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Author: Evgeny Sukhoroslov (Football/Hockey (Formerly All of Hockey))
Translated By: Sergei Chveitser
Date: 02/08/2006
Evgeni Malkin: Let Morozov Be The Top Sniper Because Metallurg Is a Champion! (Pittsburgh Penguins NHL)

2006 Russian Super League

Evgenii Malkin skating for Metallurg Magnitogorsk (photo courtesy of Metallurg Magnitogorsk press core)
Have you ever seen how the top scorer of the whole championship, the brightest star of the entire league gathers all the pucks after the practice? To witness this, it's enough to visit any of the Magnitogorsk team's games where that guy Malkin "fires up", come to the pregame skate of the "steelmen". And here again, after the seasoned players Yushkevich, Varlamov and Kudermetov leave for the dressing room, none other than Malkin gathers the pucks, helps the trainers and administrators pack the sticks. To be fair, the Metallurg head coach also often keeps Malkin company in this occupation.

Let's return to last summer. In Magnitogorsk and everywhere else, the main topic of discussion was whether Malkin will leave for NHL or not and if he decides to stay in Russia, on what terms and why...
E. Malkin:
It's true that they gave me a contract that's 2 and a half times bigger compared to the previous season, but it's not the main thing for me. It was clear to me that Sidney Crosby is the centre of attention in Pittsburgh right now and he will be getting most of the ice time. So what's the point of rushing there? Everything satisfied me in Russia in the Superleague, and now it's even better (smiles).

Had they counted Lemtyugov's goal..


They say that in recent years, tears were seen on Malkin's face just twice and both of those times were in early january on the NTV-plus channel that carries live feeds from the World Junior Hockey Championships. The two blowout losses from Canadians in the finals, 1:6 and 0:5 despite the Russians sending two of their brightest young strs, Ovechkin and Malkin, seemed to be able to break anyone... but not Malkin!

After returning from Canada, this year and last, Evgeni began to play totally different. He showed more quality hockey as they say, and only someone with a strong personality can get over such tough losses. This is also about Malkin.

Now, a month after the end of the final match, can you give an answer to what really happened with our team in the deciding games of the last 2 world championships?

E. Malkin: Both times we lacked that concentration that our opponents had. They were pumped up to fly around the rink for the duration of the whole 60 minutes. We on the other hand, weren't ready for that and that's where the result comes from. I still wonder about how that game would've ended had the referee counted Lemtyugov's goal, but it's easy to talk about the ifs and buts now.. Back then we had to come out and battle and we couldn't do that. I remember well how 2 years ago at my first World Juniors, we couldn't even make it to the semi-finals, and now, 2 finals and 2 losses in a row. After that game, when I was leaving the dressing room, I came out with an unbelievable fatigue and emptyness inside. To be honest though, a similar thing happens to me after every loss and I can't smile or even think about the upcoming games. As days go by though, everything gets back to it's own place and you can't think outside the rink.

It turns out you don't get tired at all this season, then...
E. Malkin: ?!

Your Metallurg has been unbeaten in like 20 games now and some have already crowned you as champions...
E. Malkin: It's true that we haven't been playing bad, but I wouldn't want to make any early predictions and say that we are almost the champions or whatever else they say about us. Let's wait till the playoffs. Last season everyone also bet on us, remember? But in the quarter finals, Avangard won in Magnitogorsk...

You are saying that a big lead in the regular season and overconfidence can play a bad joke with Metallurg in the playoffs?
E. Malkin: I really hope that we'll go through the playoffs the way we are going through the season and that this year, the gold will not get away from us.

In one of his interviews, Dave King said that working with you, Evgeni, is easy because you do all the drills with great pleasure and a smile on your face.
E. Malkin:
Nothing brings me more enjoyment than hockey! I can't even imagine what will happen to me when I finish my career. Either way, I hope that it won't happen soon. I hope to God that there won't be injuries...

Thus far, the injuries have stayed away from Malkin. The only serious injury Evgeni got was 2 years ago when Metallurg coaches sent the young prodigy to get some match practice at the farm club. A tough collision with an Avagard Omsk defenseman Nikita Nikitin sent Evgeni to hospital for a whole month with a concussion. They say that after that incident, Malkin was forbidden from playing for the 2nd team personally by Gennady Velichkin.

In Metallurg, you are being protected just like Wayne Gretzky during his best years, but if the great Canadian had Marty McSorley, you are being watched by Dimitri Yushkevich and Vladislav Bulyin...

E. Malkin: I can't say that Yushkevich and Bulyin personally protect me. It's probably the other way. They take care of our whole line and if things get hot on the ice, they will quickly cool down our fired up opponents.

