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[He may not wear a toque blanche when working (or maybe he does-- who knows?) but our good friend Slava Malamud does certainly serve up some tasty morsels that leave us wanting more. Tonight he surprises us with this artful amuse-bouche which appears on the front page of tomorrow's edition of Sport-Express.]
Slava Malamud, Washington
Under the roar of the huge crowd and to the appreciative tapping of sticks by his teammates on the boards, Alexander Ovechkin scored a goal. Right off the faceoff, a quick shot underneath his opponent. Team A widened the score differential....
The first few days of Washington's training camp at the ice complex weren't overcrowded. On Saturday, however, it was hard to even breath: so many people came to see the first training session of Ovechkin and his teammates that a large number of them had no other choice but to wait outside and lay in wait for their idols in the parking lot. But yesterday, in the middle of a workday, one or two hundred of the possessed came to watch another scrimmage. Washington was divided up into three teams, and played for the traditional Duchesne Cup, named in honor of a former Capital. Ovechkin's A-Team was plowing in fine form on its first outing, in full accordance with the new team motto for this season "Stay Angry!" In other words, this time just let us at ‘em!..
The thing is, Ovechkin and his partner (he's such a good friend he shares his name) Alexander Semin either aren't able to get mad or they get mad in their own peculiar way, because both of them returned to the nation's capital well rested, physically prepared, mentally stabilized-and not so terribly angry. In any case, at least not in front of the press. They didn't growl into the cameras and they didn't chew into the microphones.
"Yeah so what kind of anger could there be?" dismissed Ovechkin.
"We lost and we are moving forward. Last season was difficult: we lost everything-the Olympics, the Stanley Cup, the World Championship. Such is life. Yes, it is a shame that we lost the Olympics-that's only once every four years, darn it. But that's a reason to work harder, especially since the next Olympics will be in Sochi, in our own backyard."
You burned through your summer. You were always in the newspapers...
"Yellow newspapers! Yellow!"
And this doesn't bother you? Maybe you should have gone to Siberia with Semin?
"To get lost in the taiga or what? Sema's a local boy, he knows all the paths and shortcuts, and what would I do there? I'd get lost."
All joking aside, Semin's season is going to be a bit more serious-it's a contract year. Looming next year is his first, and therefore extremely important, free agency. The General Manager of the team so far has only praise for the Russian, but man proposes and money disposes. Who knows, maybe Semin won't even finish playing the season in Washington but will be traded in the Spring to some team on the periphery. But the Siberian is trying not to worry his head about this right now.
"I can't climb inside my bosses' heads" notes Alexander of his human deficiency. "How am I to know what they are thinking? And even if I did-what then? I'd finish out the season someplace and I'd still be a free agent. But I've been here five years now, and I'm used to everything. It's comfortable here."
So what would you say to the idea that you are not a "cup" player?
"Yeah, let them say what they want. I think that a player has to be a player at all times-in the regular season or in the playoffs. But everything in life can happen to a person: something doesn't go right here, some bad luck happens there. And afterwards? Do you think about what other people say? You have to play consistently in every game. Why should you change something about yourself? I don't understand how that is possible-to play one way in the regular season and an entirely different way in the playoffs."
Basically, the team may have its motto, and the Alexanders have their own. It probably sounds something like this: "I don't have to change anything about myself!" Well, you can see the logic in it. By the way, Ovechkin meanwhile voiced another preseason mantra to a local television station
"No more all night parties! Time to work!"
[This appetizer was just an excerpt from a larger piece which will run in tomorrow's edition of Sport Express. Tune in to the Rink for the remainder of the article once it is published.]