Today marked the final day for teams to name their official rosters for the men's hockey tournament at the Olympics, and two more Caps have made the cut, as Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom will be headed to Sochi next month. Representing Russia and Sweden respectively, Ovechkin and Backstrom round out the Caps trio, joining defenseman (and Real American Hero) John Carlson - and as Mike Vogel notes, this matches the team's smallest contingent since NHL participation began back in 1998, when the Caps sent Olie Kolzig, Ovechkin and Ivan Majesky (yup) back in 2006.
The addition of Ovechkin and Backstrom to their country's rosters is pretty unsurprising; each was about as close to a sure thing as it gets at this level, particularly Ovechkin, who has been serving as an ambassador for the Sochi games over the last four years. Carlson's selection was perhaps more up in the air (although not to us), but should fit in well on a USA team focusing on speed and skill on the blue line.
Almost more notable than the Caps selected to their Olympic teams are the ones who didn't make the cut. At this point the fact that Mike Green and Braden Holtby were out for Team Canada shouldn't be all that surprising, given their respective performances to this point and the depth with which Hockey Canada was working; Karl Alzner had a bit more of an outside chance but also had an uphill climb to crack the Canadian blueline.
But the Czech team not taking either Martin Erat or Michal Neuvirth, opting instead to fill their roster with a few KHL representatives, was a bit of a shock (even considering the way the season has gone for each). And Marcus Johansson being left off Team Sweden is about as close of a snub as it gets among the Caps being considered for Olympic roster spots - although considering how stacked Sweden is, even that's not really a surprise. Ultimately the fact that most of them missed the cut may even help the Caps, as players have struggled in the past when making their return to NHL action.
As for the three players who were selected, Carlson is the rookie of the bunch, making his first trip to the Olympics; it will be the second for Backstrom, who was in Vancouver, and the third for Ovechkin. There's no shortage of international experience among them, however, as the three have combined for 144 games at the international level:
|Alex Ovechkin||World Cup||2||1||0||1||2||0||1||0||0||0|
...granted, most of that experience belongs to Ovechkin, but Backstrom's racked up a fair amount of games internationally, as well. And we all know what happens when Carlson puts on the red, white and blue (requisite gratuitous reminder of the 2010 World Juniors).
Here's hoping for an exciting tournament all around, and a successful (and injury-free) run for all three Caps - one month and counting!