SportsCenter’s Czarniak shares her NHL insights as playoffs unfold

Lindsay Czarniak (right) with former D.C. co-workers at the 2011 NHL Winter Classic

The start of the NHL playoffs prompts SportsCenter anchor Lindsay Czarniak to say: “Growing up in northern Virginia as a [Washington] D.C. fan, I can tell you the Redskins are religion — but what I saw and experienced as a reporter the past few years was the emergence of a real hockey town.”

The Washington Capitals and captain Alex Ovechkin created that hockey town. And while Czarniak covered the NHL and Ovechkin for Washington’s NBC4 indoors (the Capitals) and outdoors (2011 NHL Winter Classic), and hockey for NBC at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, one of her best memories happened within her first year at ESPN.

“I would say covering him and having that kind of access to him and his life — at home with his family — was one of my highlights,” said Czarniak, who joined ESPN in August 2011.

She’s referring to the feature you can watch below. It’s the result of an early March shoot with the two-time Hart Memorial Trophy recipient, signifying the league MVP.

“His mom cooked an amazing lunch — dumplings, soup and she even had caviar on the table,” she says.

“He discussed how his parents don’t talk hockey when he comes home from practice, but how he knows that they are disappointed in his performance when he looks at his mom in the stands and sees a blank, stone face: ‘Like she is dead’ he says.”

He may have seen that expression too often as he skated through a subpar season, but Czarniak says it’s time for him to turn it around.

“I think that the playoffs are when guys of Ovechkin’s talent have to be able to back up their play,” she says.

“If he’s not going to be a vocal leader, this is the time he is expected to perform at his very best, which means leading his team with his play on the ice. It’s on his shoulders to find ways to score.”

Of the NHL playoffs, which sees Washington opening at the defending champion Boston Bruins Thursday night, Czarniak says, “I’m going to be watching this playoff series intensely. The Caps have struggled, but with Nicky Backstrom back, they have new life.

“But let’s be honest, their challenge with the Bruins is crazy tough. I am going to wish I was there covering, but I’m eager to recap these games from the SportsCenter set.”

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