Washington left wing Alex Ovechkin made himself available for a conference call this afternoon, and the league’s media site posted a transcript of the call afterwards. Here’s what Alex had to say:
Q. Lots of good stats but are you at the point where you want the team to make the playoffs? I can’t imagine it’s much fun if the team doesn’t make the playoffs.
ALEX OVECHKIN: My goal is to make the playoffs and I have to score goals and everybody has to score goals. So my goal is to score goals and try to win games.
Q. How is it going to be playing with Michael Nylander?
ALEX OVECHKIN: Right now I’m playing with Viktor Kozlov.
Q. How is it going to be playing with him?
ALEX OVECHKIN: Good (indiscernible).
Q. Do you need a center that can get you the puck?
ALEX OVECHKIN: The center gets me the puck all the time. I feel good right now, our line.
Q. Thanks for taking the time today. You trained with Viktor Kozlov in Russia in the summer; is that right?
ALEX OVECHKIN: Yeah, Kozlov and Evgeni Malkin, Sergei Gonchar, Andrei Nikolishin, Alexei Semenov.
Q. Did you get some chemistry with Viktor over the summer, or did you start feeling very comfortable with him on the ice?
ALEX OVECHKIN: Well, I feel comfortable with everybody, but with Kozlov, it’s like Zubi (Dainius Zubrus) in my first year. He was my center and a big difference when you can run defense in Russian language.
Q. Why do you think the Washington Capitals are going to be better this year?
ALEX OVECHKIN: Well, I think the good reason is we signed a lot of experienced guys, Kozlov, Nylander, Poti. The young guys, we have more experience; two years we’ve been playing in the NHL and we have great experience.
Q. Did you get a sense last year that the team was ready to make a step forward?
ALEX OVECHKIN: Well, I think everybody understands we have to move forward. That’s why we signed a lot of good players, and I think we are playing well and just play our system and the coaches right now feel pretty excited.
Q. What are your expectations? Do you feel this is a playoff team?
ALEX OVECHKIN: Why not? You never know. We have to win all the games and we have to win and try in every game. And if you win the games, you make the playoffs. If you have a great team and you lose, you don’t go to the playoffs.
Q. Your team has a goalie that’s well known out here in British Columbia, Olaf Kolzig. You get to see him all the time. I think he’s one of the better goalies in the league, but what is your thoughts on Olaf as a teammate, and how good of a goalie is he?
ALEX OVECHKIN: Well, he’s our leader on the ice, off the ice, and you know, we listen to him because he’s good.
Right now he’s one of the best players in the league, one of best goalies, and in the locker room he’s our leader, too. He tells us what we have to do in practice and what we have to do, and then we go to him. So it’s great to have that guy in our locker room.
Q. A lot of fans out here are really wanting to see yourself and Sidney and other stars in the East. What are your thoughts about traveling around the NHL, as opposed to the schedule they have now which only has you out here every once in awhile? Are you in favor of coming out here every year?
ALEX OVECHKIN: Well, I like travel. I like going to go to different cities. I like to see different people, different teams, and I like it. It’s experience and it’s great to see different teams. We played last year in Ottawa and in Minnesota and I love it.
Q. Good memories here in Vancouver?
ALEX OVECHKIN: Oh yeah, great sushi over there.
Q. What in your opinion makes you a better player than a couple of years ago when you first broke into the League?
ALEX OVECHKIN: You know, I have to concentrate about my shots. I have lots of shots in the game but sometimes my shots, I have great moments to shoot but my shots aren’t perfect. I just have to practice more my shots and my make my shots well, the puck goes to the net. So I think I have to make more shots.
Q. Let me ask you about the Southeast Division. Tampa Bay and Carolina won the Stanley Cup the last couple of years and Atlanta made the playoffs this past season. How competitive is the Southeast Division? You’re trying to crack into the playoffs, but that division seems to be pretty tough. How do you view that division?
ALEX OVECHKIN: Well, it’s a hard division and every team wants to go to the playoffs. The first year had a chance to go to playoffs and we didn’t unfortunately and did not make the playoffs and the next year we did not make the playoffs. I felt like we have a good team and great players, and it’s all about us. It doesn’t matter what team you play. You just have to go to the ice and play hard and try and win the game.
Q. How do you feel foreign players like yourself are marketed in the United States, and are you happy with the way you’ve been marketed in Washington?
ALEX OVECHKIN: Yeah, I’m happy. I’m glad to be here and also we have a great team. It’s nice position and I feel pretty comfortable here.
Q. Sidney Crosby just got a new contract. Are you looking for a new contract, as well?
ALEX OVECHKIN: New contract, I cannot talk because the season did not start.
Q. Did you see what Sidney Crosby got? Do you want to make that kind of money?
ALEX OVECHKIN: I don’t know. We have to talk with George and we’ll see.
Q. There was though incident, wasn’t there, in Russia, between you and Gennady Ushakov?
ALEX OVECHKIN: No.
Q. They just made it up?
ALEX OVECHKIN: Yeah.
Q. Do they do that over there?
ALEX OVECHKIN: Yeah, a lot.
Q. They don’t do that over here.
ALEX OVECHKIN: No.
Q. Can you just talk about what Tom Poti’s addition means for the Capitals and how he might make your job a little easier?
ALEX OVECHKIN: He’s a great D and he can control the puck the puck well. We got him in our first line D in power play, so he’s pretty good. He can pass and it’s very important to us to move forward if you have a guy that can pass. I think the Capitals are in good position after signing this guy.
Q. Last year your team was basically a playoff contender, at least until Christmas, and then things kind of fell off in the second half, games got tougher. Just wondering what you think the team learned from that second half?
ALEX OVECHKIN: Well, the reason that we don’t make the playoffs at all last year was we had lots of injuries; Clark was injured, Kolzig was injured; our leaders were injured. And sometimes we don’t have the guys to play in the games. So made some calls to bring some guys from Hershey, and it was very hard for us to win games because most of the year we weren’t in good shape, we were injured.
Q. You expressed some frustration about the talent level and that the team needed to get new players. Given it’s not always easy to turn a team around one year to the next, are you satisfied with the changes?
ALEX OVECHKIN: Well, you can see the level like with the players coming to our team, younger, Backstrom, (Josef) Boumedienne coming. It’s nice we have lots of great guys and great players on our team.
Q. You recently started a blog. Granted, it won’t help too many of us, as it’s in Russian. Is this something that you did on your own, and how often do you plan on updating it throughout the year?
ALEX OVECHKIN: Well, I make decision to make my blog because the Russian fans want to know something about me and it gives some questions. The Russian media call me and this is an answer for these questions.
I think it’s nice when you are on the ice and you do some talking with the fans, because, you know, I love my fans and I love Russian fans. They are asking lots of things and I just try and answer.