the tournament against the usually pesky Slovaks, Carlson wired one of his trademark bombs past Jaroslav Halak into the top left corner, and the U.S. never looked back.
Since then, Carlson's been relatively steady, despite playing by far the fewest number of minutes of any regular U.S. rearguard (the exception being Carolina's Justin Faulk, who has yet to suit up), and he was very good in the squad's final round-robin showdown against Slovenia.
Going forward, Dan Bylsma's going to have to decide whether he wants to sacrifice skill for brawn, because right now, Carlson is tied for the lead among U.S. defensemen in points, yet has averaged just over 10 minutes per game.
Yeah, Carlson was caught out of position a couple of times against Russia, but overall, he's been more than solid for this team, which is undoubtedly now a contender for the gold. Aside from Cam Fowler, no blueliner has a better plus-minus, and if the Americans find themselves in a run-and-gun affair, expect to see Carlson on the ice.
Following Zetterberg's tournament-ending injury, Marcus Johansson got the call to replace Detroit's captain in Sweden's top nine, and so far, he hasn't disappointed.
No, Johansson didn't capitalize on his handful of scoring chances against Switzerland, but on the whole, the former Capitals first-rounder has looked comfortable playing alongside his country's best.
Against Latvia, Johansson notched an assist on Alex Edler's late goal that ultimately put away a game that should never have been in question, but nonetheless, the 23-year-old has managed to make a contribution after failing to make the original Olympic roster.
Now, with Sweden set to face either Austria or Slovenia in the quarterfinals, Johansson will have another game to get acclimatized the larger ice he grew up on before taking on an actual medal contender.
Like Erat, not much was expected of Johansson, so his ability to assume a role within one of Sweden's top lines has been impressive. Though he hasn't been able to convert on point-blank opportunities through his first two games, his presence in high-traffic areas has been encouraging.