A few days ago, Pavel Lysenkov from Sovetsky Sport had an enormous three-page interview with Alex Ovechkin. As usual, Pavel gets Alex to open up and share personal insights that you will never read in English language interviews, and our good buddy TJ over at Alex Ovetjkin jumped in and performed the yeoman's work of translating the majority of the article, so be sure and check that out. Once you've read that, here for your viewing pleasure is my translation of the remainder of the article, which continues where TJ's ends. Here Alex shares his views on the upcoming Olympic team and compares and contrasts it with his experiences as a member of the 2006 Russian Olympic team.
BYKOV'S TEAM IS FROM ANOTHER PLANET
We could talk for a long time about nightclubs and summer. But the Olympics are just one month away. And I can't believe that doesn't cause butterflies in your stomach.
"If you start beating on me now, imagine what shape I'll be in when I get to Vancouver-- on the edge of a nervous breakdown? Reporters and fans keep asking me about the Olympics, but I'm not thinking about it yet."
"The butterflies will come when I board the plane for Canada and realize that in just a few days I'll be going out on the ice and fighting for Olympic gold."
Have you talked with your mom about the Games? After all, she's a two-time Olympic champion.
"We try not to talk about sports at home. Even when I was a kid, I never asked my mom about the Olympics. I just played with her gold medals."
Think back to your first and only Olympics so far. Why did the Russian team, with such a strong roster, end up in fourth place in 2006?
"Turin left me with a strong sense of disappointment. I don't want to blame anybody, but there were some extra people on our team at that Olympics. There weren't enough strong hockey players who absolutely should have been brought to the Games."
So who was to blame for that? GM Pavel Bure or head coach Vladimir Krikunov?
"I'm not saying I'm trying to blame anyone. I'm just stating the facts. You bring your strongest players to a tournament such as this. You don't address personal issues. Yes, there were some undercurrents. Our team in Turin didn't have any soul. There wasn't any unified mission of winning gold. Rather they just wanted to have certain players play in the Olympics. That left a bad taste in my mouth."
Korоlyuk was injured, Malkin was disqualified, and in the semifinals against the Finns you had to skate on two lines, wearing yourself out.
"That's bull. I was strong enough, but there wasn't a normal atmosphere on the team. They said that we were all together in the same boat, but then we broke up into cliques."
"It's a totally different situation now. We are a team. Everyone knows why we are going to Vancouver. If you were to compare the team of Bykov and Zakharin with the Turin model, it's like this team is from another planet. Nobody is given any special treatment. Nobody made the team out of friendship or past achievements. If you play well, you are going to the Olympics. If not, well sorry about that. And how do you think those players themselves felt, who were just given a spot on the team? I'm sure they were ashamed. But now these guys have a different mindset, a different behavior. It is important for them that a battle-worthy team goes to Vancouver rather than a bunch of tourists. Together, like a clenched fist."
Do you get along okay now with Krikunov?
"Everything is good between us, no problems."
After Turin there was a war of words. Players blamed the head coach, Krikunov criticized the players, but you didn't have any part in this...
"I can't stand it when they are looking for a scapegoat. That's why I say that we didn't have a team at that Olympics. The mudslinging in the press just confirmed that. Everybody was guilty in the loss, and when they start blaming each other it just looks bad."
JAGR CAN STILL CUT THE MUSTARD
Let's imagine how Russia's games will go round-by-round. Our first opponent is Latvia.
"The majority of their players are from the KHL. I don't think the Latvians will outplay us. Against the Russian team that doesn't make much sense. We'll score a goal or two, nonetheless. Unless they catch us in a counterattack, but that's doubtful."
"They have good defense. Zdeno Chara is one of the best defensemen in the NHL. That team has wheels and they can bring the attack. Marian Gaborik is notable on offense for them."
Nikita Filatov said that he can't imagine how you can play against Chara. He's a giant at 206 cm, and has a two meter stick!
"Yeah, it's hard to play against Chara. You've taken two steps and he just has to move his stick. But you don't have to go around him. You just have to use a few different tricks, look for shot opportunities."
"Jaromir Jagr wants to show that he can still cut the mustard. It's important for him to play good hockey, no matter his age. I think the best Czech player in the NHL is Tomas Kaberle. He's a classy defenseman, a veteran and one of the leaders of their national team."
"But arguing now about our opponents and their strengths is about as futile as nailing jello to a tree.(the folksy adage Ovechkin used literally translates as "writing on water with a pitchfork", but this is the closest in English I could think of that reflects the same amount meaning in a folksy/funny manner- TH). Let's go to the Olympics and everything will fall into place."
OVECHKIN'S SYMBOLIC TEAM
Sovetsky Sport has already reported that fans voting on the official NHL site selected a symbolic team of the best players of the decade. It included goaltender Martin Brodeur, defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom and Scott Neidermayer, and forwards Joe Sakic, Alexander Ovechkin and Jaromir Jagr.
...Your correspondent asked Ovechkin to pick his team of the decade.
"I'd put Evgeni Nabokov in net," said Ovechkin after thinking for a moment. "On the back end I'd have Sergei Gonchar and Andrei Markov. And on the attack I'd have Zhenya Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk playing with me."
Wait a minute, these are all Russians! Where's Crosby and Iginla?
"This is what I've decided. This is my team," laughed Ovechkin.