Daria Tuboltseva: They say that the real hockey starts in the Conference finals and it’s just “hit and run” before that. Did you feel this way?
Mikhail Sergachev: Not really. Capitals players also like hitting and running, but they are just more skilled than our previous opponents. There are some players in Capitals who can score a lot – make a couple passes and then score a goal.
It was really hard against the Devils - they really hit and run a lot. We beat them because we were more skilled. We beat the Bruins because we were faster and played tougher. It didn’t work out with Capitals. It started not very well for us, it was hard to save a series when you’re losing 0-2, but we managed to reach the seventh game. We could have won the sixth game, but it doesn’t make sense to talk about it now…
Daria Tuboltseva: Why did you lose that last game against Washington? You weren’t ready?
Mikhail Sergachev: We were ready both physically and psychologically. We are all professionals. I guess the game didn’t go very well for us. We could score, but just didn’t convert goals. We didn’t make a lot of mistakes, but they punished us immediately for them.
Daria Tuboltseva: Was it hard to accept a loss?
Mikhail Sergachev: It hurts to lose when you’re just one game away from the Stanley Cup finals. The road to the finals is long so you get used to routine and it’s hard to lose and just go to the vacation. But I’ve already lost some games in my career, so you can learn to handle everything. It’s pointless to get upset, we need to figure out why and work on our mistakes.
Daria Tuboltseva: Do you agree that you wouldn’t play the seventh game in ECF without Andrei Vasilevskiy?
Mikhail Sergachev: Absolutely! He carried us the whole season. No surprise he was nominated for the Vezina Trophy, I think he is the best goalie in the NHL. He has no weaknesses, he’s young, he’s very athletic, he plays puck very well. Simply the best.
Daria Tuboltseva: You have never hid that Ovechkin was your idol when you were a child. Did he surprise you?
Mikhail Sergachev: Not really, he’s just always scoring. His strength is amazing, he didn’t have any slumps. I think he has become better defensively, he played every minute in the playoffs and made important blocks.
Daria Tuboltseva: Did you watch the finals?
Mikhail Sergachev: No, just some highlights every morning. Since Tampa isn’t playing I don’t have a team to support.
Daria Tuboltseva: That was a real fight against Devils. You had a scratched face after your fight with Brian Boyle. You give an impression as a calm person, but what happened?
Mikhail Sergachev: That was emotions. We were losing the game, which we didn’t want to lose. We got a penalty, but a referee didn’t notice that. I got on the ice and wanted to score during the last minute, but it didn’t work out. So Boyle just grabbed me. That wasn’t really a fight, we just shouted at each other and that’s all. But the next game was quiet. Emotional games happen, even in the regular season.
Daria Tuboltseva: Both teams got a penalty at the last minutes of this game. How was it started?
Mikhail Sergachev: Devils players played the whole game tough and and the referees didn’t do anything about it. Guys were very angry.
Daria Tuboltseva: Would you punch Brad Marchand if he licked you?
Mikhail Sergachev: If he licked me?
Daria Tuboltseva: Yes.
Mikhail Sergachev: I don’t even know. It’s very gross. I can’t even imagine what’s on his mind at this moment. Probably if I get licked, I’d think “Are you sick?” I would be really angry. I think there is no place for this behavior in the NHL.
Daria Tuboltseva: Ryan Callahan was really angry then, yes?
Mikhail Sergachev: You bet! It’s the same thing as spitting in the face. I totally understand him.
Daria Tuboltseva: You scored a unique goal against the Bruins, when Tuukka Rask lost his blade. Did you notice it?
Mikhail Sergachev: No, I only noticed that he was sitting on the ice, so I shot to the undefended angle. I think someone was shouting to me “Shoot”, that’s why I shot.
Daria Tuboltseva: What have you learned from your first playoff run?
Mikhail Sergachev: Play every single game and do what you did before. Even better than before. Do not slow down and lose one to one battles. One series is like one long game.
Daria Tuboltseva: What’s main difference from regular season games?
Mikhail Sergachev: Even if you’re losing 0-4, you aren’t giving up and trying to save a game.
Daria Tuboltseva: Do you still pick up the pucks after practice?
Mikhail Sergachev: Yes, I think I’m going to do this next season too. That’s okay, I’m young.
