|Author: Evgeny Sukhoroslov (Football/Hockey (Formerly All of Hockey))|
Translated By: Sergei Chveitser
|Evgeni Malkin: Let Morozov Be The Top Sniper Because Metallurg Is a Champion! (Pittsburgh Penguins NHL)|
|2006 Russian Super League|
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.
Evgenii Malkin skating for Metallurg Magnitogorsk (photo courtesy of Metallurg Magnitogorsk press core)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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)
Related Player Profiles: . E.Malkin
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