Caps prospects Dmitri Orlov (center, holding the trophy’s handle) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (bottom right, biting his medal enthusiastically) pose with Team Russia following their thrilling 5-3 victory over Canada in the WJC’s Gold Medal Game. (Photo credit: Nathan Denette)
If you’ve been paying close attention to RMNB over the past few months, you were already well-aware of the gem that the Capitals have in Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov, who has been tearing it up this season with the KHL’s Traktor Chelyabinsk, found his game when it mattered most in this year’s World Junior Championship. The Russian-born winger finished as the tournament’s second-leading scorer with four goals and eight assists, and led Russia to its first WJC gold medal since 2003.
In the quarterfinals against Finland, Kuznetsov single-handedly brought his team back from a 3-1 deficit registering a goal, an assist, and the overtime game-winner. The 18-year old then followed up that clutch performance with yet another one against the Canadians in the Gold Medal Game. In front of a boisterous pro-Canadian crowd at Buffalo’s HSBC Arena, Kuz assisted on three goals in the third period, including a no-look pass to Vladimir Tarasenko that yielded the game-tying goal.
Suffice to say, when Kuznetsov landed back home in Russia this past Saturday, he was met with a large media horde. RMNB’s Igor Kleyner has translated two Russian articles from this past weekend, which detail Evgeny’s feelings on his new gold medal, what it was like to play in front of such a hostile crowd, and that whole ‘underage-drinking/being-kicked-off-a-plane’ scandal.
The first article Igor translated is a story published in Sport-Express by Pyotr Tereshchenkov entitled, “Evgeny Kuznetsov: ‘And Then I Saw The Canadians Hiding Under Their Bench.'” Kuz was interviewed for this article by a group of Russian reporters upon landing in Moscow on Saturday, January 8th.
Question – Evgeny, do you wish you could have scored in the final?
Evgeny Kuznetsov – What’s it matter who scored? I was lucky to score twice in the quarterfinals. Someone else scored in the other games. It makes no difference to me. It’s the World Championship. Winning is the main objective, and it’s pointless to think about personal achievements. The goal is to bring home the gold. At this point, I don’t think anybody will remember who scored in which game.
Q – It appeared the team got fired up after the incident at the end of the second period, when a Canadian player kicked your captain, Vladimir Tarasenko, in the head while not trying particularly hard to avoid the collision. Is that true?
EK - More importantly, in spite of the injury, Volodya [Tarasenko] came out and played in the third period. When you’re in a situation where people do not surrender and keep fighting, then you begin to understand: “This guy came out to play injured, and I am healthy. Why can’t I play?!” Emotions overwhelm you. We scored right away, the crowd started making noise, but we scored the second goal, and the third. Everything settled down.
Q - Is it true that after the second goal the Canadians had fear in their eyes?
EK – I agree. Skating by their bench, I noticed they seemed to be hiding under the bench. All you could see was their coach’s head.
Q – How difficult was it to control yourself when the referees were not fair?
EK – Not at all. I have learned to control my emotions. As soon as you start arguing, talking – you can simply stop playing.
Q – Did you feel a lot of pressure from the twenty thousand strong crowd in the sold out arena in Buffalo?
EK – Of course. But it’s a pleasure to beat the Canadians.
Q – How did it feel to receive the award from the legendary Scotty Bowman?
EK – That was Scotty Bowman? ::laughing:: No, I did not receive my award from him.
Q – How does one avoid what happened to the Canadians, where you allow five goals in the third period and lose?
EK – First and foremost, you cannot stop concentrating. You cannot stop. You have to play your hockey through the end.
Q – It seems that you were picked on more than the others. Provocations?
EK – Not at all. In fact, I pick on everybody else. ::smiling::
Q – Did you follow the North American media during the tournament? Did you see all those “Kuznetsov’s Magic” headlines after your super goal against the Finns in the quarterfinal?
EK – No. I followed the Russian press on the internet, but did not pay attention to the American media.
Q – Do you have any desire to comment on the story about the team being taken off the flight home?
EK – It was absolute nonsense.
Q – Nevertheless, the American media paid a lot of attention to it…
EK – They should look at their medal. Then everything will be clear.
