Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 11/21/06 at 07:03 PM ET
Q. Could you just talk about what the arrival of Ted Nolan has meant for you personally and for the team? ALEXEI YASHIN: I think it's a great impact on the team. What happens is we’re kind of having a learning process, learning his systems, learning the way to prepare ourselves for the game. It's really been terrific for everybody because we really concentrate on what we have to do on the ice. He teaches us what to do with the system. It's what already said, prepare ourselves. He gives us a lot of rest so we make sure we are ready to play every night. Q. I saw a story where when he met you, he was impressed with what a quality guy you were. Did you sense you had good chemistry, that he was going to have great trust in you and believe in you? ALEXEI YASHIN: Again, I am who I am. I’m glad some people see something special in me. Again, it's always kind of great when you have a connection, especially with the coaching staff, right away. It seems like it's been going well. I hope I can play as well as I can to help the team to be successful and help Ted to build something great here.
Q. Back to what Ted Nolan has done for you and the Islanders. Has he simply come in and simplified things for you and the hockey club?
ALEXEI YASHIN: Yeah, I think it’s true, too. He’s really very good at telling everybody what they’re supposed to do, penalty kills, power-play, Five on Five. We play the system where he explains to everybody his role. I think it’s great because instead of just, Let’s go, guys, we have to win. We’re really learning how to win. That’s what we have to do system-wise, what we have to do on defensive zone coverage. So it makes it much easier for me personally and I hope for everybody else on the team.
Q. Would it be fair to say in years past the Islanders have shown you a great commitment, they’re high on you, but were you a little uncomfortable in past systems in New York?
ALEXEI YASHIN: I’m a hockey player. It is always been in my mind to do the best I can, whatever situation, to help the team to be successful. When I came to New York, we really made a huge step forward from a last-place team, to where we made the playoffs, we forced Toronto into a Game 7 in the first round. It really was terrific playoff series, probably one of the best I played. Next two years, we made the playoffs. We played teams who have been in the Stanley Cup finals, and Tampa won a Cup. Really to say it was a little bit letdown last year when we didn’t play as well as we could. But I think we have much more experienced team this year.
Q. Your former teammate Garth Snow is now the general manager. Do you see much of him these days? Is it a different guy now, a big-shot executive, or is he still the same good Garth Snow?
ALEXEI YASHIN: I mean, he’s wears a tie now, a tie and a suit (laughter). We see him a lot. He travels with the team. I think it’s great because he’s showing his commitment to the team, too. He’s watching every game. He analyzes. He’s talking to coaching staff, telling what to improve, his view of the team, how to make us better. Again, with the players he’s still the same guy. Really he doesn’t change much.
Q. Yash, going into this season, you had said a big part of your motivation was to stop the fans from booing. How much of what’s fueling you this year is maybe proving something to your teammates or to your new head coach that maybe they weren’t seeing the real Alexei Yashin the last couple years?
ALEXEI YASHIN: Again, it’s very tough question because I try to play as hard as I can every night. Again, some people see something, some people don’t. Some people boo because they want to express their opinion. I see this happens a lot all over the league. It’s not only personally with me, but with a lot of star players, with a lot of teams. Like even in Dallas we played, the team has very good record, they didn’t have a good power-play, fans start booing. Even in Dallas, where they not big hockey fans, you know what I mean? Really I think it’s become like a point where the people just went with the boos to express their opinion in the building. Everybody sees this way their presence. For me, I like to play as hard as I can every night and help my team to be successful. Sometimes it’s happens, sometimes it doesn’t. But I try to do my best.
Q. This is the second year you’ve been the captain. Is there more of a responsibility wearing the C than when you were just one of the assistants?
ALEXEI YASHIN: See, like with me, like since I came to the league, I had a lot of attention. It’s always been very tricky. When the team does very well, the team is successful, it’s so much easier to wear a C or A or be leader of a team. When a team doesn’t play well, expectations are much higher than team performance, it’s always been a problem. But I’m sure all captains and assistant captains that have to deal with that in the league. It depends on their record.
