Tough tournaments for Jaroslav Halak and a couple other prominent NHLers will have their club teams on the defensive once play picks back up in North America.
Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider made his thoughts on the Olympics quite clear in the run-up to Sochi (spoiler alert: he hates them) and even though the players love to compete for their countries, there’s a few franchises who must be face-palming right now.
First and foremost would be the St. Louis Blues. Sure, T.J. Oshie became an American folk hero with his shootout heroics against the Russians in the group stage, but Jaroslav Halak is the main concern.
The fact he got bombed in the Slovakian net is brutal for the Blues because a team with serious Stanley Cup aspirations must face an unpleasant reality. There were already rumors that the Blues were shopping for a new No. 1 netminder, with Buffalo’s Ryan Miller being one potential target. If said rumors were true, the price tag for Miller just shot way up. Halak’s .857 save percentage and 5.13 goals-against average represent some of the worst stats of any netminder at the Olympics and he wasn’t even trusted with the elimination game against the Czech Republic.
Is it entirely Halak’s fault? No, not completely. The defense in front of him was brutal, which was shocking considering Zdeno Chara was part of the faction. And Halak has shown in the past that he can steal a playoff series or two, even if those halcyon days in Montreal are fading from memory.
But even the theory that Halak is a diminished asset is enough to hurt the Blues if they were to make a trade.
The Blues’ former divisional rival in Detroit also got some bad news in the tournament. Captain Henrik Zetterberg left Sochi early due to a herniated disc in his back and early reports have him on the shelf once the Red Wings resume action in the NHL. For a Detroit team that is tenuously holding on to the final wild card position in the Eastern Conference, this is horrid news. The Wings have battled injuries all season and losing such a key player as Zetterberg for any amount of time down the stretch is gutting.
And then there is Washington. The Capitals will come back to NHL play with a very big question mark: How will Alex Ovechkin rebound from a heavily scrutinized and ultimately unsuccessful run at the Olympics? Ovechkin had just two points in the tournament and could not get his Russian squad past Finland in the quarterfinal.
The Capitals are one of the teams chasing Detroit in the East, but things could go south very fast if their captain brings the wrong kind of luggage home from Sochi.
Ovechkin came into the Olympics with five points in his past five games for the Capitals. Can he shake off the frustration and disappointment in Sochi and get right back on track once he slips on his Washington uniform? Or will a funk descend on the star at a time the Caps cannot afford?
It’s going to be a sprint to the finish in the NHL once gold is awarded at the Games, and the Blues, Wings and Caps better hope their key players weren’t damaged too much while seeking gold overseas.