With your frame, can you drop the gloves yourself?
E. Malkin:
If there is a need for it, no question about it. Remember how we played with Dynamo and they tried to get under my skin for the whole game when in the end I couldn't hold myself back and fought back. Of course, fighting is not my job, but I'm a team player and if the team needs it, I'll do anything.

This season you are confidently leading the league in scoring and already have nearly 50 points. In your opinion, how many do you need to become the best player in the tournament?
E. Malkin:
I didn't count and am not planning to. Every puck in the net helps the team and if at the end of the season I have less points than Morozov for example, but Metallurg becomes the champions, I will think I had a good year. Let Morozov be the top sniper if Metallurg can be a champion.

Both Magnitorosks are important to me

Hockey is almost a family occupation in the Malkin household. The head of the family himself played for the youth teams of Metallurg at one time where he was a right winger. Evgeni's brother Denis who is one and a half years older, also tried his hand at hockey, but he couldn't crack Metallurg's roster and instead of playing for Mechel who tried hard to get him, decided to end his career instead.

Does your brother follow your career?
E. Malkin: Of course! He didn't go far away from hockey. He's busy with a hocky shop that we recently bought with him together. I hope that in this area, things will go well with him and he will be able to make it big.

Do you still live with your parents?
E. Malkin: Yes, but not in an apartment but in our own house that we recently bought. Mom takes care of the home stuff and dad helps her with everything.

Turns out that you and your brother feed your family?
E. Malkin: Turns out that we feed the family (smiles). But is it wrong that we are already able to help out our parents? Me and Denis owe them a lot. They raised us and now we have to help them.

Not much is known about your personal life.
E. Malkin: Good. I wouldn't want to talk about that part of my life. After all, it's too personal. I'll just say that I'm dating. She was born in Ufa, but has since moved to Magnitogorsk, but don't even ask about a wedding yet.

Last season it seemed that Marek Sykora didn't risk much when he put experienced NHL veterans Sykora and Elias on a line with the young Malkin who proved to be a worthy partner for the Metallurg stars. Ask Petr and Patrik who they think was the best player of last year's Russian championship that brought many unexpected dates with stars like Khabibulin, Jagr, Datsyuk and Samsonov. The answer of the European Metallurg stars would probably surprise: Malkin. Yes, Malkin and only him.

Did working with Marek for 2 years give you a lot as a player?
E. Malkin: Of course. Denying it would be dumb. Sykora was the one who called me up to play with the main team, gave me a lot of ice time in my first season and thanks to him, people in Russia now talk about the hockey player Malkin.

You say such things...
E. Malkin: Yes, yes, Sykora taught me how to play not only on offense but also how to defend proerly. Unlike Valeri Belousov in Avangard, the last 2 seasons, Metallurg counted on playing defensively sound hockey. Marek always said that a forward must not only score but help out the defensemen too especially if you are a centreforward whose responsibilites include helping out defensively. Sykora is a great coach and it's unfortunate that we didn't manage to win the gold medals with him.

With Sykora, Dmitri Pestunov cracked the main team's roster and Alexei Kaigorodov had his best season. Turns out the foreign coach cared more about the young generation of Rusian players than Valeri Belousov for example, who relied more on the veterans...
E. Malkin: No, it's just that in recent years, Metallurg's school prepares very good youth and that includes me. The school just needs more confidence from the coaches. Even now, when Dave King is working with the team, not only do I play on the main team but also Biryukov and Kulemin. Right now, there are a couple other guys on the farm club who are close to making the big team too.

It seems that you have improved a lot since last season, especially your physical condition...
E. Malkin: Yes, my condition wasn't very good and that's one of the reasons why I decided to stay in Russia for this season. I understood that I have to get better and I think I have no improved myself quiet a bit in this department, but of course I have to keep working and working. Another reason why I stayed is that during the off-season it was becoming obvious that we are putting together a team that can achieve many things. The arrivals of Yushkevich, Bulyin and Scott, who are good and experienced players convinced me that I need to stay with Metallurg.

So which Metallurg is objectively better: last year's team that didn't get any medals but had Nabokov, Gonchar, Elias and Sykora? But who were the opponents? Jagr, Kovalchuk, Heatley, Datsyuk... Or this year's team which is head and shoulders above everybody else?
E. Malkin: It probably wouldn't be right of me comparing these teams. I played for both and can say that they both mean a lot to me. The best answer to your question will be the result at the end of the season.

Do you dream about getting gold in the Russian championship?
E. Malkin: Who doesn't?! While playing for Metallurg, I've only won silver when we played Avangard in the finals. I didn't play in those games though because I went to Novogorsk to get ready for the youth world championships. In Minsk, btw, we finished first. We had a fantastic team, and our goalie, Anton Khudobin even scored goals. That win is extremely precious to me because it's the only time I've won with the national team.

