Ovechkin is a Soldier, Semin Wants to Play Against Backstrom, and Malkin Has a Hankering for Some Borscht and Goals

Source: Sovetsky Sport, Pavel Lysenkov. Click here for original article.

After the Capitals/Penguins game, Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Evgeni Malkin all talked with Sovetsky Sport reporter Pavel Lysenkov.  Before the Caps left Mellon arena, the trio had a friendly meeting, most likely discussing some last minute details before the start of the Vancouver Olympics in 3 weeks, where the three will be united on the Russian National Team.

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SEMIN: "IT WILL BE INTERESTING TO PLAY AGAINST BACKSTROM"

"You might say we were lucky" figures Alexander Semin. "We successfully scored the fourth goal, and just a minute later Backstrom is able to score on the power play."

Does it help that Brent Johnson used to play for Washington and you knew his moves?

"We really didn't think about this. It really doesn't matter who Pittsburgh has in net.... Anyhow, it's even more difficult to play against your own goalkeeper, because not only do we know his moves, he's studied us very well also."

Does the win somehow temper the bitterness of the Stanley Cup quarterfinal loss last year?

"How could it? Last year we lost to Pittsburgh and we fell out of the playoffs. And they became the champions. We need to get past that history. Life goes on."

In the game tonight Nicklas Backstrom was even more brilliant than Crosby. Will the Swedish National Team be a force to be reckoned with in Vancouver?

"We'll just have to wait and see. Personally, for me it will be very interesting playing against Backstrom. It will be cool to find out who is the stronger one."

OVECHKIN: "I'M JUST A SOLDIER HERE"

Alexander Ovechkin, main hero of the game and NHL megastar, was led into another room for the press conference. The Washington captain spent a long time answering questions from the North American reporters, and then gave an interview to Sovetsky Sport.

The Washington victory was decisive. In what way was Washington stronger than Pittsburgh?

"The level of play was the same; the winner was the one who had more luck."

Once again you were pretty hard on Malkin...

"Everybody played hard against one another. Everybody played this game like it was the final match."

How did Sidney Crosby look to you? The Pittsburgh captain is on an upswing, and the interesting thing is that Sidney has more goals than you (33 vs. 32) but you have more assists (36 vs. 31). You've somehow switched roles.

"This is because Crosby has started to shoot more. And he's a high class player, one of the best in the league."

Yesterday Sovetsky Sport interviewed Team Canada GM Steve Yzerman who said "Russia is the clear favorite at the Olympics and they are stronger than the Canadians."

"I think he specifically said that so that we would relax."

In the game tonight you scored your 250th and 251st NHL goals.

"Really?"

You really don't keep up with your statistics?

"I knew that I was somewhere close, but I hadn't paid too much attention to it."

But this is a real accomplishment!

"Listen, I've made two thousand shots in my career. Look how many I missed! Although shouldn't ten percent of the shots make it to the net?"

Does Washington have a stronger roster than before?

"I won't say that we have a stronger roster, but we now have more experience. The team knows that just making it into the playoffs doesn't mean the season was a success."

Are you expecting that GM George McPhee will make some trades right at the deadline and add some strength to the Capitals?

"You need to ask him that. I'm just a soldier here. My job is to work with the guys that are here."

How can you say you're just a soldier when you go out on the ice wearing the "C"?

"Fine, I'm a corporal. It really doesn't make any difference."

MALKIN: "I WAS CRITICIZED FOR MY ACTIONS"

Your correspondent caught up with the 2009 NHL points leader in the Pittsburgh dressing room.

How did the conflict with Jose Theodore come about?

"I wasn't able to slow down, and I ran into the goaltender. Tom Poti started to shove me in the chest, so I had to answer him back- I didn't run into Theodore on purpose. But there wasn't a fight or any low blows. We backed off and went our separate ways."

Could your relationship with Ovechkin be summed up with the old phrase "we aren't friends on the ice, but in real life we could even go to a restaurant together"?

"Are you saying that we've had some run-ins? Somehow I never noticed that."

Is Ovechkin getting older?

"Either he has gotten weaker, or I've gotten more pumped up" - a mischievous grin appears on Malkin's face.

You scored three points, and had a hat trick in your last game. Do you feel like you are starting to recover?

"Yeah, it does. I've had a lot of criticism lately. I had to rethink my game, change some things with it."

But it isn't quite fair when the critics from the Pittsburgh press write that you aren't earning your salary. Without you, the Penguins wouldn't have won the Stanley Cup!

"When a guy doesn't score in 11 games straight, he absolutely will be criticized."

Why is it that Pittsburgh, with all the stars on their team, is in the next-to-last place in the league on power plays?

"Everyone is standing next to the boards, nobody is screening the goalkeeper. Well, we're working on our power play. We used to be really good at it, but it really isn't working. It's puzzling..."

American fans joke that you played so well last season because your parents came to Pittsburgh. Now you aren't getting enough of mama's borscht.

"Right now they're back home in Magnitogorsk, but they'll be coming with me to Vancouver, and then come to Pittsburgh after the Olympics. So then there will be borscht and a lot of goals."

Having finished up the interview, Malkin left the dressing room where he met up with the waiting Ovechkin and Semin. From the snatches of conversation it was clear that they were talking about the Olympics. After catching up with each other, the guys agreed to a photograph. Although Malkin was upset that his friends were in suits and he was wearing some goofy shorts.

Evgeni stood between the two Alexanders and surely made a wish. It isn't hard to guess what it was. And it will come true on February 28, the day of the Olympic finals.

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