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Sergei Zubov: “SKA could defeat any NHL team”

Sergei Zubov:

Sergei Zubov: “SKA could defeat any NHL team” (Photo © Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

In the interview posted on KHL official site, SKA St. Petersburg’s Sergei Zubov talks about the differences between the NHL and the KHL, gives his opinion on personal awards and compares veterans’ and youngsters’ contribution to a team’s success.

RussianHockeyFans.com offers you a translation of the interview.

Judging by last month’s stats, your needed period of adaptation to Russia is complete.
You can say that, I guess. I’ve spent the first two months to adapt to new hockey and new size rink. I’ve tried to understand the style of my team and of the opponents. Because of this I couldn’t perform up to my possibilities. Now I am rather accustomed and thus I play well. My team helped me a lot – in the last few weeks played simply great. In this team it’s hard not to play well.

When you came back, you remembered the different style of hockey in Russia or you had to start it again from scratch?
It’s something closer to the second thing you said. Hockey here differs a bit from the one I played for long time in North America. The most complicated thing for me was to get used to the biggest rinks, which influences their hockey style.

Did Russian hockey change much since your depart for America in the 90s?
It’s rather changed, but I don’t think it changed radically. In those years many talented Russian guys left the country almost at the same time and Russian hockey suffered a lot for this. But I think that it recovered quickly and Russian League was again one of the world’s best. Now it’s the position of Russian hockey that pleases me, it’s clearly rising. You can see it from the new arenas, built in all around the nation, full stands. They are almost sold-out – except in Moscow.

SKA is a veteran team, at least it’s leaders are not very young. At the same time one can’t say that SKA is a slow team. How would you explain this?
As they say, an old ox makes a straight furrow. I think that as players get old, they can gain experience and mastery, but also remain in good physical conditions. In most of cases it’s the experience that makes you win matches. I seen teams in the KHL who count on quick, talented players, but we defeated such teams, because these guys don’t have yet what it takes during the key’s moment of the match, they don’t know what to do and where to go. I think that an experienced player, who pays attention to his health, trains and acts correctly, isn’t going to have less speed and stamina than younger players. This is why all our “elders” get on ice and play with the main team almost any match.

By the way, about the main team. You are one of the team leaders’ for average time on ice. Did you ask the coach not to spare you or Zubov is thought as indispensable to the team?
I don’t know who thinks what, but I never asked anyone such a question. I’m really pleased to play a lot. And I’m also pleased to show my coaches that I am in good physical conditions.

You have been KHL’s top defenseman for November. How do you like getting such accomplishments?
I don’t pay too much attention to them, I generally don’t care too much about personal acknowledgments. The most important thing for me are the concrete results. For example, I was very disappointed after the loss against Atlant. I was simply destroyed. I don’t like losing, and ever defeat brings me bad memories.

How should a defenceman’s performance be evaluated? Some awards in fact are guilty of considering the best defenseman as the one who scores more points.
Defensemen should help the team defending, and scoring points is for forwards. I think that a defenseman’s tasks should be, qualitatively, work until the final buzzer on defense and, if a possibility arises, go attacking. If I score after I allowed a goal in my net, it still doesn’t redeem my fault.

Nevertheless you regularly manage to upset opposition goalies. So far you have five goals under your belt. But what’s your record in a season?
Can’t say. I’ve never counted or kept in mind. I don’t consider scoring goals my main task. I’ll explain. In any league I go, I want to win it, in any game I hit the ice, my goal is the win. The aim is either reached or not. What do my points have to do with it? There are twenty players in our team, everyone has to step up and give his contribution. I never boast that my contribution is bigger than others’.

And how do you judge the common opinion that the level of Russian hockey isn’t as good as the North American one?
I don’t agree. Playing style is determined by the rinks’ size. Here there are less physical play, less shots because there is more space. And that’s why the game here looks softer and slower.

If we put SKA in the NHL today, could they compete at an equal level?
Yeah, they could. Our team is ready to face and even defeat any NHL team.

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