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Devils: Alexander the not-so-great //Star-Ledger
BY STEVE POLITI
It was the biggest sports story to hit Buffalo since Scott Norwood went wide right. Alexander Mogilny, a young Russian winger, was scoring goals at a maddening pace for the hometown Sabres. He had 74 goals with seven regular-season games to play. Eighty seemed possible. Heck, with Mogilny, anything seemed possible.
"Every time he touched the puck, it would turn to gold," John Muckler said yesterday as he reminisced from his home in Buffalo. Muckler, the former Rangers coach, was the coach of the Sabres during that 1992-93 season. "You felt like he was going to score every time down the ice. He played with so much confidence."
Then, suddenly, it disappeared.
Mogilny went a torturous six games without a goal and nearly lost the
league scoring title. He had to settle for a tie with a Finnish rookie
named Teemu Selanne -- still, with a remarkable 76 goals.
"What? Ninety-three?" he said yesterday after Devils practice. "That's almost 10 years ago. Are you kidding me? That's way out of my memory."
Maybe. After all, Mogilny has enough trouble dealing with his current slump to dig through the closet for old ones. He has not scored a goal in the past 13 postseason games, the longest scoreless slump -- regular season or playoffs -- in his career. The Devils, down 2-1 in the Stanley Cup Finals that resume tonight at Continental Airlines Arena, have three goals in three games against the Colorado Avalanche.
Mogilny is a big reason why the highest-scoring team in the NHL during the regular season is in a goal funk and fighting for its life against goalie Patrick Roy.
It all makes that six-game slump in '93 seem tame. At the time, it was
It was April 13, 1993. Mogilny was on a breakaway with 80 seconds left in overtime against the Montreal Canadiens. He tried to slip a backhand past Andre Racicot, but the goalie made the save. Seconds later, Brian Bellows scored to give the Habs a 3-2 victory -- and Mogilny cracked his stick over the crossbar in frustration.
"I have no comment," he said after that game. "What do you want me to
"I'm just trying to get some sweat going," he joked. "Get some beers
out of me."
"I call 1-800-PSYCHIC," he said. "You know those three ladies on the commercial? I call them. So far, everything they say is wrong."
Mogilny insists he isn't concerned about the slump, and he seems bemused by the amount of attention it's receiving. He points out he has as many goals this postseason, four, as he did last spring when the Devils won the Stanley Cup.
"I'm ahead of the pace," he said.
Mogilny's troubles putting the puck in the net, he says, are more the result of tight checking in the playoffs, not his performance. Asked what he can do differently, he said: "Nothing."
And he said it five times.
"I just have to keep shooting," he said. "Nothing really different. Just keep shooting and keep focusing on the shot and the net. I know it will come, maybe too late. But there's nothing I can do right now. I may be squeezing the stick a little bit, but other than that, nothing different. Nothing."
So observers are left wondering what happened to the player who led the Devils with 43 goals -- that in the tight-checking NHL might be the equivalent of 76 -- in the regular season. Muckler, who has watched the Stanley Cup Finals, blames it on lost confidence.
"I think Al second-guesses himself sometimes," Muckler said. "He becomes a cute player instead of the power forward he is. He's such a good skater. He can come off that wing with such great speed. He sees the ice well.
"He hasn't been scoring, so now he's looking for that perfect shot."
Case in point: In the 3-1 loss in Game 3 Thursday, Mogilny passed up a shot at the side of the net, instead skating behind Roy, where he lost the puck. He also passed on a two-on-one, sending the puck well behind its target. Neither time did he have the perfect shot, but shooting the puck might have been the better choice.
Muckler tried everything to help Mogilny snap out of the slump in '93, from different linemates -- he skated with center Pat Lafontaine the entire regular season, but the line had rotating left wingers -- to three days of rest. Eventually, he tallied two goals in a 7-4 loss to the Flyers in the season finale to end the slump. Again, his only comment after that game was a no-comment.
"He's a pretty laid-back guy," said former NHL player Bob Errey, a late addition to that 1992-93 Sabres team. "He'll keep shooting, you can count on that. It might be a fluky one that goes in or it might be a highlight reel goal. Who knows?"
No one, including Mogilny. The slump has left the Devils without one of their most reliable scorers and puts Mogilny, in the final year of a $5.1 million contract, in jeopardy of driving down his value as a free agent. But the 32-year-old winger insists he isn't breaking any sticks over this one.
"We're pressing a little bit," he said. "A little bit. They're blocking a lot of shots as well. It's the Stanley Cup Finals, and they're playing quality hockey. There's nothing unusual about it."
The Devils, desperate for goals, aren't pointing fingers at their failed snipers.
"It doesn't matter if Alex is going through it or somebody else, we're all one family, one team," center Sergei Brylin said. "We try to help each other. Alex is a veteran, and he's been in these situations before. I'm pretty sure he's going to come out of it."
