Monday, November 23, 2015

Russian Young Gun: Artemi Panarin Rising

The Chicago Blackhawks have been enjoying the influx of Russian players to their team: Victor Tikhonov, Artem Anisimov, and, best of all, Artemi Panarin. After conducted an interivew with Artemi Panarin, he dropped some gems that deserve to be on this blog. Here's what he had to say about playing on one of the top NHL teams and his chemistry with Patrick Kane and how other Russian players influenced him.

* For the original article by Leonid Varshavsky, click here.
*This article was translated by The Hockey Writers. For the interview on their website, click here.

Interviewer: In the last couple of years you had quite some progress. How did you achieve that?

Panarin: I have to thank Viktor Tikhonov, he helped me a lot even when we were playing for SKA. And I also had Ilya Kovalchuk. I followed these players and I improved thanks to them. I was very happy to be playing in the same team with such great forwards. Just as I’m happy now to be playing with Kane, Toews, and Hossa. They are also allowing me to progress. Look how great is playing Kane right now, he’s the goal and pointscorer leader of the whole league. I have to work hard to get to his level.

What did Ilya Kovalchuk told you about the NHL?

“There’s nothing to be scared of, Tema.” He told me to be myself, not to change my game and not to lose confidence. Play the way I can. That’s all.

Artem Anisimov is doing a great job complementing you and Kane. What is his secret?

Well, he has such a good contract (laughs). I think he understands very well what kind of hockey I and Patrick want to play. He helps us a lot. I don’t think it’s just down to his size, his task isn’t just to hit people around. He could be even smaller, just to skate faster (laughs). With his size he can be very good at screening the goalie, but he doesn’t always want to fight in the slot.

Why did Chicago undergo the Russian invasion exactly this summer?

Our contracts with SKA run out. Viktor wanted to get here even earlier. I wasn’t thinking about it before, I didn’t consider myself ready to the NHL. But I was 23, 24 now. We also won the Gagarin Cup. I understood that it was the right time to go to the NHL. It was the right time to make a step forward.

Now the whole world knows who Artemi Panarin is. Do you feel more pressure?

I remember when I was 18 or 19 and no one in Russia knew about me. Now I’m the right person in the right moment.

Why do you wear #72?

I simply like how it looks.

What did you learn in your first months in Chicago?

My height didn’t grow, therefore I haven’t learned any supernatural method here (laughs). Now I’m paying more attention to little things like work with the stick. Generally speaking, there was a period where I was a little lost. And maybe now, after a small decline, a big boost is ahead of me.

What do you do to get better?

I try to eat more (laughs). I try to think the correct way. I try to adjust myself and my game. It’s hard to find some time to practice in Chicago, but I need to be more and more useful to my team.

What suggestions do you get from your coaches and teammates?

When I was in a goal drought, my teammates would approach me and tell: “Relax and don’t think about that.” I understood that, but it was hard anyway. It’s very hard to keep your cool. I was worried, but the advice was helpful.

What did you have to adapt more in the NHL?

When I started playing here I had a lot of questions in my mind. First of all about speed. Then I also noticed that here players play stronger on the stick. At first it was hard because I couldn’t receive passes, but now my reaction became better.

What is the difference between playing with Kane and Toews?

I like playing with anyone. I’m going to play with any player my coaches will indicate. Of course when I play with Kane we show more chemistry. But on the other hand I played much more with him, than with Toews.

It looks like you and Kane have a lot of chemistry.

We are on the same wavelength. He can even understand my English. I’m very surprised. He always finds the right words so that I can understand him.

What do you like more than everything about Chicago?

Here there is more sun than in St. Petersburg (laughs).

Recently Sergei Fedorov has been inducted to the Hall of Fame. Was he your childhood idol?

When I was a kid I didn’t even know all the players. The NHL wasn’t a goal for me. I couldn’t even dream about that. When I was a bit older, then I started paying attention to players. And of course Fedorov always impressed me.

Can you say the same about Alexander Ovechkin? Do you know him?

Yes, we got to know each other playing for the national team. It’s great that we have such a great player playing for Russia.

Soon Ovechkin will become the top Russian NHL goal-scorer of all times. Will you catch him up?

To get to that I have to play for long time like Jagr (laughs).

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Greatest Russian NHL Goal Scorer is no Longer Sergei Fedorov

Alex Ovechkin is now the greatest Russian goal-scorer the NHL has ever seen! On a crazy sick goal assisted by Nicklas Backstrom and TJ Oshie, Ovechkin made it to 484 goals to break Sergei Fedorov's previous record of 483. Naturally, Fedorov, who was like a father to Ovechkin in his young playing days, wasn't upset. As a matter of fact, he was happy for his close friend. "It's awesome," Fedorov told last week. "Records are made to be broken, so to me he's always been the goal-scorer and when he got close, I'm like, 'Of course it's him.'" When he heard that the record had finally been broken, he had more to say, "I would like to congratulate Alex on this achievement. What he has accomplished thus far in his career has been nothing short of remarkable."