Daria Tuboltseva: Was there a moment when you realised that you don’t have energy?
Mikhail Sergachev: No, summer practice was really good, and I played regularly so I got used to routine.
Daria Tuboltseva: You played 68 games season before, but 96 games this season. Did you feel it?
Mikhail Sergachev: I played about 30 minutes in each game in the OHL. I’m playing just 15 minutes per game in the NHL. But yes, there is a difference, you need to think faster, more running, more playing defense or offence in the NHL.
Daria Tuboltseva: Do you feel that you’re ready to play 25 minutes every game like Ivan Provorov?
Mikhail Sergachev: I think so, yes.
Daria Tuboltseva: Sometimes it feels like Jon Cooper doesn’t trust you too much, he doesn’t give more ice time.
Mikhail Sergachev: I’m just 19 years old and I’m defensemen. He thinks that it’s hard to play in the defense at this age. I understand that and I don’t wait him to give me 30 minutes every game. You need to earn it and I’m working on it right now.
Daria Tuboltseva: It also feels like you were one of few Lightning players who played well in the last game against Washington. What do you think?
Mikhail Sergachev: We were losing and needed to score, that’s why I played more. But I think the whole team looked good.
Daria Tuboltseva: Kucherov and Vasilevskiy were really upset after this loss.
Mikhail Sergachev: We didn’t talk much about it, tried to forget about it. It was a long road and we had a strong team but we couldn’t win.
Daria Tuboltseva: How is your summer?
Mikhail Sergachev: It’s okay. I went to the sea. I am planning to start working in the middle of July.
Daria Tuboltseva: Where are you going to prepare for the next season?
Mikhail Sergachev: That’s a secret.
Daria Tuboltseva: You have been to Nizhnekamsk last summer when HC Neftekhimik had practices with Andrei Nazarov. Did you practice with him too?
Mikhail Sergachev: No, I just came there to give some interviews and went back.
Daria Tuboltseva: Do you feel more comfortable when you’re practicing with team or individually?
Mikhail Sergachev: I’m always preparing with three guys and some coaches. I think it’s easier to work in a group. It’s fun. But when you’re working with a team, it’s possible that someone’s not trying hard enough. But we have a small group, so our training sessions and diets are controlled. That’s easier.
Daria Tuboltseva: How long do you need to get in shape?
Mikhail Sergachev: Six or seven weeks were enough last year. I’m going to work 8-9 weeks this summer to get on the new level.
Daria Tuboltseva: If you come to the preseason games with some extra pounds, will there be any sanctions against you?
Mikhail Sergachev: Don’t think so, but it will be harder to get in the roster. But I control my shape and I’m not going to gain some pounds. No one will tell you that you have extra weight. But everyone will notice that you’re getting slower and will treat you different, because that’s not professional. Maybe someone’s feeling better with extra pounds and it helps you play better. The main thing is how you’re playing.
Daria Tuboltseva: Did someone have a problem with his shape in Tampa last summer?
Mikhail Sergachev: To be honest, I don’t know. But they are professionals and were in the great form.
Daria Tuboltseva: Could you afford a hamburger, French fries or piece of cake, when you’re on vacation?
Mikhail Sergachev: When I’m on vacation – yes. How could you live without some sweets in the summer? Just not too much.
Daria Tuboltseva: Do you have a strict diet during the season?
Mikhail Sergachev: It’s hard to eat healthy, because the schedule on the road games is crazy. Some games finish at 11 pm, but you need to fly home and want to eat. We’re eating a lot of pasta before games, it has a lot of calories. But I’m trying to avoid fast-food.
Daria Tuboltseva: It was your first full season in the NHL. Do you realize that next season will be even harder?
Mikhail Sergachev: Sure. There is such thing as a second season syndrome. I think that after the first season everyone’s starting to think that they are fine. I was thinking about it and I’m pretty sure that I’m not going to slow down. I want to work and get better. I hope everything will be okay.
Daria Tuboltseva: Don’t you think that you have reached an over saturation of hockey? The season’s long and you’re already starting to prepare for the new season.
Mikhail Sergachev: I was trying not to think about it during the season. That’s why I don’t watch hockey. I understand that I need to relax and do nothing for a few weeks!