BY MIKE VACCARO
DENVER -- Scott Gomez knew better than to engage in a deep heart-to-heart with his struggling linemate. No way he was going to talk Alexander Mogilny into a feel-good sit-down, give him a pep talk, offer rah-rah rhetoric. Mogilny had been 14 games without a goal, which for a sniper of his pedigree seems three times that long.
But Mogilny isn't the chatty, introspective type. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. He may smack his stick against the boards whenever he's denied on a breakaway, may roll his eyes when a dead-on shot smacks hard against a crossbar. But he won't give himself any ulcers, either. No brooding. No pouting. No diva behavior allowed.
So Gomez was taken aback when Mogilny approached him on the bus ride over to the Pepsi Center last night, a few hours before Game 5 of these Stanley Cup Finals. Mogilny's face was straight and somber. There was business on his mind. Gomez perked up, leaned forward.
"Hey, Gomer," Mogilny said. "Don't forget about the money you owe me."
And that was it. Mogilny had sold his linemate a laptop computer a few days ago in exchange for an IOU. Apparently, Mogilny figured the hours leading up to the most important game of the year were the ideal time to call in the debt. He kept the straight face. Pretty soon, Gomez figured, Mogilny would snap, "Funny how? Like a clown? Do I amuse you?"
Then Mogilny cracked the Pesci grin. Oh, yeah, Gomez thought. He's loose.
"That's Alex," Gomez would say later. "Always loose, always ready to play."
And, on this night, fully engaged at last, turning in a brilliant tour de force on both ends of the ice, completely honoring his talent for the first time in a month.
There was the goal, his first in 15 games, which came 73 seconds before
the end of the first period and turned out to be the game-winner in a 4-1
Devils victory. There was a magnificent defensive play midway through the
second, when Colorado's Ville Nieminen nudged the puck to where both Chris
Drury and Adam Foote had free swipes at an open net, only to be flummoxed
by Mogilny's stick.
But Mogilny was tired of being a role player. He isn't Jay Pandolfo, after all. He's a guy who once scored 76 goals in a season. Fifteen games not only tried his tolerance but tore it.
"Playing good defense is nice," he said, "but when you're on offensive player, it's also nice to get on the board once in a while, too."
Gomez certainly understood every ounce of what Mogilny was feeling, because it wasn't until Gomez's goal on Saturday -- gift-wrapped by Patrick Roy, sure, but a goal nonetheless -- that he truly began to feel like a member in good standing of the offense again. His own 12-game dry spell complete, Gomez turned his attention to his partner.
"All he needed was one to go in," Gomez said. "I've known that for weeks."
When Mogilny fed Gomez the puck late in the first period, Gomez had a wide-open lane toward Roy he easily could have exploited. Instead, he flicked it back to Mogilny almost instantly. It seemed a bit early to make that pass, but Gomez figured Mogilny could either have a quick whack at Roy, or he'd have enough time to set Gomez back up on a give-and-go.
But nobody got in Mogilny's way. So he fired.
And though Mogilny remained impassive when the puck drizzled past Roy, when the red light flamed behind the goal, when the Pepsi Center fell into a despair-laced silence, there was another Devil who wanted to jump all the way to the arena's catwalk, he was so happy.
"You have no idea," Gomez said, "how much Alex deserved this."
And even Mogilny the stoic was willing to admit that much: "I worked awful hard all through this," he said. "All I could control was my work ethic. That was always high."
Mogilny should remember sentiments like these when the NHL's suitors come calling on July 1, the day he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Mogilny will make a huge score somewhere, maybe with the Rangers, maybe with some other wallet-rich, goals-poor team, and nobody will blame him if he sells his services to the highest bidder.
But he should remember what this last month has been like for him. He must understand that his next team will not be so patient when the magic on his blade dries up, they will not overlook slumps and celebrate his defense the way the Devils do. The Devils don't pay superstar wages, but also don't expect superstar statistics. Do the little things. Work hard. Compete for the Stanley Cup every spring. That's a Devil's fortune.
Especially now, with Gomez playing Butch to his Sundance. As much as they've struggled through stretches of these playoffs, they are still an electrifying twosome.
"I wish I could play with Alex forever," Gomez said.
Mogilny feels the same way, though he'd prefer Gomez stop costing him money. Not only is his linemate in deep for the computer, he also advised Mogilny to go in with him on a bet with Turner Stevenson on the Bucks-Sixers playoff series. Gomez told Mogilny the Bucks were a sure thing once Allen Iverson went down. No wonder the two don't talk much away from the ice.
"Maybe that pass makes us even," Gomez said with a grin.
3 ноября. Александр Могильный: "Мой приезд в Турин не исключен" - "Спорт-Экспресс"
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24 сентября. Devs` Mogilny takin' his time- New York Post
24 марта. Александр Могильный: Тяжело играть на одной ноге! - Советский Спорт