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Bruce Boudreau Rates Alexander Semin's Game

Sovetsky Sport has been running a series of articles called "Letters to the National Team", in which they ask various in-the-know folks to rate players for potential inclusion on Russia's 2010 Olympic hockey team. In todays edition, Dmitry Chesnokov and Pavel Lysenkov asked Bruce Boudreau to rate Alexander Semin in several different categories.

Letters to the National Team

28 February 2009

Pavel Lysenkov

Sovetsky Sport is finishing up its "Letters to the National Team" project, in which our correspondent is on a creative assignment for the coaching duo of Bykov/Zakharin, playing the part of scout and analyzing the game of NHL player candidates for the Russian national team. At last, we shall judge Washington forward Alexander Semin.

"So who's going to evaluate Sasha Semin?" asked his comrade in Washington after we had completed the "Letters to the National Team" on Fedorov and Kozlov.

We were thinking of asking Bruce Boudreau said Dmitry Chesnokov, our Correspondent in the nation's capital.

"Oh no, anybody but Bruce! He won't rate Semin very high.."

Nonetheless, we went to Boudreau, who had been named NHL coach of the year last season.

...And just to remind you, we compile our answers using a questionnaire which rates each category on a ten-point scale.

1. Passion (7)

"Semin has really improved his output," says Boudreau. "When I first came to Washington, I noticed that Alexander wasn't always engaged in the game. But now it has turned around. Semin enthusiastically fights for the puck a lot. I like the passion with which he competes."

2. Mobility (10)

"I don't think there is anyone that can move better than him. Whenever Semin has the puck, you get the feeling that he's got it tied on a string. He works it with really high speed. That is why Alexander averages more than one point per game.

"And you have to consider that he doesn't always play every shift with Ovechkin. He doesn't get 23 minutes per game, but only 19. Ovechkin will play on the PP for the entire two minutes, because he assumes the position of a defender. Semin only comes out on one special team, sometimes getting only one minute. But he can accomplish so much!"

3. Tactics (8.5)

"He is a talented guy, and he is able to guess the movement of his partners. Previously, the main problem for Semin was his English. Alexander reads the game better than 95 percent of the players on earth! But because he didn't speak English well, he didn't have a full rapport with his partners.

"Now, Semin is much more attack oriented. But at the same time he has started playing better in defense. He has a +27 rating. We rarely lose when he is on the ice. True, Alex sometimes takes a chance when he goes on the attack, but that is typical for a fast-attack forward."

4. Puck screening (8)

"Last year I wouldn't say to you what I'm saying now. But if, for example, we were leading by one goal in the last five minutes of the game, I would have Semin playing the entire time. When he has to play well in defense, he is one of the best. But if we are up 4:1, then Alexander might take a chance and make a turnover at center. Overall I like how he plays defense."

5. Aggressiveness (8)

"Semin is not a power forward. He is not like Ovechkin who will make 14 hits in a game. But Alex is so skilled with his stick that he doesn't lose battles for the puck. He is aggressive and fights to the end, especially in the last few minutes of the game."

6. Special Teams (7/10 = 8.5 average)

"Last season, Semin didn't play on the PK. But I noticed that he did that in the World Championship, and did it very well. So this season I used some of that Team Russia experience.

"It is only recently, when I put Semin on Ovechkin's line, that I stopped using them when we were a man down, because it was their line that came out on the ice immediately after the PK ended. Let him show himself more on the attack. If, however, we have some players injured or scratched, I can easily use Semin on the PK.

"Alexander is one of our leaders on the PP. That is why Washington is in third place in PP in the league, and first place if you count since November. This season Semin has already made 20 points (3+17) on the PP. That is an outstanding statistic."

7. Character (8)

"Semin has a talent for getting stupid penalties. But when the game is hanging by a thread, he can make the important goal. Just a few weeks ago we were playing against Boston, and the score was 1:1. Alexander snatched the puck, charged up the flank, made a powerful shot and brought us victory. And he does that quite often.

"He is a quiet guy. You don't hear Semin like you hear the industrial Ovechkin. But Semin is a fighter, always thirsting for the win. He just doesn't talk about it. I still remember the final in Quebec, when Semin made two goals. No, everything is in order with his character."

Would you choose Semin to go to the Olympics in Vancouver?

"He should automatically be selected, the same as Ovechkin."

What does Semin still need to work on?

"Nobody is perfect. Speaking about nuances, I wish that Alex would shoot a little bit lower. Semin is great in the attack, but his shots often go over the net. He always wants to put it in the corner of the net. He needs to work on his precision. There's no reason that Alex couldn't have had 30 goals by now. He has the hardest wrist shot! And if Semin corrects his aim, his productivity will sharply increase."    

TOTAL: 58 (8.29 average)

Other ratings:

Alexander Ovechkin  
Washington 67.5 (9.64)
Pavel Datsyuk Detroit 67 (9.57)
Alexander Semin Washington 58 (8.29)
Alexander Frolov Los Angeles 57 (8.14)
Alexei Kovalev  Montreal 52 (7.43)
Anton Volchenkov Ottawa 49 (7)
Viktor Kozlov Washington 45 (6.43)
Sergei Fedorov  Washington 43 (6.14)