By Igor Kleyner
Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s debut as a Washington Capital was a little like that first crepe, which, according to Russian proverb, tends to come out as a lump. The Capitals came agonizingly close to victory in Monday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, but walked away with no points to show for their effort. In the end, that loss had little to do with how well the 21-year-old Russian rookie played.
Playing for a team on the wrong side the playoff line, Kuznetsov seemed to understand the gravity of his situation as he spoke in Russian after the game to Dmitry Chesnokov of Yahoo Sports, Igor Tichonenko of Voice of America, and yours truly. Zhenya didn’t really want to talk about his individual performance, no matter how much it probably meant to him. The team lost, he wasn’t able to help, and that’s what was on his mind.
Here is the translation of our short conversation.
What are your impressions after the first game?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: We lost, so it’s very disappointing. So I don’t think I played very well. If we won the game…
Did you have enough time to prepare for the game?
E.K.: Yes, I was fully ready, but the way it turned out… it’s just disappointing we lost. It doesn’t matter how I played, we needed to win.
Your very first shift, you were welcomed to the NHL with a bodycheck.
E.K.: Yes, that’s exactly what happened, but that’s really no big deal. It’s hockey.
As the game progressed, you seemed to have gained more confidence, felt more comfortable on the ice…
E.K.: Yes, after the first period was over, my body relaxed a bit; until then, I was very tense and nervous. Again, it’s so upsetting that we lost; we needed to win the game. In the third period we played well and put a lot of pressure on them, but I am going to say it again: it doesn’t matter how I played personally. What matters is we needed to win.
When did you feel that your nerves finally calmed down?
E.K.: It wasn’t even nervousness, sometimes I simply wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. Of course, a lot was explained to me, tactically and otherwise, before the game – but when you are on the ice, it’s all different. But by the end of the first period I started to understand “what, where, and how.”
When you had some ice time on the power play, did you feel sufficiently confident?
E.K.: I made a bad pass – that was disappointing, there was a chance for Sasha [Ovechkin], he was skating in on goal… Well, next game we will play better and win, that’s what I hope for.
Did you feel any psychological pressure – you know, because they’ve been waiting for you here for such a long time?
E.K.: No, not at all. It wasn’t psychological. I was fully concentrating on the game, nothing was bothering me.
Are you playing tomorrow? It’s against the same opponent as today.
E.K.: Of course, if the put me in the lineup, I am ready to play. We must play better and win.
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