Samsonov sets team goals with Boston

Originally published on in 2000

By Lucas Aykroyd

“Sammy? Is that Hagar or Davis Jr.?” If you’re a Boston Bruins fan, you might think of a different popular figure. He’s only 21 and stands a mere 5-8 and 184 pounds, but he looms large in Boston’s youth movement. Known as “Sammy” to his teammates, he is Sergei Samsonov to the rest of the NHL, and the Muscovite left wing knows how to make opposing goalies dance to his tune. Chosen eighth overall in the 1997 Entry Draft, Samsonov’s brilliant first-year production (22-25-47) earned him Calder Trophy honors for 1997-98. He had previously been the IHL’s rookie of the year, so that gave him a unique double whammy. Samsonov’s defensive play trailed off in 1998-99, but this year his work ethic continues to recommend him to Pat Burns, Boston’s conservative head coach, and he’s humming along with 32 points in 54 games. A Samsonov goal in a 5-2 road loss to the Vancouver Canucks on 21 February exemplified this Red Army graduate’s drive. Samsonov spoiled Garth Snow’s shutout bid at 2:03 of the second period by coming off the bench and hurtling toward the goal like a man on a mission. Unfortunately, his popped-in rebound was overshadowed by Marty McSorley’s poleaxing of Donald Brashear with 2.7 seconds left in the game, which triggered a brawl and led to litter being thrown on the ice. Samsonov spoke with EuroReport in a subdued Boston dressing room after his team’s record fell to 18-25-16.

EuroReport: Was it important to you personally to score a goal despite an ugly loss?

Sergei Samsonov: When the team’s struggling, it doesn’t really matter. It’s nice to get a goal and maybe get something going. But it’s not fun after a loss like that.

EuroReport: What’s the main reason the Bruins have struggled this year?

Samsonov: Our consistency. We can play twenty minutes just great and then not play for forty minutes. Like today, we came out in the first period and got down 4-0 before we started going. That’s not the way to play if you want to win hockey games.

EuroReport: How do you feel you’re progressing in your third NHL season?

Samsonov: I’m still learning and getting used to a lot of things. Each year, I’ve played a bit differently. Truly, I base my success on the team’s success, so it’s not going that well right now. But it’s not the end of the world. We still have 23 games to go.

EuroReport: How much pressure did winning the Calder Trophy put on you?

Samsonov: Not too much. I didn’t really care. It was nice to win and everything. I was excited at the time. But when you get into your second year, you’ve got to forget about what you did the year before and start a new page.

EuroReport: You and Joe Thornton are in an unusual situation, being two first-round picks from the same year on the same team. Tell me about your relationship with Joe.

Samsonov: We get along pretty well. We’re both the same age and we have the same interests. We understand each other. Joe’s been progressing well for the past three years. When he came in the league, he wasn’t playing every game. But now he’s a key player on our team. He plays the penalty kill, power play, everything. So it’s been nice to watch him come along like that.

EuroReport: What advice has Pat Burns given you to keep you on an even keel?

Samsonov: I’ve learned a lot of stuff from him about how to play defense in our own end. He always gives me tips here and there.

EuroReport: How do you feel about the possibility of Raymond Bourque retiring at the end of the year?

Samsonov: Doesn’t sound too good! He’s still a great defenseman, and I wish he could play for another five or seven years. But I guess it’ll be up to him.

EuroReport: Looking at the rookies around the league, Maxim Afinogenov of the Buffalo Sabres is a guy whose style has been compared to yours. What do you think of him?

Samsonov: I played with him back in Russia on the national team. He’s a pretty good player. He’s a great skater and he sees the ice well. He’s the type of guy who can beat you one-on-one. That makes him really hard to play against. I wish him well, and hopefully he’ll be among the top rookies at the end of the year.

EuroReport: Would you consider playing for Russia at the world championships in St. Petersburg in May if you’re available?

Samsonov: Sure. It’s always nice to play for the national team. If I have the opportunity, I will do it. Digg it Furl iFeedReaders Netscape RawSugar reddit StumbleUpon Yahoo MyWeb YardBarker

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