Pavel Lysenkov at Sovetsky Sport has done it again-another "War and Peace" sized interview, this time he caught up with Alexander Semin after the Philadelphia game. Enjoy.
Alexander Semin didn't appear at practice for the second time in a row, even though we agreed on an interview at Washington's practice facility, Kettler.
Where's Semin? I asked one of the local reporters.
"Did you see how he played against Philadelphia?" they answered my question with a question.
He scored two points.
"And the passes he made? And his moves? He's not a forward, he a genius! If he can play like that all the time, he doesn't need to practice!"
Is Sasha having any problems with his wrist?
"He had a doctor look at it in New York. He said it didn't need an operation. He could play, but it would hurt a bit. He will be totally healthy by the Olympics."
From out of the dressing room door comes Alexander himself, wearing a stylish jacket, a t-shirt with a picture of a blonde on it, and a cap with the number 28- his jersey number.
"Actually, I have an appointment. A meeting," said Semin. "I've only got ten minutes."
...We sat down and started talking, and we talked for almost an hour.
I DON'T THINK SOMEBODY PUT THE EVIL EYE ON ME
According to the local reporters, you are playing so well now that you basically don't need to practice.
"There's another game tomorrow. You do have to rest sometimes, and it's an optional practice. If this was the start of the season, I'd be skating non-stop. But we've already played fifty games, and to keep up this schedule you have to be well rested."
"Everything is just fine with my health. If I were to feel some pain, I wouldn't go on the ice. At the beginning of this season I did play like that, and ended up not being able to shoot like normal. You always have to fully recover."
Some folks say "if Semin can stay healthy, it would be frightening to imagine what kind of player he would be!" If you recall, at the beginning of last season you were the scoring leader in the NHL
This season turned out the same way. I started out well, but then once again I got hit in a situation that looked perfectly safe.... Let's hope things will get better. There can't always be injuries. I don't even know how to explain them. They just come out of nowhere."
Maybe you need to go to church to ward off the evil eye?
"I go to church. But I don't think that anybody has put a spell on me. Look how many injuries there are in the NHL this season. Can every hockey player really have that many ill-wishers?"
What moment in your career do you consider your peak, when basically everything came together on the ice? The World Championship in Quebec? The beginning of last season?
"When you've got your act together, then everything will go well. I'm happy with how I'm playing right now. I'm not having any difficulties."
Does your game change from time-to-time? In the past, some have said "Semin takes too many unnecessary penalties". Now when you watch Washington, you don't really see that now.
"In the past there were some stupid penalties. But this is my fifth season in the NHL, and I know when, why and how they will penalize you."
IT WAS MORE INTERESTING AGAINST THE SWEDES IN QUEBEC THAN AGAINST THE CANADIANS
When are you flying to Vancouver?
"February 14. I already have my ticket."
Who is going to the Olympics with you?
"My parents are coming on the 16th of February. I don't know if I'll be able to see them in Vancouver. Probably only in the stands. This is my first Olympics. Basically I don't know what is going to happen there, how we will be quartered in the village. But I'm not really thinking about that. If you imagine one thing, then nonetheless something else will actually happen."
Are you nervous?
"There's no need to get butterflies. That might even hamper you a little bit. You just need to go out on the ice and play, like any other game. If you remember Quebec, well yeah, the finale is the finale. There was seething passion and excitement. But when the game starts, everything disappears."
"And really, the match against the Canadians was not as interesting as it appeared, not like the group meetings with the Swedes. When their defenseman injured Morozov and Ovechkin made the game-winning goal with six seconds left in the game."
"But I won't say that every team is able to win gold when they've lose 1:3 and 2:4. So the finale really shouldn't be underestimated."
You made two goals then. Yeah, I'm sure, that was the best game of your career.
"I just made two goals. Nothing outstanding. There was no use philosophizing about it, we had to go out and win and that was all. We had to play as a unified team."
I give up. So what game then do you feel was your best?
"Well, for example this year we played Montreal. I felt really easy out on the ice, and I made two goals. Sometimes in the NHL you just run back and forth, and it gets really hard. And then it's as if there is this powerful burst of energy, and you don't feel any tiredness."