Q – Have your chances improved for making the Russian National Team now?
EK – Maybe, I can make the team for a round of EuroTour, but I don’t think I will get to go to the World Championships for the next two or three years. I don’t think anybody would be willing to take a very young player to such a tournament. You have to earn that. It will make me want to work even harder in order to make progress. And if they decide to give me a chance on the National Team, I will double my effort. I’ll try to play even better. Because to to be picked for the World Championship as an 18-year old, that’s a totally different story.
Q – When are you returning to Traktor?
EK – Tonight. I heard they are preparing something special at the airport.
Q – You think the whole city will be there?
EK – Maybe. ::smiling::
Q – Do you think you are going to get a couple of days off?
EK – I don’t know yet. Haven’t talked to anybody so far.
Q – And when do you feel you will be ready to go back on the ice?
EK – Any time. I am always ready to play.
Q – So, emotionally, do you have enough passion left for the rest of the season?
EK – Of course. It’s just a beginning of the most interesting part of the year. And now I have to go.
Finally, Igor has also translated a January 8th story by sportbox.ru’s Alexander Baranov and Yekaterina Balaeva, which continues the discussion from above. It’s entitled, “Evgeny Kuznetsov: ‘Next Up is the Stanley Cup!'”
Question – You have won the World Championship. What are your goals now?
Evgeny Kuznetsov – Next, is to win the Stanley Cup. And as far as the national team, I don’t think I will make the team for the next two years.
Q – Why?
EK – I am too young, and I doubt anybody wants to risk of bringing an 18-year old kid to the National Team. But if I get the call, I will redouble my efforts.
Q – Talk about the incident at the airport in Buffalo, what actually happened there?
EK – Nothing at all happened. We calmly got on the plane, turned our headphones on, and went to sleep. And then, two men walked on board and said: “Get off the plane, or it won’t fly!” Just stupid… Yes, we did yell a bit at the airport: “Russia – Champion!” But it was just emotions. We had just won the World Championship. I think if it were Canadians or Americans, no one would have said anything. But what can you do? We picked up our stuff, went to the hotel, and went to sleep.
Q – Canadian journalists kept the story going for quite some time.
EK – Let them look at what color their medals are.
Q – What was the most memorable moment, aside from this fantastic victory?
EK – Probably, the eyes of the Canadian fans. When I looked into the stands after the final siren, I saw a real sorrow. People were crying. I was shocked. And one more thing: when we made it to the finals, I saw some guys that printed out my picture, and drew a beard and mustache on me, and added a few not so flattering words. After the game, I skated up to them and asked: “What’s the score?”
Bonus! Photos from the Gold Medal Game
Canadians are sooooo clever. (Photo credit: Mike Cassese)
Evgeny Kuznetsov drives to the net, while (#22) Tyson Barries defends. (Photo credit: BuffaloWorldJuniors.com)
Evgeny Kuznetsov and Vladimir Tarasenko celebrate the GTG (Photo credit: Rick Stewart)
The taunting continues. (Photo credit: Mike Cassese)
Caps prospect Cody Eakin decks Caps prospect Dmitri Orlov in the corner (Photo credit: Rick Stewart)
Dmitri Orlov (right) celebrates with his teammates on the bench. (Photo credit: Rick Stewart)
Orlov looks to tackle Bobkov. (Photo credit: Mark Blinch)
Denis Golubev enthusiastically raises his team’s new hardware. (Photo credit: Rick Stewart)
Kuznetsov (right) poses with his teammates for a photo. (Photo credit: Stephanie Carosa)
Members of Team Russia stand as their flag is raised. (Photo credit: Rick Stewart)
Dmitri Orlov (left) is REALLY happy. (Screengrab via Dmitry Petrov)
The Canadiens are devastated. Does this remind you of a particular event last year? (Photo credit: Rick Stewart)
The Russians hold up their new trophy. (Photo credit: Rick Stewart)
The Swedes left this sign on Russia’s lockerroom door to congratulate them on their comeback victory. (Screengrab via Dmitry Petrov)
Additional reporting by Ian Oland.