Q. Are you having any more fun this year than you’ve had in the past?
ALEXEI YASHIN: I think so. I think it comes from Teddy because he allows us to really play hard and prepare to the game, not like to be, how you say, like you have to be the best in the practice, so you have to be the best any time you’re working out. It’s really he give us a lot of like free time to relax and prepare mentally to the game. I think it’s what been big difference for me.
Q. You were mentioning you’ve been a player that’s always had a lot of attention placed upon you. Naturally over a career there are going to be ups and downs. You seem to be on an up now. How have you managed to maintain sort of a balance between getting too high or too low?
ALEXEI YASHIN: I think it’s comes with personality. I’m sure it’s comes with experience, too. When you play for so many years, you know when you play well, like I’m talking about a team, your personal games, if you play well for like 5 or 10 games, then after it’s can go down or you not going to play as well because during the 82-game season, it’s very hard to play on the same level all season long. It’s really like with experience you try to manage, especially mentally, because this is the biggest part to keep your brain in the game, try to prepare yourself. Even if you’re not in a great physical condition, but still keep yourself like fresh-minded so you can go through the tough games.
Q. As you’ve gotten older, has that been something that’s gotten easier for you to do?
ALEXEI YASHIN: Yeah, it comes with experience. Like you’ve been in the situation where you play great hockey and sometimes you play very bad hockey from physical point, whenever you can contribute to the team’s success, st uff like that. What you do, you just go practice, and if you don’t score a lot, you try to correct your shot. If you like a little bit physical condition, you work at these things.
Again, it’s great to have very experienced coaches on your side so they can help you out with that.
Q. Talk about these next two games. Last month you had a chance to play Carolina, very tough game. Talk about that game as well as the game against the Penguins coming up here this week.
ALEXEI YASHIN: I mean, Hurricanes, they’re Stanley Cup champions. Since rule changes, new rules being introduced to the National Hockey League, it seems like they manage probably the best because they won the Cup last year. They manage how to play this new style of a game. This is kind of the second year. They’re really good at the game we’re supposed to play now. I think it’s going to be very tough game because they’re really good at that. It’s no question they have a lot of players like on a superstar level who can do a lot of damage, especially offensively. Brind’Amour is playing great. Stall, they have all the team supporting them. What about Pittsburgh? They have Crosby and Malkin. I mean the way they’ve been playing, they have been a surprise they have good record this year again. It’s going to be tough for us. For us, as well as we play defense, it’s how we’re going to win or lose these hockey games. When we play very good defensively and create a lot of turnovers, create some offense from a neutral zone, it’s how we get in points. Hopefully we can do it in the next two games.
Q. Talk about some of those rule changes you mentioned. Which ones have affected you the most, or that you’ve had to adjust to the most?
ALEXEI YASHIN: I have to adjust personally defensively because it’s a lot of very—I would say I don’t want to criticize everything, but it’s a lot of very weak calls. A guy steps on your stick, you know, he fells down, you got two minutes penalty. It could be at any time. It could be late in the third period. It could be in the overtime. It really affects the games like that.
At some point it’s great because it creates a lot of scoring opportunities so for the fans it is probably exciting. But from a defensive zone coverage for me personally, it’s very tough because a lot of calls have been inconsistent.
Q. What has playing with your good friend Viktor Kozlov meant for you?
ALEXEI YASHIN: Me and Kozzy, we go way back. We played together in Dynamo Moscow. I was with the team since 17. We’ve been roomies since like—roomies in training camp in Dynamo, become very good friends. For last, I don’t know, 12, 13 years we play for different teams, but we still keep our like friendship very close. We’ve been practicing together during the summer, trying to prepare ourselves to the season. We really like to keep in touch and are very close. Glad we can play together and spend more time together.
Q. Good chemistry.
ALEXEI YASHIN: Yes, for sure. We know each other since a long time.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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