Russia's Ovechkin shrinking under Olympic spotlight 0
Russia's Alexander Ovechkin looks on during a break in play against Slovakia in their men's preliminary round ice hockey game at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games February 16, 2014. (REUTERS)
They remain atop anyone's list of the best hockey players in the world, yet we're still waiting for an Olympic-sized moment from Canada's Sidney Crosby and Russia's Alex Ovechkin.
Much like Crosby experienced four years ago in Vancouver when Canada hosted the Games, pressure and expectation have been heaped high on the Great Eight, in so many ways the face of all of Team Russia.
But since he started off the tournament with a bang -- blasting a rocket of a goal just 77 seconds into their opening game against Slovenia -- Ovechkin has been firing duds.
In the subsequent three hours, eight minutes and 43 seconds of Russia's games, Ovechkin hasn't scored, despite leading his team in ice time. And in the epic shootout loss to the U.S. on Saturday, Ovie didn't get the call from the Russian coaches for one of his team's 10 shots.
"It's totally the coach's decision," Ovechkin said. "I'm not going to say 'Put me out there.' If I'm going to have a chance, I will."
While Ovechkin generally seems to embrace a challenge and loves the spotlight, it's never been brighter on him than it is around his homeland right now.
You can't walk more than 50 paces in the Olympic Park without seeing the unmistakable smile of Ovechkin. Whether it's on pop machines or posters his visage is omnipresent. If the Russians are going to make a run for a gold medal here, however, the 28-year-old Washington Capitals star will need to make an impact elsewhere.
Similar to Crosby's experience at home four years ago, Ovechkin has struggled. It's not as if he isn't getting the opportunity, however. In a narrow 1-0 shootout win over Slovakia on Sunday, Ovechkin logged more than nine minutes in the third period alone.
Much was expected of Ovechkin here, of course, as the host nation looks to end the gold-medal drought that dates back to Albertville in 1992.
And much like Canada and Crosby rallied from a slow start in Vancouver, there is still time, starting with Tuesday's qualification round game against Norway.
"He has to understand he could be a national hero and it could also be a national shame," legendary Russian defenceman Slava Fetisov said prior to the opening ceremony. "That is the pressure of home ice in the hockey tournament.
"It is the price every superstar has to pay and that is what separates the winners from the losers. If you can handle the pressure and put your priorities in the right direction, you can be a winner."
Who is having a better tournament?