Rambler's Top100

23 2005 . 
Zhamnov tally may be thaw-provoking // Boston Herald 

By Karen Guregian

Player-wise, there has been no bigger bust wearing a Bruins uniform than center Alex Zhamnov, one of general manager Mike OConnells top-dollar free agent pickups during the offseason.

Having inked him to a three-year contract worth $4.1 million per year, OConnell was expecting leadership from the 14-year NHL veteran, but more importantly, a solid No. 2 center behind the now-departed Joe Thornton. He was counting on the gifted Russian to create another scoring line and produce roughly a point a game. Prior to last night, the Bs had pretty much gotten zippo from their prize hire.cw-1

You might say Zhamnovs difficulties are one of the primary reasons the Bs are trying to crawl out of a last-place hole; a predicament so bad the GM sent his best player to San Jose to try and light a fire under the team, and add more depth up front by bringing in three players, two of which were forwards.

Well, last night, Zhamnov finally made a positive difference in a hockey game. He didnt quite have the same impact as goalie Hannu Toivonen, who seems to own Toronto and is making a strong case to see the lions share of the load over Andrew Raycroft. But Zhamnov did score his first goal of the season in last nights 4-1 win over the Maple Leafs at TD Banknorth Garden, and it proved to be the game-winner.

In his 16 prior games, Zhamnov notched only six assists. But his goal last night broke a 1-1 tie in the second period, changed the momentum, came on the heels of the Leafs game-tying goal, and helped get the Bs off on the right foot in this home-and-home series.

It was a big goal for us and for him, teammate Sergei Samsonov said. Hes one of our go-to guys and we need him to get going. Hopefully now, it will come in bunches.

At this stage, with Thornton gone and Patrice Bergeron still young, its really up to Zhamnov to get it in gear if the club has any hope of making the playoffs. 

You could see the relief on his face after he slid a back-hander into the open side of the net past Leafs goalie Mikael Tellqvist, who had blocked a Brian Leetch shot. Zhamnov said half-kiddingly he almost blew the bunny.

I almost lost the puck when I saw the empty net. I was maybe a little nervous, he said with a smile, but I hope my bad luck is over now, and I continue scoring and help this team win games.

He was actually amusing after the game, joking that he was one of three players on the team who hadnt scored a goal - the other two being the goalies.

On the serious side, Zhamnov is well aware of his standing in town and knows what has to happen to change it. Given he was once traded to Chicago for Jeremy Roenick, he understands the pressure on him to perform, and its grown even greater now with Thornton gone.

I probably put more pressure on myself than anyone, because I want to help this team. If you dont produce offensively, its frustrating, he said. I think a lot of people are probably disappointed by the way Ive played. But the last few games, I think Ive played better. I hope I continue to play at the same level and help this team.

If its possible, Zhamnov, who played in his 800th career game last night, had gotten to the point where his confidence was shot. It had taken him a while to get in shape since returning from the injury he suffered in the final preseason game, but his lack of production started wearing on him mentally.

For sure, there was a lot of thinking all the time - Whats going on, what I should do, he said. This is the worst slump of my career. Like I said, I hope its over.

Hes not the only one hoping for the same.

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14 . Zhamnov arrives with lofty goals - Boston Globe

9 . Zhamnov set for central role - Boston Globe

4 . $12 . 

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