Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin played the final two games of the playoffs and another game with Team Russia in the World Championships with a hairline fracture in his left foot, a source close to the 27-year-old winger confirmed on Thursday.
Through a team spokesperson, Capitals general manager George McPhee and Ovechkin declined to comment on the injury.
Ovechkin blocked two shots by Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh, the first with his left foot, with about 5:30 remaining in the first period of the Capitals’ 1-0 loss in New York in Game 6 on Sunday.
He did not miss a shift and went on to play 19:03 in that game and 19:08 in Game 7, a 5-0 loss to the Rangers in D.C.
Ovechkin showed no obvious signs of the injury in those two games and did not appear to be favoring his foot while walking or standing behind a podium while talking to reporters on Tuesday.
In fact, when asked how he was feeling on Tuesday, Ovechkin said, “I feel good.” And when asked if he had to deal with any injuries during the playoffs, Ovechkin said, “A couple bruises, but nothing major.”
On Wednesday, McPhee said “everybody” plays with injuries in the playoffs and said no one on the team had an injury that required offseason surgery.
“You really admire these players because they play through some things,” McPhee said. “All the players around the league do, and they don’t need a medal to do it. They play through it and they don’t need any recognition or anything. They just do it.”
Because it is a hairline fracture, Ovechkin is not expected to need surgery.
If the Capitals knew Ovechkin had a foot fracture, the obvious question is why they would allow him to play for Russia in the World Championships. Ovechkin said he received a phone call Tuesday morning asking him to join Team Russia in Helsinki.
“They just called me and asked if I would go,” Ovechkin said. “The situation is kind of tough, but I still want to play. I didn’t want to take off. I want to just play hockey. If I was not in game shape or I took two weeks off, of course it would be much harder for me to make a decision. But I’m in good shape and mentally I think I’m ready.”
The Russians were eliminated with an 8-3 loss to the Americans on Thursday. Ovechkin had one goal and one assist in the loss. On Wednesday Capitals coach Adam Oates said Ovechkin was under intense pressure to play for Russia, and although he does not agree with NHL players playing in tournaments like the World Championships, Oates agreed to let him go.
“I met with him [Tuesday],” Oates said. “We talked. It’s important that people understand that where he comes from, it’s a very important thing in his country. We totally respect that. No problem at all.
“If I said no, he would have stayed. We talked about it. I talked about it with George [McPhee]. The Olympics are there [in Russia] next year. It’s a very, very important thing for them.”
Oates suggested that Ovechkin had received contact from Team Russia during the first round of the playoffs.
“He gets a tremendous amount of pressure. It did not affect his play here at all. He texted me after the game, 20 times 'til 2 in the morning. He was very upset [about the 5-0 loss].
“I think he’s come tremendously far as a person and player this year. That’s just a very unique thing in our business. They have that World Cup and I never played in it and I hated it. It’s the stupidest thing in the world. You lose here and tomorrow they want you to go play in some tournament. For the Canadian and American guys, it doesn’t make sense. But for the European guys, I understand it.”