Alex Ovechkin was supposed to be the face of the 2014 Olympics.
But all of those billboards featuring Ovechkin's toothless grin that are plastered around Sochi might as well be turned into missing person posters, because the man who was supposed to lead Team Russia to a gold medal was nowhere to be seen during the men's hockey tournament.
Sure, the Washington Capitals superstar scored the first goal of the tournament just over a minute into the first game in front of a raucous Russian crowd. But since then, Ovi was MIA. Zero goals the rest of the tournament -- a span of nearly five entire games. This from a man who leads the NHL with 40 goals in 55 games this season.
How can one explain what happened? No one apparently can.
Russian coach singles out Alex Ovechkin. "I can not explain" how he didn't score more than one goal.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) February 19, 2014
Ovechkin was similarly at a loss.
Alex Ovechkin: "It sucks. What else can I say?"
— Cörey Masisak (@cmasisak22) February 19, 2014
These Olympics were all about hockey for Russia and president Vladimir Putin, who has been known to lace up the skates from time to time. The first Russian to carry the Olympic torch in Greece upon being lit? Ovechkin. One of the two people who lit the Olympic cauldron in Sochi, signifying the start of the Games? Russian hockey legend Vladislav Tretiak.
But when the hockey games began, the flame under the Russian squad seemed to go out.
"I know we had lots of pressure," Ovechkin told the CBC immediately after the game. "The coaching staff and the team and ... umm ... I don't know what to say."
It wasn't just Ovechkin who struggled mightily. Evgeni Malkin, an NHL star in his own right for the Pittsburgh Penguins, also scored just one goal in the tournament -- also in the first period of the first game. Alexander Semin failed to score at all. Pavel Datsyuk, while playing decent hockey at both ends of the ice, did not score the big goals he's known to provide. And Ilya Kovalchuk, well, he appeared and disappeared whenever he wanted.
When the gnarly Alexander Radulov leads your team in scoring, you know you have issues.
Basically, Russia's much-ballyhooed firepower shot nothing but blanks in the tournament. The goaltenders cannot be faulted, although the decision to start Semyon Varlamov over Sergei Bobrovsky in the quarterfinal loss against Finland was a bit of a head-scratcher.
"It's hard to say something now, just emptiness," Bobrovsky told the media after the game.
And that seemed to be the theme as the players, one by one, started to deal with the reality of what happened.
"No emotion right now," Ovechkin told the Associated Press.
Their Games were over, and nothing was left for them in Sochi.
"Inside, I'm absolutely empty," Datsyuk said to the AP.
And as the fans emptied the arena, they too came to the same conclusion.
"A catastrophe," is how 58-year-old retiree Sergey Kazakov described it to the AP.
Even though the Olympics will continue across Sochi, Russia's Olympic dreams have now come to an unexpected end.