In this weekend's edition of Sport-Express is the following brief interview of Alexander Semin by Slava Malamud, following the Washington Capital's 6:2 thumping of the Florida Panthers. Alex S. did an admirable job stepping up his game, and here's hoping that continues when Alex O. returns.
Slava Malamud Washington
Is Alex Ovechkin as indispensable to Washington as we think? Actually, yes. Of course he's indispensable, and even more than we think. We simply haven't had the opportunity to see the effect of his prolonged absence. But don't underestimate how the Capitals can unite and compensate for an Ovechkin insufficiency for two or three individual games. Especially against Florida.
This was Washington's third game against the Panthers this season, and all of them have been played without Ovechkin. The Capitals were victorious in all the matchups, scoring a total of 17 goals. Not too shabby for an exsanguinous team, am I right? All-in-all, this season Washington has had seven games without its main star, and garnered 11 of an available 14 points in those games. Apparently, it's time to admit that the Capitals aren't such a bad team just by themselves. Especially when Semyon Varlamov is in net.
The young Russian (who, if you recall, started the season in less than spectacular fashion) has won 11 of 15 games, losing two more in shootouts. He has won 24 out of an available 30 points - which is the best record among NHL goaltenders. In this game, Semyon had a very good chance to have his second shutout in eight days, but after the team got up to a 6:0 lead, they slacked off and allowed the visitors to spoil the goalkeeper's statistics. The always good-natured Varlamov was so upset that he didn't stop to talk to the press after the game. Washington seems to have the bad habit at times of stopping playing when they build up an advantage. Fortunately, even without Ovechkin, Washington's advantage can be prodded more than just a little bit. Especially when Alexander Semin is healthy.
The Siberian, who returned to the team after a seven-game absence, was the main hero, having a hand in four of the team's six goals. At the end of the game he could have had a hat-trick, but a fantastic scoring chance for Alexander was ruined by a broken stick. After the game, Semin shared his thoughts with your Sport-Express reporter on what it is like for him to be a main leader on the team.
You said earlier that you would need two or three games to get back in the swing of things after a long absence.
"Well, it's a good thing it turned out like it did. Everything worked out just right for me today. I could have even scored some more. Why was that? I don't know. Actually, I spent all my off time practicing, I didn't just sit around."
Do you feel like you are one hundred percent?
"It's difficult, of course. For two weeks I lost my rhythm a little bit. But everything feels good, and I didn't forget how to skate."
Are you sorry you didn't make the hat trick at the end?
"Yeah, I had two opportunities there. First, my stick broke, and then I almost broke away from a defender, but somehow he managed to get the puck away from me."
Do your sticks break very often?
When you're in situations like that, you usually shoot a wrist shot, but you decided to use a slapshot.
"I thought it was a little far. I probably just didn't have the energy to go any farther. That line was worn out."
Have you had to adjust in any way to Ovechkin's absence?
"No, we haven't changed anything. We just went out and played our game. The team performed flawlessly. Of course it's a pity that Ovy wasn't there, but what can you do?"
Do you feel that without him you have to take his place?
"This was my first game after (recovering from) my injury, and that's always tough. The guys really helped me, so I didn't think anything like that."
So maybe it's even easier for you without Ovechkin?
"We don't play specifically for him. I play according to the situation. If the situation calls for a pass, you pass. If it doesn't, you play it yourself. We don't have this attitude that we all work for a particular person."
Semyon Varlamov was a little upset.
"It's a shame, of course. The entire game was going towards a shutout, and then we stopped playing for a little bit."
You guys seem to do this quite a bit.
"Yeah, because it was 6:0. It turned out that we all slacked off a little bit, even though coach did say ‘Let's play for the goalie!'. And that's what happened."