Everyone seems to have something to say about Alexander Semin's prodigious goal-scoring -- his detractors grind their teeth and call it a fluke and his legions of loyal followers are basking in the glow of delicious vindication. But what does Alex himself have to say about his play so far this year? Well, that master of the well-turned phrase, Slava Malamud of Sport-Express, caught up with the Snarling Siberian following his recent romp over Tampa Bay, so read on, dear reader, read on!
Well, we told you that it would be "Ovechkin vs. Stamkos" and "Stamkos vs. Ovechkin". We discussed whether or not we had reached the NHL era of not only Alexander the Great and Sid the Kid, but also of Steven the Macedonian (unlike Alexander, Stamkos is Macedonian on his father's side). And while we were debating the relative qualities of these three super-scorers of today's NHL, perennially-forgotten-by-the-hockey-media came out on the ice with the aforementioned Ovechkin and against the aforementioned Stamkos and was far and away the absolute best player of the game.
For Semin this was somewhat of a debut-for the first time in a long time he was playing left wing, which really is his natural (going by the right-hand grip of his stick) position. But it doesn't matter, because he can rocket one in from any side, making goaltenders' heads spin.
At the seventh minute of the second period Alexander converted on a two-on-one, finishing off a pass from his partner with a powerful snap while on his knees. At the ninth minute on the power play he again scored on a one-timer after some crisp passing from Backstrom and Ovechkin. At the 12th minute he scored on a two-man advantage when Backstrom passed to him through the crease, somehow getting the puck between the goalkeeper and defenseman, and Semin attacked the net from almost a zero angle.
In America, they call this a "natural hat trick", when you get three goals one after another. It took ten minutes to pick the hats off the ice, even though some Tampa players were actively helping the cleanup crew, whacking at the fanatical oblation with their sticks. By the way, this is Semin's third hat-trick in just over a month and the second in a row playing against Tampa. Stamkos may be the best forward in the NHL today, but apparently there is something about Semin that makes him go flat when they meet face-to-face.
After the game, Alexander took a long time to come out of the shower and the trainer's office (nothing serious, just some prophylaxis and routine maintenance), but he finally appeared. After a hat-trick you can't avoid your duty to talk with the press.
Left wing is your normal position, but in Washington you've played right wing for a long time. It seems it wasn't very difficult for you to get the hang of your old position again. All three goals were from almost the exact same spot on the ice.
"The first goal happened because we were on a two-on-one, and the other two-well they just happened. In both cases we were on the power play, and I always play that spot on the power play, so that's nothing new. Although it was still a little strange. I was off slightly. But it's nothing, I'll get used to it."
As far as the last goal, it seemed that Backstrom didn't have a chance to make a pass. Did you really expect a pass?
"The first time he sent it a little bit the wrong way, but I still waited so that he could pass again. And that's what happened."
You've now played in the NHL for a while. Before a game do you have any premonition what might happen?
"I'm not going to say anything. This is personal, so why should I reveal anything?"
After the second goal did you consciously work to get yourself a hat trick?
"We play according to the situations. It's not like I shot just for myself and didn't make any passes. It just happened that Nicky passed to me, and I didn't have any other choice but to make a good shot."
In your entire career up to this point you've had three hat tricks, and now you've had three in a month. What has happened to you?
"And I'm not going to stop! I'm going to keep playing the same way I've been playing. I'm not going to change anything."
Still and all, such progress....
"Just like you say - I've got a contract staring me in the face (smiles). Anyhow, you can see for yourself that I'm still passing, just like before. Business as usual."
Now you're even breathing down Stamkos' neck.
"I have a chance to catch him-there are a lot of games ahead of us."
Is it nice to think that the star level of the NHL is not limited to Stamkos, Ovechkin and Crosby?
"I don't pay any attention to anything anybody says about any stars."
Even when you aren't included in the voting list for the All-Star game?
"I have absolutely no interest in that."
So are you reading the newspapers?
"Why should I? I'd rather play hockey."
And that's right. Semin, as a matter of fact, has moved into fourth place in the league in points and in second place for goals, just four goals away from Stamkos. But at the very least for one day the Russian totally outshined the Canadian, who exited the ice for the fourth time this season without a single point.
As for Ovechkin, he is currently in third place for points, but for goals he is still struggling. In the last six games he hasn't had any. In answer to my question "When are you going to start scoring?" the Washington captain smiled and answered "well, I don't need to right now". And that is also the truth.
In the game against Tampa Bay, Washington forward Alexander Semin had his third hat trick of the season. If you recall, previously he had hat tricks in games against Atlanta on 23 October and against the same Tampa Bay team on 11 November. It should be noted, however, that the all-time Russian leader in hat tricks for a single regular season in the NHL was Alexander Mogilny, who had a total of seven in the 1992/1993 season with Buffalo. Interestingly, it only took 35 days for Semin's three hat tricks. However, Mogilny's record season had a much more impressive period-he took only 25 days to record four hat tricks, from 9 December to 2 January.