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Samsonov up to old tricks // Boston Globe
By Kevin Paul Dupont
The drill has no name. It's just something that Sergei Samsonov has been doing for about 10 years, a sleight-of-hand exercise that looks so simple, yet is so mesmerizing.
''I saw Alexei Yashin do it a long time ago,'' said the Bruins' mini-magician. ''It's a way for me to work on my hands.''
Without the aid of videotape, here is how it works: Samsonov drops three pucks on the ice and shapes a triangle, spacing the pucks about 18 inches apart. Standing at one side of the triangle, feet about shoulders' width apart, he stickhandles a fourth puck through the open sides, the object being: 1. never touch one of the other three pucks; and 2. never lose control of the puck.
Sound easy? The concept is simple, but the execution is fascinating, almost hypnotizing. Samsonov works that fourth puck with such high-speed, catlike dexterity that a bystander is challenged just to spot the moving puck. To complicate the drill, the 22-year-old Russian often will circle around the triangle, rotating 360 degrees and then back again, all the while feverishly handling the puck as if it were tethered to his stick by an invisible fishing line.
''Quickness and speed,'' said Samsonov, talking about his overall game as much as the drill. ''If I didn't have that, I wouldn't be here.''
His point production (23-38-61) may not be off the charts, but Samsonov's game has never been better than the last few weeks. He is playing with a flair and flourishing under coach Mike Keenan. No one in a Bruins uniform ever has been such a dynamic puckhandler, and that includes the crafty likes of Adam Oates, Rick Middleton, Jean Ratelle, even Bobby Orr. Samsonov could bring stick and puck into a crowded elevator and work through 20 pair of shoes (high heels and wingtips included) without leaving so much as a scuff mark.
''His hands and feet go a mile a minute,'' said Bruins general manager Mike O'Connell. ''It's very seldom that you get a player who can do both at the same time. Now, if you're a defenseman out there, and you're looking at this guy coming at you - his hands and feet going - there's just no way you can anticipate what he's going to do with it. That's where his game has really taken off lately, I think. They don't know what he's going to do with it. And maybe he doesn't know, either.''
Samsonov has only two goals in his last 13 games, one of them in yesterday's matinee against the Sharks. He also had an assist, and has five in his last three games. Late in Thursday's 3-1 win over Tampa Bay, and the Boston power play in desperate need of some jump, Keenan finally put Samsonov at the point on the man-advantage. It took only seconds for him to launch a long, hard slapper that Jumbo Joe Thornton tipped in for the game-breaker.
When someone with Samsonov's dexterity and unpredictability is worked into the power-play mix, defending coaches see their penalty killers begin to melt. Samsonov is a risk at the point, as virtually all forwards are, but the potential reward is so high that Keenan has no choice but to keep him out there - at least until Darren Van Impe (shoulder surgery) reports back to work later this month. Point duty or not, Samsonov is a vibrant, confident marvel right now. He has to be included on the No. 1 power play, somewhere, even at the risk of Thornton, Bill Guerin, or Jason Allison getting bumped off the forward line.
When he entered the draft in 1997, he was the wild card, only two years
removed from a 182-point junior season in Russia, and fresh off a 64-point
season with the Detroit Vipers in the International Hockey League. His
skills were abundant, but many scouting directors found it impossible to
look past the crown of his head, which crested at 5 feet 8 inches, or about
4 inches short of NHL standards.
''Hey, we had huge reservations about his size,'' said O'Connell, those doubts striking him now as humorous. ''But those disappeared when we asked him about it during our interview. Detroit and Philly were in the Cup final that year, and it got pretty nasty, as many of them do. And I remember asking him, `Sergei, you've watched how these guys play - is that going to hold you back?' He just looked at me and said, `Absolutely not - I've always played at a high level, and I'll do that here.'''
Of course, what's an 18-year-old kid going to say? NHL clubs have thrown millions at first-rounders (hello, Alexandre Daigle) who have sounded like Gordie Howe during the interview process, only to look like the lost cousins of Merlin Malinowski come training camp.
''It was just the way he responded, his whole demeanor,'' said O'Connell. ''His demeanor and his focus. We had two picks in the top 10. We interviewed every kid in that group of top picks - those kids and more - and I just marveled at the difference in Sergei. He was just that little bit older. He left Russia, came here, and played a year of pro hockey. They were all boys, and you'd expect that, because they're only 18 years old. But there was just this adult seriousness about Sergei.''
Four years later, the kid with the grown-up side has turned into a serious talent. He is playing with more confidence now than he ever has, tying defensemen in knots, working the puck like a Three-Card Monte dealer on a Manhattan sidewalk.
Has Samsonov seen a difference in his play of late? ''No, I haven't noticed that,'' he said. ''Maybe I've been trying to take charge a little more, but I don't know, sometimes it's just that you feel you can do certain things out there.''
At the moment, it appears he can do almost anything.
Страничка Сергея Самсонова на
сайте "Звёзды с Востока"
30 сентября. Samsonov spinning his wheels // Boston
20 апреля. Сергей
Самсонов: "Fair play в НХЛ нет" - Спорт-Экспресс
Сергей Самсонов: "С Кинэном пил пиво, с Бернсом лил
слёзы" - "Спорт-Экспресс"
30 сентября. Samsonov spinning his wheels // Boston Globe
20 апреля. Сергей Самсонов: "Fair play в НХЛ нет" - Спорт-Экспресс
Сергей Самсонов: "С Кинэном пил пиво, с Бернсом лил слёзы" - "Спорт-Экспресс"