Olesya Usova of AllHockey.Ru recently interviewed Washington Capitals rookie netminder Ilya Samsonov. The discussion covered his debut season in the NHL, returning home to Russia for quarantine, the “Russian gang” on the Capitals and more. The following is a translation of portions of the interview. You can access the entire interview here.
Why did you decide to spend self-isolation in Magnitogorsk?
“My wife flew back from America, my family and relatives are here in Magnitogorsk. Therefore, I also immediately came here.”
Do you live in the suburbs?
“Yes, they rented a house in the country. There are mountains, forest, Lake Bannoye. Still nicer than sitting in the city. Bathhouse, ATVs every day, it’s so relaxed!”
In one interview, you kind of said that you were renting a house with Evgeny Timkin.
“No, he lives nearby. He just has his own place, there is a tennis court. Therefore, we train together. Eugene kindly lets me work out. For me – a physical training coach, for Timkin – a gym.”
When you flew home, what was happening in the USA then?
“(When) We flew to Russia with Dima Orlov, there was still nothing critical. Then the pandemic just started. In New York, there was only an unpleasant situation. The only thing was that the shops were empty, there was no water and toilet paper. We bought and everything now lies in the apartment.”
What do our guys left in America say now?
“I talked with Evgeny Kuznetsov and he said that now everything has become better. As I heard, the NHL is going to extend the season. Therefore, hopefully everything normalizes – both in America and in Russia.”
Did they call you from the club? Did they say anything about a possible resumption of the season?
“We message with the physical training coach, and with the goalkeeper coach, we watch the video and analyze it. And there’s nothing more to talk about, nothing is clear.”
“You think how can you come back?” The borders are still closed.
“I still have problems with the visa, which has expired. As I think, the NHL needs to organize charters so that all the guys from Europe fly there together. I don’t see any other options yet – flights are prohibited and in the near future there are no one plans to open borders.”
Washington will be favored if the NHL season continues? You are one of the Stanley Cup favorites.
“Of course, we want to finish the season. For Washington, this is important. In principle, as for most teams who make the playoffs. It is only necessary to correctly get out of this situation. Whatever happens, we arrive, spend two weeks in quarantine and immediately go into battle. It is necessary that there should be no later injuries, so that we can prepare. And so we are all for playing.”
Are you ready for the fact that you could be located somewhere in the same city, in the same state and spend the remaining games there?
”So what can you do? We are on contracts. Where they say, there we will play. So I would resume the NHL championship in Magnitogorsk! If only all teams agree.”
The NHL championship is not over yet, but anyway, could you use your debut season to your advantage?
“Of course, I managed to break into the NHL. Good season, there were ups and downs. I would like to finish with the championship, but such a situation is that you worry more about the health of your family and friends. Hopefully we finish the game and everything will be fine.”
Record winning streak for rookie goalkeepers inspired you?
“You don’t especially think about it – how many games in a row, games almost every day. Not so stellar records there, not how Sasha Ovechkin does it. Just good statistics, nothing more.”
And what happened in February – a few unsuccessful games …
“Nothing of the kind happened. We stalled, the whole team and looked for ways to get out of the situation. Then we played much better. It was a matter of time. We managed to rebuild and that’s it.”
You have a real Russian gang in Washington. Comfortable when all your own?
“Yes of course. Generally super! Also Ilya Kovalchuk arrived. We all communicate with each other, everyone has a good relationship. Family atmosphere – wives, children … Together we go to restaurants or just take a walk. For me, in everyday life it’s much easier.”
You still had a party at which the sex of the unborn child of Alexander and Nastya Ovechkin was determined.
“Cool holiday, turned out! Usually in America, such parties are organized by wives. And then the girls made a surprise for Nastya. No one knew we were coming. It was cool, fun. Although we never feel sad.”
What are your impressions of working with Ilya Kovalchuk?
“Generally excellent. Washington has a very warm relationship with all Russians. Ilya helps me a lot – I can call at any time in terms of nutrition, training and ask him anything.
Many guys say that they worry about Ovechkin as for themselves and want him to break Wayne Gretzky’s sniper record.
“I can’t answer for everyone, but yes, of course, I’m worried about Sasha. I want him to break the record as soon as possible. Now there is a short pause. We will believe in him and help in everything. I’d like us to have our own Russian record holder!”
Ovechkin in training accidentally hit you in the helmet with a puck and injured you. Does he have the strongest shot in the NHL?
“Here all the guys can shoot well. But according to how much Ovechkin scores, it is clear what a good shot he has.”
He then apologized for this moment?
“Sasha apologized, I said that nothing terrible happened. Anything can happen. The situation was inflated, there was no conflict. They were just afraid that there might be a concussion. But the next day I skated.”
Is it possible for a goalkeeper to defend a shot from his famous “office” (left faceoff circle)?
“Only if the puck hits you. If it flies past you, then 99% are a goal. One of the guys said that it’s like a throw in baseball, only radio-controlled. That is, it is almost impossible to defend.”
Ilya Sorokin goes to the NHL. Congratulated him on signing a contract with the Islanders?
“I wished him good luck. The Islanders are a good organization. Mitch Korn, who used to train goalkeepers in Washington, is now working there. And Semyon Varlamov says that everything will be cool, that he will help him in the first stages.”
Are you glad that there are a lot of Russian goalkeepers in the NHL? So Igor Shesterkin was able to prove himself with the “Rangers”
“Yes, with six, we constantly message during the season, asked how each other was doing. I congratulated him on his debut game. I am very happy for the guys who made their way, realized their dream. All great fellows!”
Recently, the North American magazine The Hockey News published a possible composition of the Russian national team for the 2022 Olympics and included you on the list.
“Thank you for trusting the people who make up these lists. With pleasure! I always gladly went to the national team – both to the youth team and to the Eurotour. I love my country and love to play for it.
Do you follow the negotiations of the NHL and the International Olympic Committee?
“I didn’t delve deeply into this issue. When the 2018 Olympics were held, I was still in the KHL. I don’t know how it would be. But I wonder how everything will unfold. For club owners, this is a loss of money. Although, of course, many guys from the NHL want to play at the Olympics. I’m just for letting everyone go.”
Have you watched your native Magnitogorsk Metallurgist in the KHL? Were you surprised by such weak results?
“Yes, I was a little surprised. I am sure that the team will begin to win again and everything will work out. Cool coaching staff, headed by Ilya Petrovich Vorobyov, cool staff. Everything should be super.”
Report that Igor Larionov will head the youth team of Russia, and Valery Bragin – the national. What do you think about it? You know both of these specialists well.
“Igor Nikolaevich was my agent. Larionov really wanted to work with young players. He can give them a lot, he is a good teacher. I am sure that he will succeed. I also want to wish Valery Nikolayevich Bragin great luck. Both of them are very good specialists, I am very happy for them.”
By Diane Doyle