Translation: Nikita Kucherov speaks to Sovsport.ru about chemistry with Stamkos and playing without greed
“I’d even say that Steven reminds me of a Russian.”
In an October 28 interview for Sovsport.ru, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov talked to writer Lina Trunina about the possibility of scoring fifty goals in a season, his admiration for the Artemi Panarin, Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov line when it was together, and avoiding Coca Cola.
If you use this translated text in any way, please credit Lina Trunina of Sovsport.ru and Igor Nikonov (@nikonov_igor) of Raw Charge.
“What is our secret? First of all, do not be greedy.”
Lina Trunina: There is a discussion in the NHL about whether Nikita Kucherov can score 50 goals in the first 50 games [Editor’s note: This was written in October. At present, Tampa Bay has played 27 games, and Kucherov is tied for second in the league with 19 goals]. It seems like a fantastic achievement in our time. What do you think?
Nikita Kucherov: Honestly, I don't really pay attention to it. Yes, you can discuss it. But my point is to help Tampa win. I’m trying not to think about my goals. Maybe you can score today, but you won’t tomorrow. Every day is normal for me, there aren’t days when I’m playing just to score a hat-trick. Maybe someone else has a benchmark to score 40 or 50 goals, for example. I just want to be better than I was yesterday, and then you will get your goals. You shouldn’t stop, you should always add some skills. If we’re talking about the season, then we need to make playoffs and win the Stanley Cup. This is our main goal.
Trunina: Jon Cooper said, Kucherov isn’t a greedy player, he will always pass if his partner is in the better position. Don’t you think that your scoring stats are lower because of this?
Kucherov: My first coach, Gennady Gennadyevich Kurdin, always tried to teach us to play hockey as a team. You make a pass and then try to get open. You can‘t be greedy, even if your partner is a meter away from you. But anyway, give him a pass, offer yourself. If my teammate is open, he will get a pass from me. And I’ll also try to be open. But if I’m in a good position, I will shoot.
Trunina: Your line with Vladislav Namestnikov and Steven Stamkos is the most productive in the NHL. Are there any other line that you’re trying to emulate?
Kucherov: I really enjoyed watching Chicago when Artemi Panarin, Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov were playing together. I liked their games. There was a good chemistry between them. And [Detroit’s] Russian five was a great line. I tried to copy them when I was a child.
Trunina: You and Stamkos are among the top three stars of the month [of October] in the league. What is your secret? Your chemistry is amazing.
Kucherov: What is our secret? First of all, do not be greedy. As I said, make a pass and try to get open. Also we have Namestnikov. He is a great player, very smart and skilled. We are not alone with Stamkos, there are three of us. We’re playing very well together. We always support each other if something goes wrong. We talk and practice a lot.
Trunina: Is it possible to plan your responsibilities on the power play? Does it work?
Kucherov: Not always. You can discuss everything, but the puck might rebound somewhere else. And you are already intuitively thinking about what to do next, or Stammer’s moving to the planned position, or you need to quickly invent something new. This is hockey, improvisation is important. But we’re working out some things in practice, because you don’t have a lot of time and space in the real games.
Trunina: Is there something that connects you and Stamkos off the ice? Maybe you go to the concerts together or playing snooker?
Kucherov: We have a lot of common interests and there is always something to talk about. I won’t say that we have some differences in mentality. I’d even say that Steven reminds me of a Russian. It's easy to communicate with him. [We] found a common language immediately.
Trunina: Actually you have a “Russian gang” in Tampa. There’s goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and the new defenseman Mikhail Sergachev.
Kucherov: Yes, it’s special when there are a lot of Russian-speaking guys around you. Sometimes you just want to discuss something and laugh together. And not every guy from North Anerica understands Russian jokes. Sometimes you just want to talk in Russian and not to think how it sounds in English. We have a good team. Even after difficult games, you can always relax with your friends and reduce stress.
Trunina: Last season you said that playing with Stamkos and Namestnikov was a great pleasure for you. This season you have already played 23 games together. Is it still the same?
Kucherov: Every guy is a good player in Tampa. I don‘t want to offend anyone by saying that I don‘t enjoy playing with them. It’s not true. But we can really do a lot together with Vlad and Steven. And I agree that it is a joy for any hockey player when you have such a good partners. But if they put me on another line, I’ll have to discuss with those guys how to play together.
Trunina: Are you still training your shot in your famous garage with synthetic ice? I guess everyone wrote about it.
Kucherov: I practice there only in the summer. Now I don’t have time for it. And I have a lot of real ice during the regular season.
Trunina: I‘ve also remembered from your August interview that you have a strict diet. Your agent Dan Milstein said when you came to dinner in Detroit in October, you refused to eat a piece of Kiev cake for dessert, because you have to be in shape. Do you really limit yourself so much?
Kucherov: We don’t have a strict diet during the regular season. It is hard to keep it, because we need strength. You need pasta, chicken, borscht. [I] try not to eat chocolate and not to drink Coca-Cola. And I really don’t want it anymore after three years of avoiding this kind of food.
Trunina: Also, I was told that you don‘t follow NHL standings. Is it true?
Kucherov: We have it in the locker room. Televisions work everywhere. Everyone is discussing how is Tampa doing, who scored how many goals. It's hard not to be aware of it. But I try not to get distracted by these things. You should work to help the team.
Trunina: Will you watch the Olympics, even if Russia won‘t be there?
Kucherov: If I have time. I don't know what time it will be broadcast in North America… Wait… How is it that Russia won’t go? I can’t even imagine it!