[Tomorrow's edition of Sovetsky Sport has an interview with Evgeni Nabokov, goaltender for the President's Trophy-winning San Jose Sharks. Right now, most Caps fans are worrying about their Eastern conference rivals, but could it be that Nabby is looking slightly past that when he talks about the next time he and Ovechkin meet up?]
"MY ATTITUDE TOWARDS OVECHKIN HASN'T CHANGED"
Who is going to win the Hart Trophy this year as the MVP?
"That's a difficult question. Unfortunately, the two main contenders, Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin, are in the Eastern conference. I haven't seen them play enough to categorically answer your question."
"But there is one more guy who could be nominated every year for the Hart, and that's Pasha Datsyuk. We meet up with him quite often, and his game deserves a lot of attention. Datsyuk may not be as showy as Sashka and Zhenka, but his points are close to the triple digits. Unfortunately, Datsyuk is rarely thought of when they talk about the Hart Trophy, and they rarely write about him in the press, and that's a crying shame. He's truly a worthy candidate."
And what can you say about Ovechkin, who the reporters are writing about almost every day?
"He's a passionate, energetic player. Everything he does benefits the game. He gives the fans something to talk about. Some like what Sasha does, others don't. But that's his character, it's in his blood. Let the guy do what he feels he needs to do. That's his right."
Can you recall how you hung out with Ovechkin at the 2006 Olympics in Turin? Maybe you went out to a restaurant together?
"Sashka was really young then" laughs Nabokov. "Basically, to be serious, Ovechkin in real life is just like he is on the ice. He's a passionate guy, a sea of energy. He loves to joke around and play practical jokes. I get a lot of enjoyment from combined practice sessions with him. He always wants to make a goal, and is competitive in every little thing."
Recently when you were giving an interview to Sovietsky Sport, you sounded skeptical about the way he acted after making his 50th goal.
"I want to clarify so that everybody understands how I feel about Ovechkin and his goal. I didn't really like his actions at that moment, but I would never tell him how to live, what to do, or what's not proper. I don't have the moral right to do that."
"And this doesn't change my relationship with Sasha as a hockey player. He felt it necessary to act that way, so why shouldn't he? Look, they're still talking about his 'hot' stick! I don't think Ovechkin crossed over any line, like they do in American football."
"But I look at things from the point of view of the goaltender. And the next time, if Sasha tries to make a goal like that on me and I catch his shot, I'll show him my glove and say 'Looky here-here's the puck, right here!'"