CLOSE YOUR EYES IN THE NHL AND YOU'LL TAKE ONE UPSIDE YOUR HEAD
The fans can't wait to see the Washington line of Semin-Fedorov-Ovechkin at the Olympics.
"Let them wait. I'm not worrying about this. Of course I'd like to play again with Fedya, but it is up to the coaches to decide who is going to play with whom. After all, they say that Pavel Datsyuk might even be at center for us. I can't say anything about this, because I've never played with Pasha."
Did you see his shootout shot against Chicago?
"I heard that Datsyuk once again toyed with the goalkeeper. That doesn't surprise me, that's his style," smiled Semin."
Do you keep in contact with Sergei Fedorov?
"Yea, we talk on the phone. He tells me about Russia."
Do you find that interesting?
"Maybe for him this is something new, but for me nothing in Russia surprises me. I played at home during the lockout. How much can it change in three years?"
They've formed the KHL, they've changed the organization, the rules...
"Whatever! Look, Viktor Kozlov went to Salavat, and he says that the rules are just the same as they always were. Unless they knock you flat out on the ice, the game goes on. It's not like in the NHL, where just a little hook on your opponent will get you two minutes."
But it's obvious that your connection with Alex Ovechkin will be kept for the Olympics. Even Sasha himself says that it's easier for him to play with you than anyone else.
"We really know where each other is going and where they will be open. We can make a pass without even looking."
"We haven't been on the same line very long, so we don't have that level of communication yet. But I'm really happy with this line and we are playing well."
But you guys aren't telepathic yet, so you can't make passes with your eyes closed.
"I was just giving an example. I don't really do that. If you close your eyes in the NHL, you'll take one upside the head. You can't get away with that."
THE MOST IDIOTIC MOMENT IN MY LIFE
I talked with the legendary Bobby Clarke from Philadelphia, and he said that Ovechkin was a bull on the ice. He crushes everyone under him and goes straight ahead. Would you agree with Clarke?
"People go out to kill him, but Ovechkin doesn't care. Nobody can handle him. It's difficult to beat him single-handedly. He's a great forward and he skates well. Well, you look at him yourself," - Semin nods towards the door, where as if on cue Ovechkin and his dad appear.
So what animal could you be compared to on the ice?
"Now there's a question!" Semin exclaimed. "I'm not going to answer that myself. Uncle Misha! (Ovechkin's dad- TH), what would you compare me to?"
Papa Ovechkin thinks for a moment and responds "A panther! There's something feline like about Sasha's game. And how about how he scored that goal against Philadelphia? He crept in and - bam!"
Alexander, you really do give the appearance of an unflappable person.
"Why pay attention when someone is trying to provoke you during a game? You can understand why they are doing it - to make you lose control of yourself so they can get a man advantage. For me, all these jabs and insults are just a bunch of baby talk."
When was the last time that that Alexander Semin lost control of himself? Not necessarily in a game, but maybe in real life?
"Even when I fought with Rangers defenseman Mark Staal, I wasn't overcome with emotions... No, I'm not that type. I never explode."
And when you were dropped from the Russian national team in 2007?
"At that time I was just in shock. I didn't understand why this happened. Everyone was more or less given a heads up. I told them when I was arriving. It was a five hour flight from Krasnoyarsk. I called from the airport and asked where I was supposed to go, and they told me "You don't need to go anywhere...".
"I think that head trainer Vyacheslav Bykov wasn't given the correct information. That's why there was a discrepancy. But there's no use in trying to find someone to blame now."
Especially since a year later you had a happy ending in Quebec.
"But for me, that whole story was a big surprise. I didn't even want to watch the Moscow World Championship. But I watched all the games, even when we lost to the Finns in the semifinals."
Was it painful?
"It was offensive. You could be there, but instead due to some incomprehensible dispute you are sitting at home. I returned back home to Krasnoyarsk on the exact same plane. I purchased a new ticket, and then flew for another five hours. This was the most idiotic story in my life."
Did you learn some lesson from it? Did you start being late less often? Did you start trusting people less?
"No. That's in the past and I've forgotten it. I don't think about it anymore."
AFTER THE GAMES THEY GIVE ME COOKIES AND STUFFED ANIMALS
This will be your first Olympics. In the past, you've only watched the Olympics on television. What moment was the most memorable for you?
