Russia finished its Preliminary Round schedule at the 2010 IIHF World Championship in Germany with a 3-1 win over Belarus on Thursday, a game which featured New York Rangers forward Artem Anisimov’s first goal as a member of the country’s national team.
The young center’s line with veterans Sergei Mozyakin and Maxim Sushinsky found its way on to the scoresheet for the first time in the tournament, scoring two of Russia’s three goals, starting with a power play goal that opened the scoring midway through the first period. While he didn’t earn an assist on the play, Anisimov drew the Belarus defender to him in front of the net, which left Mozyakin wide open to score from just off the left post.
The Rangers’ rookie scored his own goal a period later when he slapped home Mozyakin’s rebound after the KHL’s leading scorer had taken goaltender Andrei Mezin out on a partial breakway. (Game highlights are here; Anisimov’s goal comes at the 6:00 mark.)
The win left Russia undefeated in the tournament’s three-game Preliminary Round, which wrapped up on Thursday. Twelve teams — excluding the incredibly disappointing Team USA — now move on to the Qualification Round. The full schedule is available from the IIHF web site.
Unfortunately, Anisimov’s experience on the world stage could soon come to a premature end. With Pavel Datsyuk expected to join the team in Germany on Friday, and Evgeny Malkin confirmed to be en route as well, there’s a good chance the 21-year old center could finish the tournament as a spectator. “I’m not afraid of it,” Anisimov told Sovietsky Sport following Thursday’s game. “If the coach decides to remove me, it means it was meant to be. I need to prove in every game that I’m deserving of a spot on the national team, and not stew over what might be.”
Three weeks ago, when he first joined the Russian squad at the team’s training center in Novogorsk, Anisimov sat down with sports.ru’s Alexei Shevchenko for a lengthy interview that covered a wide array of topics. With apologies for the delay, here’s what the 21-year old Ranger had to say about his rookie season in the NHL, Henrik Lundqvist’s penchant for fast cars, and what it’s like to play with super pest Sean Avery and tough guys Jody Shelley and Brandon Prust.
Artem Anisimov: “Playing with tough guys, you feel completely safe”
Philadelphia, Playoffs and Statistics
- You had a pretty unusual finish in the NHL. Towards the end of the regular season the Rangers raised their game, but couldn’t beat Philadelphia twice in the last two games, and just barely missed the playoffs. Oh, it was probably upsetting?
- It’s still upsetting! Just one point short. We could have won.
- When you say that you were one point short, you probably recall some particularly upsetting defeat immediately. What game was it?
- Yes, over the whole season there were so many games like that, that you could make an entire list. One point — that’s the same as a win in a shootout. I don’t know which game to name. Well I remember a game against the Penguins. I scored two goals, but we weren’t able to win during regulation time.
- If you draw the Rangers season as a line, you get some kind of sine wave. And you yourself played inconsistently.
- I agree. There was a period of 16 games when I didn’t score any points. I made the allowance for myself that it was my first season at this level. Still, I needed to adapt. But you know when I settled down?
- Here I’d played these 16 disastrous games, and the coach calls me in. That’s it, I think, I’m done. But he told me ‘Artem, don’t worry, don’t be nervous. We believe in you, we believe that everything will work out.’ After that, really, everything got back to normal. Words like that are very important from a psychological point of view.
- So it was possible to play and not worry particularly about statistics.
- Yes. But I paid a lot of attention to defense, and let in very few [goals]. So I wasn’t completely useless to the team.
- You’d had an excellent season in the AHL. It was clear that you would be moved up to the first team. You probably figured out as early as the summer that you’d made it to the NHL?
- How can you say that? Not during training camp, or during the pre-season, or at the start of the regular season did I have any confidence. I didn’t even rent an apartment, I lived in a hotel and waited for them to send me to Hartford.
- When did they tell you to rent an apartment?
- When I’d played 10-15 games. But in general I finally understood that I would stay with the team after that conversation with the coach, when he expressed his full support.
- So listen, how is it that you didn’t get in the playoffs? It’s a nightmare. Such a roster, such a goaltender…
- Yes. I don’t understand it myself.
- Have you collected many souvenirs from this year?
- Only one. I took the puck from my first goal in the NHL. And from last year I still have a commemorative plaque from my debut with the Rangers. With my statistics from my first game on it.
Enforcers, English and an Apartment
- It seems like you finished the season on the fouth line, with the enforcers?
- Yes. I became friends with the guys. It’s very easy to play with them, to be honest… in the sense that you feel completely safe.
- In what way?
- In front of the net, for instance. The other team’s goaltender will cover the puck, and without fail you get shoved. But in skate my linemates and they begin to say all kinds of things to those who touch me.
