[Not that I am a fan of excoriating exsanguinous equine, but I thought this interview between Alex Ovechkin and Slava Malamud which appeared in yesterday's issue of Sport Express was worth passing along.]
Heading into a one-on-three, Alexander Ovechkin stormed into the Tampa zone, cut to the right flank and, unable to continue the attack, whipped a shot into the far corner from underneath the defenseman. McKenna didn't see the shot come off, and when you're talking about Ovechkin's shot, that's basically a death sentence for a goalkeeper. He's not going to see the puck again and can only hope that it hits him, hits the post or simply flies by the net. But this time the puck didn't choose option one, two or three. McKenna was sure of that, since he finally had a chance to see the puck when it was already gently resting in the motherly embrace of the net. Ovechkin got his 50th goal!
It was a trivial matter for the Russian sniper to achieve this milestone which separates the elite from the masses. He has achieved it three times in his last four years in the league. Alexander had to wait quite a long time for this, according to his own calculations - a whole five days. And he marked it in his own way: he laid his stick down on the ice and acted like he was trying to pick it up, but it was too hot to handle. And this is right after Canadian commentator Don Cherry, having sharply criticized him for his overly enthusiastic goal celebrations, complimented him on his restraint in the last few matches. Poor old Cherry. This latest bit of acting is going to cause his brain to explode.
It seems that this time Alexander is not going to be able to escape even wider criticism. His antics provoked not only a sharp condemnation from the opponent (Tampa coach Rick Tocchet said that "I grew up in the old days in the Spectrum where in the first period, after that happened, it might have been a three-hour first period"), but also from his comrades-in-arms. Washington Head coach Bruce Boudreau was also upset, and even comments on internet fan sites (where Ovechkin is usually Tsar and God) were, shall we say, ambiguous. But Ovechkin himself said after the game that he can't wait to hear some new tirade from Don Cherry.
However, this is all truly non-hockey related nonsense. From the Russian point of view, a much more significant fact was the third start of goalkeeper Simeon Varlamov, who celebrated his third win. There were thus five Russians playing for Washington in Tampa, and two of them distinguished themselves with three points each: Ovechkin (1+2) and Viktor Kozlov due to three spot-on assists.
As concerns the hero of the day, well he shared his emotions with your Sport-Express correspondent immediately after the game.
Was the 50th goal more difficult, at least psychologically, from all the rest?
"You know, it was. Thank God this time I only had to wait two games, not six like last year. But I did have my chances. As soon as I made it, what a load off my mind. When you're stuck at 49, the idea keeps gnawing at you that you need to get the next one, just one more-you think about it all the time. Now that weight is off of me."
Tell me about the goal celebration.
"I performed a new number to make the guys laugh. I acted like the stick was somehow hot."
Did somebody suggest that or did you think it up all by yourself?
"The guys on the team thought it up. More exactly, it was Jose Theodore."
Won't this upset Don Cherry?
"I don't give a damn. Let anyone think what they want. I just wanted to dedicate that goal to my late grandfather and I was extremely happy that I was able to make it."
The Russian 5 once again were playing for Washington. What do you have to say about Varlamov?
"He played fantastically. He made a pair of outstanding saves. Good job! He plays very calmly. It seems that he doesn't get upset and he carries himself well."
What are your personal goals right now?
"We still have ten games left, and of course I'd love to reach 100 points. Truthfully, however, all my thoughts are on the playoffs, which are the most important part of the season. It's going to be really interesting and really difficult then."
We just figured it out that if you make 50 goals every year, at the end of your current contract after 13 years you would overtake Wayne Gretzky and could possibly reach 900 goals. Do you think this is realistic?
"Absolutely realistic. The main thing is to avoid any injuries or major slumps. "
Do you think you can play the same type of hockey when you are 36 as you do now?
"I don't want to look that far ahead. I'm only 23 years old now. I enjoy life to the fullest and don't think about the future."
There is a theory that if Gretzky were to play today he would make about the same amount of goals as you.
"It doesn't make any sense to try and compare us with players from the past. It was a totally different game back then. It was a lot easier to play back then. You can't do anything about that. Who knows, maybe in 20 years other guys are going to be saying the same things about us. Hockey is constantly evolving, always advancing."
So have you already autographed and mounted the puck?
"Of course! I've also set aside the stick. I already have a lot of trophies in my collection, to celebrate each milestone achieved and record broken."
In the points race you've overtaken Sidney Crosby and trail Evgeni Malkin by 9 points. Do you want to overtake him?
"This is also realistic. Basically I'd like to break my total from last year of 112 points. But there isn't any reason to think much about this. I'm just going to play the best I can."
If you could pick somebody right now for the Hart Trophy, who would that be?
"I have two candidates-Malkin and Nabokov. I don't know who I could pick from between the two. Malkin is carrying Pittsburgh, and Nabokov is playing great in San Jose. He's in second place for wins and has had six shutouts."
Is it just a coincidence that you've named two Russians?
"Of course it isn't a coincidence. Right now Russians are playing better than anyone else!"