evgeny-kuznetsov

Photo: Bruce Bennett

It’s summer, which means we should be expecting Russian NHLers to do what they normally do: jet-ski on a lake in the middle of Siberia and maybe judge a beauty contest in Moscow. This summer, however, has been a bit different for Evgeny Kuznetsov, who is spending his summer break on this continent while he takes care of his newborn daughter.

In a three-part interview (1, 2, 3) with Sovetsky Sport’s Pavel Lysenkov, Kuznetsov talks about his baby (his daughter’s middle name is Evgenia) and the negotiations behind his new two-year contract with the Washington Capitals.

“It is not a secret that I wanted a long-term deal,” Kuznetsov said. “But we ran out of time. And decided that two years is the right option, and Washington did not object.”

That, and literally a million other things are covered in this mammoth interview.

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Photo: Rob Carr

One year ago, Evgeny Kuznetsov came to North America. On a spring morning, he took the ice for the first time in a Washington uniform after signing a two-year entry level contract. Save for Capitals coaches, Kuznetsov was alone. Still, cameras followed him incessantly down the ice.

Soon after, RMNB spoke to Kuznetsov for the first time. Last Sunday, we did it again. There was a fair bit to discuss. For Kuznetsov, it’s hard to imagine a more dramatic shift in just one season. So far, he’s been a fourth liner, a second-line second, a healthy scratch, and finally, a playoff hero. Off the ice, Kuznetsov endeared himself to his teammates and became a media darling.

Naturally, we had both asinine and serious questions for Kuzy. He happily obliged.

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Photo: Ian Oland

When it comes to handing out cool nicknames to their teammates, we think hockey players are second to none. The current crop of Capitals are certainly doing their fair share of creative nicknaming. When the NHL mic’d up Tom Wilson for a first round game against the Islanders, we learned that Alex Ovechkin’s moniker is Destroyer – or at least that’s what Willy Baby calls him. And who can forget the “Big Cheese” Joel Ward; I mean, how can it possibly get any cooler than Big Cheese!?

In my opinion, it just did, courtesy of the two Caps players, who, as The Washington Post recently discovered, developed a strong and somewhat surprising friendship during the course of this season: Russian rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov and grizzled American veteran Brooks Orpik.

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tatyana-ovechkina

Photo: @a0gr8

The Ovechkin clan’s media footprint is usually dominated by Ovi himself. His dad Mikhail is sometimes good at generating a memorable quote or providing unexpected insight as well. But matriarch Tatyana Ovechkina, a two-time Olympic gold medal winner, is actually the family’s most accomplished athlete.

She is currently the President of Dynamo Moscow women’s basketball club, where her older son Mikhail is the Sporting Director. Under their guidance the team has climbed to the top of the European women’s basketball rankings, recently winning the European Cup. At 64 years old, the former captain of the USSR basketball national team is still going strong, but you will not often find her name in the newspapers. One has to go back a few years to find an interview with the mother of the captain of the Washington Capitals; she treats the press corps with a healthy dose of distrust and skepticism.

A few days ago, Russian sports daily Sport-Express ran an in-depth piece by acclaimed journalist Elena Vaytsekhovskaya. Elena also happens to be a former top level athlete herself, having won the gold medal in platform diving at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal – and she’s a close personal friend of Tatyana Ovechkina. In this interview, which we bring to you in translation below, Ovi’s mom talks about her views on money in modern sports, when she expects her son to retire from hockey and even tells us how big Alex the Great was when he was born. [WARNING: That last bit is not for the faint of heart.]

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Photo: Sport-Express

After scoring nine points in 16 games with the Caps, Evgeny Kuznetsov has flown back across the world to play for Russia’s national team in the upcoming World Championships. On Tuesday, Kuznetsov spoke to Vladislav Domrachev of Sport-Express after practice and talked more about his NHL debut and how his English is progressing.

Apparently the NHL is like bobsledding or something.

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evgeny-kuznetsov-interview

Photo: Chris Gordon

What could be a bigger downer than giving an interview right after missing playoffs by by just four points? How about giving an interview after missing two playoffs by four points in two months! Because’s that’s what happened to Evgeny Kuznetsov: first in the KHL, when last year’s Gagarin Cup finalist Traktor came up short, then again when the Caps missed their chance by the same margin.

That was on Kuznetsov ‘s mind when we chatted on breakdown day.

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dmitry-orlov

Photo: Igor Kleyner

Caps breakdown day is never a particularly festive affair, and yesterday was no exception, as the Washington Capitals brought down the curtain on their dismal 2013-14 season. Understandably, none of the players were in a particularly cheerful mood as they addressed the media for the last time before summer break. Not all of them, however, are putting away their skates for the season. Some, including defenseman Dmitry Orlov, are looking forward to joining their national teams in preparations for the World Championship, which opens early next month.

The 22-year-old Russian is joining the Sbornaya training camp in a few days, and hopes to put his country’s uniform on for the first time since he was a prominent member of the 2011 WJC gold-winning Russian team. A consolation prize, at best, as the dream of winning the Stanley Cup – or even playing for it – will remain just that at least for another year. But it made for a good conversation starter.

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Evgeny Kuznetsov

Photo: Chris Gordon

The Washington Capitals spent about 20 minutes Thursday morning posing for pictures with cute animals, both domestic and wild, and then proceeded to a grueling practice session featuring something that looked suspiciously like a bag skate.

After almost an hour and a half on the ice, the players started trickling in to the locker room. Some of the guys, though, stayed on the ice a bit longer, including Dmitry Orlov, Mikhail Grabovski, and the latest addition to the Capitals roster, Evgeny Kuznetsov. The Russian-speaking troika remained on the ice, enjoying a game of King of the Hill on the center circle.

Finally, the Russian rookie and his buddies made their way to their locker room stalls, where he patiently answered RMNB’s questions until no stone was left unturned in the first chapter of what hopefully will be Kuzya’s long tenure in a red jersey with #92 on the back.

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This illustration will make sense at the bottom. I promise.

By all accounts, Evgeny Kuznetsov’s move to North America has been a success, both on and off the ice. Eight games in, the young Russian has managed a three assist game, scored twice in the shootout, and on Tuesday night scored his first NHL goal.

Kuzya has surprised us with his command of English and his willingness to interact with the media despite of limited language skills. Also, let’s not forget Zhenya’s love of social media, especially Instagram. Imagine how boring our lives would be without his baby pictures and Ovi doing pushups. So what if the captions are in Russian.

Google Translate is on the case.

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aller

Photo: Justin K. Aller

It is silly to compare Evgeny Malkin (500+ games, Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe, Hart, two Art Ross Trophies) to Evgeny Kuznetsov (one game, 10 minutes on ice)–  even if they were born a couple hundred miles away from one other– basically the same neighborhood by Russian standards.

Then again, it’s also fun, which is why people have been doing it for awhile— including Valery Belousov, Kuznetsov’s old coach at Traktor and the man who oversaw Malkin’s development at Magnitogorsk.

In our brief conversation on Sunday, Kuzya flatly dismissed all comparisons to his much more famous namesake. But what does Geno think about it? Well, let’s take a look at today’s edition of Sovetsky Sport, where we find Dmitry Chesnokov’s interview with the Penguins’ star after Monday’s game.

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