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Evgeni Malkin: “We lost to Canada because we didn’t play like a team”

Evgeni Malkin:

Evgeni Malkin: “We lost to Canada because we didn’t play like a team” (Photo © Shaun Best, Reuters)

Russian star Evgeni Malkin gave an interview to Vasili Osipov of Sport-Express after the game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Rangers at the Madison Square Garden.
In this interview Evgeni talked about the reasons of Team Russia‘s defeat to Canada at the latest Olympic Tournament, examined the differences between the management of the two national teams and tried to suggest some changes to get the revenge in Sochi. offers you a translation of the interview.

“Believe me, I still can’t understand what’s happened at the Olympics, it was a big disappointment. In Vancouver there was an extraordinary atmosphere and the organization was top notch. But everything fell in the background because of Russia’s results. Everyone was expecting good results from hockey, but then…

I think that we can’t afford losing time in our preparation for 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, we have to start right now. Look at Canada: they suffered from two painful loss in the two latest WCs and in Vancouver they went in full forces, they really wanted to show to the whole world that they can play hockey. And it showed.

Now we really have to learn from them, in every area. We should analyze the work of Canadian coaches, scouts and even managers. It’s not a shame to learn from the best. They managed to take the best from us, now it’s time for us to do the same. Otherwise getting good results in the best-on-best competitions, like the Olympics, will be very hard.

In four years in Sochi we will have to prove that such a bad defeat against Canada was only a fluke. Maybe we burnt out a bit, we were playing against an opponent who could count on a lot of support from the crowd.”

– Olympic emotions have now rushed out. Is it now possible with a clear head what were the reasons of the defeat against team Canada?

Malkin: “Nothing have rushed out, it’s still hard for me to talk about that. Before that game the coaches told us to play cautiously in the first 10-15 minutes. But for some reasons we all run forward to attack, even if it was important to pay much attention to the defensive play. Now I think: ‘Maybe we should have call a time-out after the first couple of goals? Maybe we should have change the goalie?’ But it’s easy to talk now…

Mostly we lost be cause of details, little things. As we were losing, we couldn’t keep our tempers, everyone was trying to beat out with the puck the opponent whole line. We didn’t show combinational play. Probably the coaches should have told us to concentrate more and relax. But, once again, it’s easy to talk now… But overall this game was a great experience for us and we have to come to the right conclusions.”

– In Russia many are talking about the “Vancouver Lesson”. About the fact that, for example, two coaches aren’t enough as they couldn’t physically cover all the aspect of such a hard tournament like the Olympics.

Malkin: “They speak the truth. I think that two coaches aren’t enough. And I don’t understand why we can’t raise this number. It’s the first time I work with such a truncated staff. And there wasn’t enough information. Bykov and Zakharkin won two WCs back to back and thus they decided not to change anything. But these Olympics proved that in that tournament the level is a bit higher than at the WC.

We surely have to widen the staff board. And I’m talking not about coaches on the bench but rather people watching the game from the stands. Almost all of the teams at the Olympics did this. The Canadians had a lot of people who watched the games from there, making notes and then showing them to the team.

– It’s a known fact that in North American teams they pay much attention to the tactics and to the video analysis of the opponents. How did team Russia work with this at the Olympics and before the unfortunate game against team Canada?

Malkin: “You know, these are two whole different schools. Of course we saw videos, analysed the opponents’ play. But the way they do it in North America and in Russia is really different. We are behind Canada in this. There wasn’t enough information, let’s admit it, especially for defencemen and forwards. But anyway I think we are doing steps forward. After all Bykov is a young coach, he will want to take his vendetta at the next WC and in Sochi. I think that he will come to the right conclusions.

But I’d like to add a thing. My personal opinion is that combine the work as club’s and national team’s head coach is a very hard job. It’s tough to follow both the KHL and what happens overseas at the same time, and there is a big difference between working with a national team and a club. But you it would be better to ask this question to the Russian Hockey Federation. Its people have to think about the changes needed to improve the situation.”

– And what kind of experience did you get from the Olympics?

Malkin: “Only that you really have to play with drive, but you also have to play with calm and stay relaxed. And also that you have to play like a team. We started losing against Canada when we stopped playing like a team.

It’s a pity that after the defeat they threw so much mud at us. I’ve even read that the national team’s players had a walk before the match against Canada. This is a nonsense! My team mates only thought about how to win and fight till the end. Maybe there were some injuries, some players were tired or we had some bad luck, but no one broke the work regime.”

– In Russia they also talk about the difference from NHL to KHL players. Perry and Getzlaf’s line easily won over Zinoviev’s one.

Malkin: “You can’t blame singular players. We all made childish mistakes and after them they scored. For example I lost a puck on our blue line and they scored us one of the goals. You can’t say that the KHL lines were worse than others. The game against Canada was hard for everyone. And both Zinoviev’s and Fedorov‘s line played well against Slovakia and Czech Republic.”

– How hard it was to switch to NHL regular season after the defeat against team Canada?

Malkin: “On the one hand it wasn’t easy, but it’s nice when you get back to your team. I think I’m already set here again. Now I try to think about how to win the Stanley Cup. Otherwise it would be really hard. You can’t forget such a defeat in one day, not even in one week.”

– Were you tired after the Olympic tournament?

Malkin: “Psychologically tired. Where were the medals, the national pride after this bad defeat? After such things there are always provocative questions and it’s hard to reply them. You know, I review in my mind a lot of times many moments of that game. I tried to analyse where we made mistakes. I’m still young so I recover quickly after the games, but when you are psychologically hurt it’s much harder.”

– Especially when you are sit next to Sidney Crosby, who scored the Game Winner in the Olympic Finals.

Malkin: “I respect Crosby a lot as an athlete. He got back to the practice without ostentation. He didn’t show any peacockery like ‘I’m an Olympic Champion, I scored the Game-Winning goal’. I thank Sidney for his support, he didn’t rub salt into the wound.”

– During the Finals, who were you cheering for?

Malkin: “I left the Olympics a couple of days after the quarterfinals, I spent some time with my parents and friends. I followed a bit what was happening, but I couldn’t watch the final match, I was on the plane. I looked at the result and Sid’s goal only when we landed in Denver.”

– Were you glad for your team mates?

Malkin: “Honestly speaking I felt a lot of envy. But the better team won, and we can only congratulate Team Canada.

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