The Olympics are ahead...
E. Malkin: I was very happy that I made the team, but I doubt I will be getting the kind of ice time in Turin that I'm getting in Metallurg. The fact that I will be playing for my country at the main tournament of the last 4 years gives me extra strength.

2 years ago, when your career with Metallurg was just starting, you probably weren't even hoping to make the Olympic team so soon?
E. Malkin: I didn't even think about it. In my wildest dream, I was hoping to make it for the 2010 Olympics, but now I'm only happy that everything is going the way it's going. They say that whatever happens is for the best and I agree with that.


LINEUP FOR MALKIN
In Futbol-Hokkej's traditional survey, Superleague head coaches have chosen you twice as player of the month for the months of October and December while the game against Sibir in Novosibirsk where you scored 6 points was a record setting game for the Russian championships.
E. Malkin: That was one of my best games, but the best is yet to come. It's just that everything went my way on that day. We capitalized on our chances, got the momentum and that's where the result came from. I'll remember that game because it's the first time that I scored a hat trick in my career. Until that game, I have never managed to score 3 goals in a single game while playing for a men's team.

Do you think that in January you showed your highest level of play for this season?
E. Malkin: It's always difficult to your own performance, but after returning from Canada, I knew that I had to forget about the disappointment and that I need to play and get ready for Olympics. Right now, my priorities are that I first have to go to Turin and then I will start thinking about the playoffs with Metallurg. Only after that, I'll be thinking about the World Championships in Latvia where I'm also hoping to play. Last season I won bronze in Austria, so there's something to improve on.

It seems that today, Gennady Velichkin is the most concerned person about the psychological condition of his young phenom. He fought until the end not to let Malkin play at the World Junior Championships and now he travels with the team to every road game. It looks like the Metallurg director's mission is very simple, he wants to keep the team that's already tired of all the media away from the annoying reporters.

"It's funny and all, but even during one of the early games of the season, we went to Moscow to play CSKA. As we entered the hotel lobby, I saw something like this: there are probably more reporters and TV cameras than there are when they follow Putin around," says Gennady Velichkin. "The guys enter the building and all I see is all these reporters and cameras form 3 lines in front of Scott, Dave King and Malkin. The same thing happens in Moscow after the morning skate. Of course I understand that we are interesting and that the 1st placed team is going to attract a lot of attention. I even respect the reporters and what they do, but despite all this, I'm completely against that all this sometimes annoying attention interferes with the guys. They have a goal to win the championship."

How is Dave King at work?
"He is a lot like the Russian coaches, " tells Malkin. "He is just as demanding and responsible, but he has a different psychology. We have won 15 games in a row, and he tells everyone that we have to go and win the 16, 17th games. This is one of the biggest reasons why we have such a winning streak."

Igor Korolev, who played for Chicago for many years is the team's interpreter for Dave King. Can his place on the team be defined as "player-coach"?
E. Malkin: I wouldn't call him coach, but Igor is one of the most respected players on our team. He's been in hockey for many years and he knows not only how to translate, but how to get the coach's message to the players. Now though, we don't even need a translation to understand what the coach wants from us like what drill he wants us to do now and what we will be doing next.

Alexander Ovechkin, your Olympic partner left for NHL with a solid level of English. What about your abilities with the language of your future residence and workplace?
E. Malkin: (Humbly smiles)... Not very good... I'm starting to learn English because I understand that it's very important. I can't go to Pittsburgh without being able to communicate, but I have very little time to practice English. I'm trying though... "Do you speak English? Do you, do you..."

Ovechkin is currently showing unbelievable hockey in Washington...
E. Malkin: I'm aware of how he's doing and very happy for him. We rarely communicate nowadays, but I hope that we will be able to talk more during the Olympics in Turin. I just hope that when I go to America myself, that I will be able to do just as well as him.

Pittsburgh is hoping to have you by fall.
E. Malkin: I'm also hoping for that. I have 2 years left on my contract with Metallurg, but I want to try my hand at NHL. You can write that it's my dream, but then Mario Lemieux recently announced that he's retiring and...

You got disappointed?
E. Malkin: It's unfortunate that I won't be able to play with him on the same team, but I hope that I will at least get to meet him when I come to Pittsburgh's training camp.

Do you ever have dreams at night that you and Crosby win the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh and Lemieux himself presents it to you?
E. Malkin: For now, if I have any dreams, they are about the Olympics...

Written By: Evgeny Sukhoroslov (Football/Hockey (Formerly All of Hockey) Newspaper)
Translated By: Sergei Chveitser (RussianProspects.com)

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