Screenshot: Washington Capitals
The night on which Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin became the NHL’s second all-time leading goal scorer was also one in which the team lost top defenseman John Carlson after the former first-round pick was struck in the head by the puck.
And while the Caps’ struggles on the ice and in the standings in the nearly three months since Carlson was sidelined has been an important storyline to the season, so too was the recovery process for the veteran blueliner, who suffered a fractured skull and partially-severed temporal artery after taking a slapshot puck to the side of his head.
“I think it was kind of…survival”, Carlson told reporters after practice at MedStar Capitals Iceplex on Saturday, “I was just kinda, when you see blood you’re just like ‘what do I have to do to get out of here’ kind of thing, and that’s what I was feeling.”
“I think kind of, even in the moment, you don’t think about the pain as much as what you think is the best thing to do.”
Carlson, who has had to stick to a strict recovery process to avoid any setbacks, will be returning to a Capitals team that has fallen out of the playoff picture and sits five points out from the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. While the 33-year old rearguard is eager to rejoin his teammates, game action will be something entirely different than the ice time he has seen thus far in his recovery.
“…You can’t recreate game situations, you can’t recreate real life plays, you know consequences if you don’t this right, don’t do that right”, Carlson said of what he believes his biggest challenge will be upon taking the ice in a meaningful game.
“And mentally [too], I think mentally…the mental aspect of the game is so important that it tires you out very quickly”, Carlson emphasized, particularly as it pertains to getting in sync with his teammates, “And the next day, you feel run-down, and that’s kind of what it is returning.”
John Carlson Hit in the Head By Slapshot, Exits Ice Immediately
“These guys they don’t feel that same mental pressure that you put on yourself, that you put on everything around you. The noise, everything that goes into it, there’s a lot of stimulation, you build up a tolerance to all that, and then when you come back from sitting around and skating here [MedStar], it’s a different kind of intensity, it’s a different kind of wear on the body and the mind.”
Carlson’s absence in the lineup is more apparent than ever at this juncture of the season, however the franchise defensive leader in Assists and Points made it clear that he is not willing to risk his health or career to return to game action.
“My expectation to play is based off of putting myself in no harm right now versus in a year, next September, two Septembers from now, five Septembers from now. I’m not coming back if there’s a risk of anything. Whether that is now or in five years, that’s when I’ll be back.”
“I think the major hurdles are behind me certainly, and my expectation would be to play soon.”
To listen to Carlson’s full comments, see the video below:
One thing is for sure: that must have felt like a sledgehammer to the head
And on a practical note, what’s the hurry? This year is toast. I don’t doubt he’s afraid he’s going to flinch every time an airborne puck enters his line of vision. A couple famous baseball players were hit full force in the face in the 1950-60’s. They played again, but never recovered fully.
I agree with this. ☝️
Have we ever had more clarity on the severity of a concussion? Of course it’s personal, but would love to know how his every day life was affected. Hockey fans always left in the dark when it comes to injured.
It was a very odd injury in so far he didn’t have any concussion symptoms. In the Athletic article Carlson said the first few days were very painful but after that he more or less felt like himself and they basically just waited for the fracture to heal. He did say it took a while to mentally get used to having things out of his control on the ice again but he’s feeling good now. They’ve been steadily increasing the puck movement around him to manage the psychological side of things.
Tarik actually asked why not wait until next season and Carlson very firmly said he wants to play and be back with his team mates.