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|31 января 2007
Semin opts to fly under the radar // The Ottawa Citizen
The Capitals' other Alexander quietly goes about his business while the media home in on Ovechkin.
The two Russians named Alexander on the Washington Capitals are the team's No. 1 and No. 2 scoring stars, but the No. 2 guy, Alexander Semin, doesn't seem to mind that No. 1, Alexander Ovechkin, gets all the attention.
Semin, 22, has everybody believing he can't speak English, according to Capitals coach Glen Hanlon, so the media rarely bother with him.
If reporters do approach Semin, they get a fellow Russian on the team to translate a couple of sentences from him and then go on their way -- usually back to the affable, 21-year-old Ovechkin.
But Hanlon said yesterday he's sure Semin can speak English, and believes the winger prefers that no one knows it, to help him stay out of limelight.
"He has no trouble ordering his steak dinner in English, but when it comes to reporters and coaches, he doesn't seem to know any English anymore," said Hanlon. "He has a lot of fun not letting on that he can speak.
"He really does not want anyone to know that. I think, from his standpoint, he just wants to be under the radar, and quietly go about his business. If the dressing room is full of reporters and they are all around Ovechkin, he can go in there quietly, take off his equipment and (be) quite happy."
Hanlon described the left wing, whose return to the Capitals this season was marred with controversy, as a "dynamic offensive threat" who has an uncanny ability to strip pucks from opponents. And because of his speed, Hanlon said he can take the puck from deep in the Capitals' defensive zone, skate up the ice alone and score.
Hanlon said Semin's shot is already the talk of the NHL.
While Semin's numbers aren't quite as good as Ovechkin's, they are impressive, nonetheless, especially when you consider he hadn't played in the NHL since 2003-04, when he had 12 goals and 10 assists in 52 games.
Semin's stats before last night's match against the Senators were 29-22-51 in 46 games compared to Ovechkin's 31-37-68 in 50 games. While the assist differential is fairly significant, Ovechkin only has two more goals than Semin. But Ovechkin, also a left wing, has also played four more games.
That Ovechkin gets the most attention of any Washington player -- in every NHL arena -- is hardly surprising.
He was drafted first overall in 2004, just months before the NHL lockout, and beat out Canadian phenom Sidney Crosby as the league's top rookie in 2005-06. He had 52 goals and 54 assists for 106 points last season, was the league's third-leading scorer, was a first-team all-star as well as an 2006 Olympic all-star, and will undoubtedly be the face of the Washington franchise for years to come.
Semin's ride with the Caps was pretty bumpy before his return. Semin, drafted 13th overall by Washington in 2002, signed with a Russian club team during the lockout year rather than report to Washington's American Hockey League farm team.
His agent, Mark Gandler, said Semin had to remain in Russia to fulfil military obligations. Semin was suspended by the Capitals, and when he opted to remain in Russia for the 2005-06 season, Washington sued for breach of contract. The matter was resolved when Semin signed a new two-year deal with the Capitals last spring.
Hanlon said Semin, like all young players, has to work on being a consistent contributor to the team.
The coach joked that the winger not only pretends he doesn't understand English when he yells at him on the bench, but pretends he's deaf when Hanlon uses a few Russian words he knows to explain a point.
For his part, Semin looked pretty mischievous when he was approached afterward. But he stuck close to Ovechkin, conversing to him only in Russian as Ovechkin tried to explain how well Semin speaks English.
Ovechkin, who worked on his English by constantly watching sport network shows and movies, said he encourages his teammate to order food when they go out to restaurants or when ordering out by phone.
"Sometimes, he tries to say it, but no chance," said Ovechkin. "Then
he say: Ovi, you order pizza, OK?"