- Give us a quote.
- Oh, I’d better refrain.
- And did you not want to play their [style of] hockey?
- Why would I fight? No thanks. I wouldn’t stand a chance. I didn’t even try.
- How is your English?
- I’m in my third season in America, and in the beginning, of course, it was pretty difficult. But then I consistently took learning upon myself. And I watched films with subtitles, and in the locker room I sat with the young, English-speaking guys. So now everything is fine.
- By now, can you express yourself convincingly in English?
- To do what?
- To suggest who should have gone where, but didn’t go.
- You’re kidding! In the NHL that isn’t done at all. You don’t criticize a teammate. That’s the job of the head coach only.
- It’s not that way in Russia.
- But I really don’t remember how it is here in Russia. Although I’ve gone for a skate here in Novogorsk and I understand that it’s very difficult to get used to the larger ice surface. It seems you’re going along the boards and you think ‘it’s time to shoot or pass,’ and you lift your head and you’re still far away. In the NHL it’s easy to score from the boards.
In general what I liked about America is that the majority of players have their own role. One is responsible for only forechecking and does nothing else on the ice. The task for our fourth line was well defined: move the game into the opponents zone. Don’t let them in your own zone. That’s all.
- Coaches in Russia do not likes such differentiation.
- Again, I’m sure that this is all because of the size of the ice surface. Here you need to be able to do everything.
- New York is most likely the only city in the world which is cooler than Moscow. Where did you lease an apartment?
- In the suburbs. It’s 30 minutes to New York, but what’s important is that it’s 10 minutes from the [practice] arena. It’s a quiet little town, but it has everything necessary to live. I’m satisfied.
- But why didn’t you live in Manhattan?
- It’s very noisy there. I don’t really like that area. If I choose to go for a walk, it’s somewhere by Central Park. A few players from our team live there.
Cars, Theaters and Avery
- Tell us what cars the players travel in. Nikita Filatov said that Rick Nash has some kind of antique truck.
- You know, it’s the same on the New York Rangers. Everyone has very expensive cars. Mine might be the cheapest.
- And what is it?
- A BMW X5. Our goaltender Lundqvist really loves sports cars. However, he’s already crashed his Lamborgini.
- He hit a rut on a wet road and skidded. Everything was fine.
- Are traffic jams in New York worse than in Moscow?
- No, they’re a far cry from Moscow. I’m very pleased with the courtesy on American roads. Everyone yields to one another, allows you to change lanes, merge from secondary roads. I don’t think anything can be compared with Moscow. Here, if you get stuck you stand there and don’t move.
- You played on a line with the illustrious Avery. How was that?
- It’s fine as long as he plays on our team. Opponents don’t like him. Yes, he provokes, but it benefits the team. By the way, I’d note that in the locker room he’s completely different.
- Give us more about New York. Where else might you go, besides Central Park?
- I went to Broadway a few times, to see musicals. And I must say that I was very satisfied. I saw the Lion King twice, for example. First with my girlfriend, and then with my parents. And the time flew by in a flash. And I went to a Russian theater performance that came to America. Sergei Bezrukov performed.
- So you’re a theatergoer?
- Well no, of course not. But I enjoy it very much.
- Have you fallen in love with baseball or American football?
- I didn’t like watching American football live. There are too many people in the stadium. 80,000 people come to the game. I’d rather hang out at home. And I don’t understand baseball.
- No, I figured out the rules, they’re simple enough. But the Yankees invited us to a game in Tampa. We went, and watched. As I understand it, all baseball games are a reason to get out somewhere and get some fresh air for three hours, with beer and hot dogs. And I’m not the only one who thinks that. I left the stadium early, and the next day I asked those who stayed ‘how did they play?’ They shrugged their shoulders. No one there kept an eye on the score.
- And have you gone to any NBA games?
- Only once, in Cleveland. I saw how the great Lebron James plays. And well, he’s the best.
- Players who come back to Russia are much more comfortable with the fact that journalists speak with them before the game.
- Yeah, well, I don’t see anything terrible about it. Usually on the day of a game the press comes to the pre-game skate [and] comes into the locker room. And conversations don’t always concern hockey, I was once asked whether I like to sunbathe.
- Do you?
- Yeah, not very much. But once the game commentators came up and asked whether my parents had arrived. ‘Yes,’ I answered, ‘they’ll be at the game.’ And what do you think? That night during the game, when there was a break, my parents were shown on TV. Very nice.
- They don’t do such long interviews there, right?
- Yes, generally everything ends quickly. A couple of questions, a couple of answers. However once some girl fed me questions for 20 minutes. The team had already gotten dressed and left for the bus, and I sat in skates the whole time. But that kind of thing happens rarely.
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