"During the Nagano Olympics I was just a kid. I watched hockey, as much as they played. I remember five goals by Pavel Bure against the Finns. But that was a long time ago."
"Perhaps the brightest spot was our game against the Canadians in the Turin quarterfinals. But after the score was 0:3 against the Finns, I didn't watch those Olympics anymore."
"I don't know why the Russian team did so poorly during the semifinals. Maybe they didn't have enough attitude. I also wasn't there. Although it could have been..."
You weren't selected by GM Pavel Bure or head coach Vladimir Krikunov?
"Why rake up the past? It was my own fault."
So what then? You were invited, but turned it down?
"Absolutely not! It's just that I was playing well up until the 2005/2006 season, but right before the Olympics I went into a slump. So I was a candidate for the national team. And I could have gone to Turin to play with Ovechkin."
Let's not talk about sad things. Sasha told the story about how you guys were vacationing in Krasnoyarsk over the summer and went someplace back in the sticks, and in some country store Ovechkin was recognized by some old grandma?
"It wasn't really a country store, it was a yacht club. But it really was located far from town. Ovechkin went in, and this granny cried out "am I dreaming?". She couldn't believe her eyes for the longest time. But then she was finally convinced that this was the real Alexander Ovechkin. She was all in tears, the poor thing. I don't think she had ever been to the city in her life. She lived and worked somewhere in the woods, but she knew about Ovechkin."
So have you ever had any remarkable meetings with fans like that?
"Nobody in Krasnoyarsk knows me," smiles Semin.
I don't really believe you. Maybe fans sometimes give you presents or write poems for you?
"It happens in America. I come home after a win, and on my porch there are cookies, stuffed animals, cards. Truthfully, I don't know who all this is from. The messages aren't signed. But I read the cards. I find them interesting."
SASHA AND I HIT THE MCDONALD'S DRIVE-THROUGH
Your mom lives with you in Washington and cooks pelmeni and other Russian dishes for you. Do you ever eat hamburgers?
"Sure, why not? Sometimes a trip to McDonalds hits the spot. I go there with Ovechkin. For instance, we were playing in Tampa, and after the game we went to one restaurant after another and they were closed, so what could we do? Wander all over the city? We went to McDonalds and got some Big Macs and fries."
I can only imagine how dumbstruck the Tampa fans would be, walking into a fast food place and seeing two NHL stars, Semin and Ovechkin, sitting there.
"They wouldn't have seen us. We went to the McDonalds drive-through in a taxi, and then went back to the hotel."
What do you do in your free time in Washington? I know you like to watch Russian mini-series. "Vanyushina's Children" for example.
"The last miniseries I watched was about Wolf Messing, who could predict the future. It's a good film, but serious. This guy lived his life for other people. He was used by everyone. He could read minds and he helped Stalin and a lot of other politicians."
Have you ever had a moment when you could read thoughts or do an exact prediction? You had a revelation and it came true?
"The day before the finale, I predicted that we would beat the Canadians in Quebec by a score of 5:4. And that is what happened."
Not too bad...
"You just have to know how!"
Did you use some logic in your prediction?
"What was the final score when we beat the Finns in the seminfinal? 4:0. And the score in the bronze match where the Finns beat the Swedes? Also 4:0. The Swedes in the other seminfinal lost to the Canadians 4:5, so there was my math. I thought that the score for us should also be 5:4."
"I said it out loud, and after the finale I was in the showers with Ilya Kovalchuk. I said ‘Hey Ilyukha, do you remember I said that we would win 5:4?' ‘Yeah, I do remember.'.... So there it is, a premonition."
Where do you prefer to rest up in the summer, in Krasnoyarsk or in Miami?
"Definitely at home. I really don't like to fly a lot on vacation. I get enough of the nomadic lifestyle in the NHL. But you still think about someplace to go off to, where there is sun, sea and water. After one trip to Turkey I've lost interest in trips like that.
"Krasnoyarsk is my home. I can rest body and soul there. I spend 4-5 months, all summer there. Miami-I'll go lie on the beach there for a week after the season is over. There's not really anything to do there. It's boring."