Alexander Ovechkin: "When Crosby was made alternate captain, I laughed"
Alexander Ovechkin celebrating a game-tying goal in the final minute against Tampa Bay
The following is a Dec. 29 interview with Alexander Ovechkin through the Russian news agency, RIA, that appeared on the NHL.ru web site:
First of all, congratulations on making the Russian Olympic team. Have you had time to study the rosters of the teams you will be playing against?
Thanks for the congratulations, it's a nice feeling to have been chosen to be on the Olympic team. As far as the make-up of the rival teams is concerned, I don't see why I should study them. It is only necessary that I go there to play, and to win!
Whom do you consider the Olympic favorites, and what are Russia's chances?
I believe Russia to be the favorite!
Speaking about the NHL now, what has been the most pleasant surprise to you about living overseas?
I'm very pleased with the good relations I am having with the management and people around me in Washington. As for the game itself, there are some local rules like four-on-four (in overtimes), though shootouts are the same...
How would you explain having more success at scoring in the NHL than in the Russian Super League? Is it mostly a matter of playing time?
I think that playing time matters the most. I am given a lot of ice time here, and they also allow me to play on the man advantage and the penalty kill. That wasn't the case with Dynamo; I played hardly at all on the penalty kill, only on the power play. The more playing time you receive, the better your results.
Are you worried that with this extra playing time you might not have the energy to carry you through an 82-game season?
Why wouldn't I have enough energy? After the games, with whatever I have left, I rest and I restore myself.
Is it difficult mentally to go and play for a non-contending NHL club after winning the championship with Dynamo?
Certainly, that was a great Dynamo team-- the games, the players, and everything. But we can make it that way here, with Washington. This is an entirely different team, but I must play in any situation. Each year this team will have a chance to get stronger, so let's watch and see what happens.
Many fans will want to stereotype you as not being a giving player. You don't ever worry about becoming a player wrapped up in his own statistics at the expense of the team? There are many instances in the league of players celebrating their goals while the team loses...
I don't think I'll be like that. It's easy for me to make a pass to a teammate, if he is in a better position. I play with the opportunity that is presented. It's no secret that I love to score, but if I score a couple of goals and we lose, it takes away some of the satisfaction from scoring.
How popular is hockey in Washington?
When the season began, for the first game, we had a full stadium. Then increasingly fewer and fewer fans came. Now that we have won some games and are starting to play better, the fans are coming out more.
Do you go to the guest book of the Washington site in order to meet the fans?
No, not usually. If I go as a guest, I don't usually write anything. (I think this is referring to message boards, but I'm not definitely sure)
How do you usually spend your free time? Have you been to the Capitol Building?
Of course, I haven't been to the Capitol Building. I usually stay in the house. I'm statisfied with just being able to relax; with an 80-game season, it's necessary to conserve energy.
What do you figure would be a good number of goals for you to score during the regular season?
I scored 13 goals for the season twice in Russia, and already here I've scored a lot more in only a partial season (22g, 20a after 35 games). It would be hard for me to guess, but the more goals I score, the better.
Do you feel that they are playing harder against you now than at the beginning of the season, when the NHL still didn't know what to expect from Alexander Ovechkin?
Yes, it it harder. I notice that the defensive pair on the ice changes on the fly the moment I take to the ice. I've seen other differences as well.
Have any situations arisen where they try to provoke you into fighting?
We have players who will immediately step in for me when that happens. They want their key players to stay in the game, and not be in the penalty box. The coaches tell me, "You should fight back in the way that you play." In Buffalo, there was an instance when one of their players tried to start something with me, but I was brought over to the side while the others did the fighting.
Whom have you made the most friends with in Washington?
I have a good relationship with Dainius Zubrus. But we all try to get along together.
Did they put together the rookie dinner yet (a tradition where the rookies provide for the entire team)?
Not yet, it will be in two weeks, right after a game.
Have you set it as a goal for yourself to win the Calder Trophy?
Of course, I want to win it. I've never hidden that, what's there to hide?
Who else, besides Sidney Crosby, do you consider to be your main competition for it?
There are very many good rookies this year. Dion Phaneuf of Calgary, Jeff Carter of Philadelphia, Marek Svatos of Colorado, many good rookies for sure...
By the way, in Pittsburgh they made 18-year-old Sidney Crosby an alternate captain; do they have any similar plan in Washington?
Even if they did, I wouldn't agree to it. I consider, at that age, to give someone that position-- it's ridiculous. To be honest, when Crosby was made an alternate, I laughed.
Describe as you see it all of the new rules, shootouts and so forth. Many have said that in the NHL this year, teams are almost always playing at uneven strength.
In principle, players are leaving the ice a lot more from penalties. But all of this is business as usual for me, I don't complain. But that's for the other people to decide, all of this can change, they will look at what happened this season and make a decision...
Ovechkin sticking his tongue out (Michael Jordan-style) before scoring a shootout goal against Atlanta
Of course, you know that you are the best at scoring in shootouts in the NHL? No one else in the league has 5 shootout goals like you do.
Yes, I realize that.
With Dynamo, shootouts were not your strength, but now here you have this sudden improvement...
With Dynamo, I scored only twice out of 4 shootouts, they were good tries but they didn't all go in. Here, I try and they go in.
Who would you say out of the NHL goalkeepers has made the most impression on you?
Evgeni Nabokov. I've only played against him once, but he stands out a lot. His game made a great impression on me, it is very difficult to score on him. We were only able to get one goal past him, and even that was a fluke goal; the puck came out from under a pile in front, and he simply did not see it. All of the other shots he stopped cleanly.
Whom has appeared the best out of the Russians you have seen this season?
Undoubtedly, Pasha (Pavel) Datsyuk. Ilya Kovalchuk has impressed me as well, Maxim Afinogenov, Andrei Markov, Alexei Kovalev...
With which Russians are you the closest with?
Datsyuk, I share a bond with Ilya Bryzgalov, with Afinogenov sometimes...
Datsyuk and Afinogenov are understandable, since you played with them with Dynamo, but when did you have time to become friends with Bryzgalov?
We were introduced at the World Championships. And then when the situation with Avangard happened (Ovechkin tried to leave Dynamo Moscow to go play for Avangard Omsk this past offseason, before the lockout was resolved and he signed with the Capitals), and I went to Omsk, and he and Nikita Alexeev and I went everywhere together, because they lived there on the base. So we became friends.
Will you follow the World Junior Championships now that they've begun?
It is mandatory. If our schedule allows, I even plan to fly to Vancouver. In any case, I want to call Evgeni Malkin and wish him success, and call any of the other players whose phone numbers I have.
How do you plan to celebrate the New Year?
My parents have arrived, so we will celebrate in Russian to meet the New Year.