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Juggling crowns has brought out best in Ovechkin

Thursday, 11.07.2013 / 9:00 AM
Dan Rosen  - NHL.com Senior Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Alex Ovechkin is wearing two crowns this season, one as king of the Beltway hockey scene and the other as king of the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

He's doing his best to avoid a royalty clash.

"I try to focus everything I do in this day," Ovechkin told NHL.com prior to scoring two goals in a 6-2 win against the New York Islanders on Tuesday. "I'm not looking forward to tomorrow or after tomorrow. Today we have a game and I'm focused on tonight's game."

In addition to his role as the Washington Capitals' captain, Ovechkin is an ambassador for the Sochi Games. He has to be Washington's leader and best player and at the same time remain involved in the promotion of the first Winter Olympics in his home country since the modern era of the Olympics started in 1924.

With two sides pulling for his time and attention, Ovechkin could have found himself in a difficult situation of trying to do two jobs on opposite ends of the planet. However, save for a quick jaunt to Greece two days before opening night of the NHL season to become the first Russian and second person to run with the Olympic torch, Ovechkin said he hasn't had any problems and doesn't envision any cropping up before the Olympics begin in February.

His teammates and coaches in Washington haven't noticed anything that would suggest he's not 100 percent on board with their cause either.

Ovechkin, who won the Hart Trophy and Rocket Richard Trophy last season, is second in the NHL with 12 goals despite recently missing two games with an upper-body injury. His Capitals are climbing the Metropolitan Division standings with 16 points and have a three-game winning streak heading into a game Thursday against the Minnesota Wild.

"My concern was don't let anybody think in the League or here that you're focused on the Olympics and not the Caps, and I think he's done a great job of that," Capitals coach Adam Oates told NHL.com. "I have not seen any sign that there has been any flaw, any chink in the armor."

Teammate Jason Chimera said he thinks the dual roles actually have had a hand in giving Ovechkin perspective on where he is in life and who he is as a superstar, and how he can best juggle the pressures that come with those answers.

"He's put a lot of pressure on himself in the past and maybe he's lightened up in that way," Chimera told NHL.com. "He still puts a lot of pressure on himself but he realizes he can't do everything, that he has to rely on other people. He's done a good job with it."

Ovechkin backed Chimera's point by admitting he relies on his teammates in D.C. for help maybe more this season than ever before. He specifically mentioned Chimera, Troy Brouwer, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green and Brooks Laich as teammates who jump in for him when he needs assistance.

"It's good when you have that kind of situation," Ovechkin said.

Chimera thinks Ovechkin is helping himself too. He said instead of losing focus on the Capitals because of his Olympic responsibilities, Ovechkin has become a more vocal leader, further proof to the rest of the players in the Capitals' dressing room that he is on board fully in D.C.

"Guys get older and I think they realize their window to win is getting shorter," Chimera said. "We realize what we have in here and guys want to win with each other. He realizes that and instead of running around and having fun, he's taking the leadership role more seriously for sure. He talks a lot more in the room. He talks about different plays, different situations. I think he's grown up a whole lot."

Ovechkin also is well aware of what's going on back home in the Olympic preparation. He said the coaches and executives from the Russian Olympic team have left him alone to handle his business in D.C., but he keeps tabs on everything related to the national team and the Olympics from afar.

"I read the news, watch TV, know the stuff," Ovechkin said, "but you can put a lot of pressure in your mind so I just don't think about it."

About the only thing he does think about when it comes to the Olympics is how exciting it will be to get there in February.

"When I think about it, it's probably going to be one of the greatest moments in my life to represent my country in the Olympic games and it's going to be the Russia Olympic games," Ovechkin said. "I'm lucky to be where I am right now and I appreciate it."

Where he is right now is with the Capitals in Washington, where only one of his crowns should be visible. He's wearing it well while doing a good job of hiding the other.

"I haven't noticed any difference in him," Oates said. "We've talked about it because obviously the demands on his time, like to go do the torch before opening night, are incredible. Obviously there is a lot of pressure in the home country. We're all trying to understand that for him, but for him, he's done a great job handling the two roles."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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