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Frustration gives way to relief. Slump is history for veteran pivot (Zhamnov) // "Boston Globe"
By Fluto Shinzawa, Globe Staff | December 23, 2005
First he looked skyward. Then he stole a glance at his teammates, who
were rushing toward him with open arms. And then he smiled and shook his
Alexei Zhamnov had finally scored.
The 35-year-old center, the Bruins' multimillion-dollar offseason acquisition who arrived following the team's failures to land Mike Modano or Peter Forsberg, spent the season's first 17 games off the ice because of a shoulder injury he suffered in Boston's final exhibition game against the New York Rangers. When Zhamnov returned to the lineup, he did so in underwhelming fashion against Ottawa Nov. 10: three shots and a minus-3 rating. Before last night, Zhamnov went 16 games without one of his shots finding the back of the net, while only six of his passes had led to goals.
''It was a lot of thinking all the time," said Zhamnov of the slump he called the worst of his 13 years in the NHL. ''What's going on? What should I do? It was the worst time of my hockey career."
Last night, after Boston's 4-1 win over Toronto, Zhamnov (19 shifts, 2 shots, 16:42 of ice time) uttered a proclamation he hopes will ring true: ''It's over. I hope it's over. We'll see."
Last August, Zhamnov landed in Boston with lofty expectations, the projected No. 2 center behind Joe Thornton who could provide a point a game and give the Bruins offensive depth. But then Zhamnov got hurt. And Thornton was shipped out of town. And the Russian's production failed to pick up.
''I came to Boston because I want to win," said Zhamnov, who played in his 800th NHL game last night. ''Sure, it's frustrating. A lot of people were probably disappointed."
His goal drought, however, ended at 15:52 of the second period when Zhamnov netted the winner. On the play, Toronto goalie Mikael Tellqvist stopped Marco Sturm's blast from the point, but Zhamnov, angling for position in front of the net, collected the rebound and tucked a backhander into the cage. The goal came just over three minutes after the Maple Leafs had tied the score at 1-1.
''It was a momentum boost for us to get that one shortly after they scored," said coach Mike Sullivan. ''It gave our team a boost of energy on the bench. His teammates were excited for him as well. It was a timely goal."
Not just for the Bruins but for Zhamnov's flagging confidence. Although Zhamnov said he's felt more comfortable in recent games, his goal drought left him at the point where he simply forgot about scoring. Instead, Zhamnov focused on the core characteristics of his game: handling the puck, distributing it to open teammates, and giving his club another point-generating center.
''I didn't think about scoring goals the last few games," Zhamnov said. ''I just want to win. I was sick and tired of thinking of scoring a goal."
But Zhamnov, who joked he was one of three Bruins not to score (goalies Hannu Toivonen and Andrew Raycroft were the others he mentioned, although defensemen Hal Gill, Andrew Alberts, and Milan Jurcina have not netted goals, either), put himself in perfect position for a struggling scorer: on the lip of the crease. When Sturm's rebound bounced off Tellqvist, Zhamnov said he felt nervous when the puck landed on his stick, acknowledging he almost turned it over. But Zhamnov quickly forgot about his nerves and buried the puck, experiencing a feeling that he'd forgotten for some time. After all, Zhamnov scored his last goal March 14, 2004, against Pittsburgh.
''I'm happy for him because I know the effort he's putting into it," Sullivan said. ''I know how much it means to him to contribute to this team. To get that first one, I'm thrilled for him. I think he's playing better and better. He's a big part of our team."
Today, Zhamnov expects to hear he will be playing for Russia in the
Olympics. Last night, Turin was far from his mind. He had finally scored
and helped his team win.
14 сентября. Zhamnov arrives with lofty goals
- Boston Globe
9 августа. Zhamnov set for central role - Boston
17 ноября. Алексей Жамнов: "Серовом и Орском меня
не испугаешь" // "Спорт-Экспресс"
14 сентября. Zhamnov arrives with lofty goals - Boston Globe
9 августа. Zhamnov set for central role - Boston Globe
17 ноября. Алексей Жамнов: "Серовом и Орском меня не испугаешь" // "Спорт-Экспресс"