One reason why the World Championship can be fun is the awkward situations it creates. For example, on Monday, Russia played the Czech Republic, pitting five Capitals teammates against each other. The Caps troika of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Dmitry Orlov suited up for the red machine while Jakub Vrana and Dmitrij Jaskin donned white and blue for the Czechs. It went exactly how you would predict.
“[P]ersonally I was trying not to let [Ovechkin] get in my head,” Jakub Vrana said in a Czech TV interview as translated by Alexandra Petakova. “He was trying to provoke me a bit and make me lose focus on my game, but I was more trying to concentrate on my game to help the team the best I could and I didn’t want to allow myself to be distracted.”
After the game was over, the Caps opponents high fived and hugged each other in the handshake line, letting bygones be bygones. Ovechkin even gave Jaskin a respectful tap to the calves from his stick.
“Well, as for me, he’s my captain and I respect him a great deal, but when we play against each other, we are opponents and you can’t consider the season,” Vrana said, seemingly conflicted. “He might be my captain, but right now we’re opponents.”
Vrana’s TV interview is translated below.
Jakub, how are your first four, five days at the scene of the World Championships, finally among the adults, the senior, national A team?
Jakub Vrana: “Very positive so far, we have a great group of guys and of course the fans and everything around it give it a flair. So far so good, I think.”
Jakub, does a rookie’s place on the team change when he scores a goal from his first shot? When in the same game – an important one against Sweden, the world champions – he adds another one? Does his role change? I mean in terms of picking up pucks, jokes from teammates, etc.?
Jakub Vrana: “I’m not entirely sure, I’m mainly a shooter and I’m trying to shoot a lot. Of course, when it works out this well right from the start and I score a goal from my first shot, that’s how it is. Sometimes it goes like that and sometimes, like yesterday [against Russia], I hit the post. I’m glad we could get a start like that and that it ended like this.”
Should we always expect a shot on goal from you on your first shift, if there’s a chance? Do you try to shoot as soon as you can?
Jakub Vrana: “I felt right in the first game that there was a lot of space and that I could find good spots to shoot from, so I tried to do that and Kubala [Dominik Kubalík] found me up there, so I’m glad [the puck] fell through like that.”
Speaking of finish, what influence does Alexander Ovechkin have on your career? You’re together in Washington.
Jakub Vrana: “Of course, for two and half years I’ve been watching him shoot so it’s an opportunity for me to learn from him.”
Practice-wise, does he have something special you can learn from him?
Jakub Vrana: “I think he, uh, he doesn’t really practice that much anymore… his shot. For ten or twelve years or how long he’s been playing in the NHL he’s been reaffirming that he can score goals so I think he’s just trying to keep that up.”
You’ve practically doubled your goal total in the NHL this season. What’s your next goal? What’s the number in your mind, ‘I want to score this many goals the next year’?
Jakub Vrana: “Personally I don’t want to put unnecessary pressure on myself, I’m just trying to go in, play the best I can and enjoy it. Of course, this year the coach put a lot of trust in me after we won the Stanley Cup last year, so I got more ice time and a bigger role on the team, which helped me a lot this season.”
You and Alexander Ovechkin met as rivals yesterday. It was the same for Dominik Simon and Evgeni Malkin. Wasn’t there too much respect, considering that these are the team stars and you’re the players who want to be on their level but aren’t there yet? Weren’t we too respectful yesterday? We’ve been on this topic for 24 hours now.
Jakub Vrana: “Well, as for me, he’s my captain and I respect him a great deal, but when we play against each other, we are opponents and you can’t consider the season. He might be my captain, but right now we’re opponents.”
And the Russians in general? When you’ve seen the roster full of stars? We felt we didn’t play as relaxed as we did against the Swedes.
Jakub Vrana: “We let the start get away from us a bit before we got into it, but personally I was trying not to let him [Ovechkin] get in my head, he was trying to provoke me a bit and make me lose focus on my game but I was more trying to concentrate on my game to help the team the best I could and I didn’t want to allow myself to be distracted. If there was respect? Like I said, the start got a way from us and they have almost all of the all-star team there, but I think we created our chances as the game went on, it just didn’t go in. We hit the post twice, that’s hockey sometimes, we can’t change it now.”
The goaltender Vasilevskiy is a Vezina trophy candidate. You could say he’s one of the best goaltenders right now. You had a little chat yesterday after he blocked a pass to you and you yelled something at him. What was it?
Jakub Vrana: “I was trying to get under his skin a little too, to distract him and… what I yelled, I’d rather keep that to myself.” [laughs]
In Russian, or in English?
Jakub Vrana: “English, English, I don’t speak Russian.”
Did he reply?
Jakub Vrana: “No, no, you could see he was focused, so nothing much came out of it.”
Translation by Alexandra Petakova
Headline photo: ceskatelevize.cz
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