What is very ironic is that Ovechkin had gotten two goals to break 483 before that, but they were waved off on coach's challenges. This time, Ovi broke the record against the Stars, and the last time the Caps beat the Stars was in 2008, when Sergei Fedorov set his record. Amazing, eh?

Also, the assist master named Backstrom is the one who helped both superstars achieve their milestones, to add to the irony.

Lastly, but not least, Ovi's remarkable goal scoring ability was finally proven, when he achieved the Russian record in 471 games less than Fedorov did. Ladies and gentlemen, you are seeing one of the greatest goal scorers the game of hockey had ever seen right in front of your eyes.

I hope you enjoyed reading! Let me know in the comments box what you think. Congratulations to Ovi on this milestone in his career, and thanks! спасибо!

Sergei Fedorov Influenced Evgeny Kuznetsov and Five Facts About Kuzya

Evgeny Kuznetsov after Russia won gold in the 2011 WJC in Buffalo, NY, USA.
In 2011, a 19-year-old Evgeny Kuznetsov, still in his second season playing for Traktor Chelyabinsk, went to a KHL All-Stars dinner in Riga, Latvia. The young centre had no idea how to act around all these strangers, people much older and more experienced than him, so he took a seat next to Sergei Fedorov, captain of a rival team. He ended up having a conversation with Fedorov, which inspired him as he went forward playing for the same team that Fedorov had played for, the Washington Capitals. Remembering his conversation with Fedorov this past week, Kuznetsov had nothing to say but good things: “He’s very much like a gentleman, you know? He said a couple of good words to me.”  After Fedorov finished his career with Metallurg Magnitogorsk just a year later, in 2012, Kuznetsov asserted that he is looking forward to seeing Fedorov again, and had the chance to meet him again on Monday, during the Capitals game against the Detroit Red Wings. 

Since his arrival in Washington in the late 2013-14 season, I have been impressed by the young Russian's dazzling skills and perfect dangles and passes. He became my favourite player and soon after, I began watching his KHL highlights and became a big fan of Traktor. Sadly, I couldn't watch the games because it is at 4 am here in the States! For all the other Kuzya enthusiasts, here are five facts about him I bet you didn't know:
1. His nickname is "Harry Potter."
The Capitals duo of Tom Wilson and Michael Latta gave him that nickname after he impressed them with his puck-handling skills that seemed magical.
2. He has a 6-month old daughter.
After getting married at age 19, Kuznetsov and his wife Nastia finally had their first daughter, whose full name is Ecenia Evgenia Kuznetsova. 
3. He is humble and a bit (?) shy.
After Kuzya scored his first career against the Edmonton Oilers early this season, he didn't even raise his hands in celebration. Every time he scores a sick overtime goal or does something that is crazy sick, he calls it "luck." Even teammate Backstrom, who is extremely humble himself, had something to say about it: "He’s kind of shy, I would say, for the media,” 
4. His idol is Pavel Datsyuk (just like me!).
Apparently, I am not the only one who thinks Datsyuk is best))
Kuzya had this to say about magic man Datsyuk, and why everyone thinks he is so impressive: “He may not score 100 goals a year, but when he’s out on the ice, he just humiliates you. He sees everything, he can tie his opponent’s shoelaces with one hand. It seems like he never even gets tired. I was happy to play against him [in the KHL during the 2012 NHL lockout], and it was a real honour to play with him [on Team Russia]. I’m too far from him and I have to work every day. I may never be like Pavel, but I want to be and have some of his skills."
5. Barry Trotz (Capitals coach) and Braden Holtby (Capitals goalie) think he can be a top-5 NHL player.
Barry Trotz just couldn't stop oohing and aahing over him: "It’s not even the same person,” Trotz said. “We always knew he had the skill, but his pro game – his North American game – has really come along. He’s not afraid of the big moments. He’s not afraid of the top players in the league. He wants to be one of the best guys in the game, and I think he can be."
On the other hand, Braden Holtby was a bit more realistic: "[Kuznetsov] had an adjustment period last year coming over. It seemed like right after the all-star break he was a different player. He was probably our best player throughout the playoffs. Right from the start of the year you could tell he has world class skill. He has the ability to be a top-five player in this league. With the amount of poise, skill, and commitment to getting better [he has], it’s amazing to watch him every day. He’s a great teammate and he’s huge for us."

Hope you enjoyed this post; let me know in the comments! Thank you for reading! спасибо!!!