Vasilevskiy on Kucherov’s recent words: “No one likes the truth”
Andrei Vasilevskiy discusses playing for Team Russia, embracing his role as the Tampa Bay Lightning starting goaltender, and his perspective on Nikita Kucherov’s controversial comments.
Tampa Bay Lightning goalie and starting netminder for Team Russia at the IIHF Worlds Andrei Vasilevskiy was recently interviewed by Marat Safin. Text of the original interview can be found at Sport-express.ru.
This Russian-to-English translation was generously provided by @forgotten_night.
IIHF World Championship
Safin: How are you acclimating and adjusting back to European hockey?
Vasilevskiy: I’m not feeling perfectly fine yet, but it has got much better than before. I don’t even know why acclimatization is so hard this year. I thought it would be easier to adapt to bigger rinks, but I found everything rather difficult when I stepped on the ice at our first practice. This is exactly why we take part in the Euro Hockey Tour, to get used to and adapt to the environment. I mean, of course, the guys from the NHL.
Safin: How satisfied are you with the game against Sweden, your first on the European ice? In terms of stats, it wasn’t your best performance: 16 saves on 20 shots.
Vasilevskiy: Actually, they could have scored 5 out of 5 if they had shot into the empty corner. Maybe I could have stopped the puck when I let in the fourth goal in OT.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Safin: What do you think about your NHL season? Were you expecting to finally become the Lightning’s starter?
Vasilevskiy: I tried not to think about it at all. I don’t stuff my head with all the talks going on. I don’t say anything about my relationship with Ben Bishop either, even though I get asked about it often. There’s nothing extraordinary in it. My job is playing hockey.
Safin: Your teammate Victor Hedman recently said that Bishop had been your mentor and taught you a lot.
Vasilevskiy: This is true. He used to help me in many ways, told me who shoots where before games. I improved my stick-handling significantly—it was the biggest advantage of working with Ben. He is definitely the best in the league in this aspect. So I was lucky to play with him.
Safin: But still, when you are a solid number one, it gives you some confidence.
Vasilevskiy: No. If I sit back and relax, there are 20 more guys like me. They are more than ready to kick my ass and say, “That’s it. You haven’t worked. You’ve lost ground.” Everyone understands it. It’s the NHL, after all. If you don’t stay focused, you’ll be asked to leave.
Safin: Why didn’t the Lightning make the playoffs?
Vasilevskiy: It’s all our fault. [We] didn’t score where should have scored. Let in important goals.
Safin: Your teammate Nikita Kucherov said he had never seen anyone who trains and works as hard as you. Who trains more: you or Sergei Bobrovsky?
Vasilevskiy: Don’t compare me to him. We’re completely different. It’s not about who trains more but about who does it more wisely, especially in the NHL where you play a lot of games. If you work too hard in addition to practice and games, you will enter the game exhausted; you simply won’t have the strength to play. Obviously, you have to improve yourself, but do it wisely, constantly adjust the workout plan.
Safin: Kucherov has also said that some of the guys on the team aren’t really working.
Vasilevskiy: I didn’t read [that interview]. I know that the guys are talking about it. I’ll say this: no one likes the truth. If someone suddenly says it out loud, reproaches begin. “Look at him,” they say, “Look how conceited he has become.” I don’t want to discuss what Nikita said. But once again, no one likes the truth.
Safin: Does Bobrovsky deserve to get the Vezina Trophy?
Vasilevskiy: There are many contenders for this award. Sergei has had a great regular season, but so have [Brayden] Holtby and [Carey] Price. I don’t like to guess. May the best man win.
Safin: What’s better - winning the World Championship gold or Vezina?
Vasilevskiy: World Championship, of course! An individual trophy—you win it and celebrate alone. Winning a team prize feels entirely different. Only an egoist would compare these two.
Safin: Have you discussed your role with the [national team's] coaching staff? Would you have joined the team if Bobrovsky had been there?
Vasilevskiy: No one ever said that I would definitely be the starter. But if Bobrovsky had come, there would be no point in going here. Sergei is considered number one on Team Russia. He would be playing, and I would rather have had some rest. However, I got a call and flew here. I'm always glad to play for the national team—especially considering the fact that our season ended early and I would like to play a little more.
Safin: What do you think about [Ilya] Sorokin and [Igor] Shestyorkin's play?
Vasilevskiy: They are both good guys and work very hard. I haven't watched them play, but judging by what I've seen at the practice, they're doing a great job. As for their prospects in the NHL, they can try; I won't make any assumptions about how they could perform there. It's different for everyone. Some do well from the very beginning, others have to spend a few years in the AHL. Undoubtedly, they should try going there, all the more so because they're both drafted.
Safin: Did you have a tough path yourself?
Vasilevskiy: I spent only half a year in the AHL, so I think my way to the NHL turned out perfectly. Some play in farm teams for years—that would be a tough path.
Safin: What is your opinion on NHL participation in the Olympics?
Vasilevskiy: It depends on what we're talking about. If they tell me, “You can go but we'll terminate the contract,” obviously I won't go. Why would I sacrifice my career? I by no means want to say that the Olympic Games are unimportant. It is a great honor to be there; playing for the national team at this level is a dream for many, but not at the cost of the job. If they tell me I can go and play peacefully, I will. Otherwise I'll do what I'm told.
Safin: The last time you won with Team Russia was in Minsk.
Vasilevskiy: Yes, I don't get to play for the national team very often. At the World Cup of Hockey, I didn't go on the ice at all. But there are many talents on our team, as it has always been in Russia. We have a friendly atmosphere, good organization and coaches. It all comes together, and this is why our team battles for the highest trophies.
Safin: [Tampa Bay Lightning head coach] Jon Cooper will be coaching Team Canada. Have you talked to him about it?
Vasilevskiy: Not at all. We had a usual meeting after the season, and then everyone parted ways. If we face Canada, it won't give me any extra motivation. There will already be enough of it! Well, he'll probably tell his team where to shoot on me. But we have to get to Canada first. Now we're at the Euro Hockey Tour and thinking about the next game.