It wasn’t an easy season for New York Rangers forward Pavel Buchnevich. The Russian had highs and lows in his first NHL season, also due to injuries. In this translated interview, originally appearing on the Russian website championat.com, Buchnevich talked about his summer plans, his debut season, and his prospects for the future.
* You can enjoy the original Russian interview by Daria Tuboltseva here *
Daria Truboltseva: Pavel, how did you spend your vacation?
Pavel Buchnevich: Nothing special, it’s often raining this summer in Cherepovets. It’s just the third time I’m wearing shorts this year! I rested a bit, but I’m already practicing for the new season. I’ll hit the ice in a couple of days, I’ll be practicing with [Vegas forward Vadim] Shipachyov.
DT: What’s your ideal way to spend your vacations?
PB: Just to go to the dacha with some friends. Fishing. Going to the banya.
DT: How many pounds did you gain?
PB: I’m not that big so to get overweight. I get myself in shape and after the vacations, it will be even better.
DT: Didn’t you want to attend the rookie camp? Or maybe you feel already as an NHLer?
PB: I don’t need that, I’m at my third year already. I wanted to spend more time at home, I was in America all year long and I’ll soon fly there again to prepare for the new season. I still have time to spend here.
DT: The Rangers have recently undergone seriously roster changes. Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta left the team, the board decided to buyout Dan Girardi. How do you judge these moves?
PB: Of course those are big losses for our team. Stepan was our first line center. But this is our board’s job, they do whatever they can to strengthen the team. We have a lot of young players that deserve more ice time. [J.T.] Miller, [Kevin] Hayes, they are just 23-24. They need to gather experience. I think that next year everything will be much better.
Preparing for Sophomore Season
DT: Maybe the departure of Stepan will get you a spot in the first line? Even if, of course, you play two different roles.
PB: I’m not thinking about it. I just want to spend the whole season without any injury. That’s all.
DT: How do you feel? Is your spine worrying you?
PB: I think my spine is good now, Severstal’s massagist helped me a lot. I know very well Severstal’s medical personnel, I asked them some help and thankfully they helped me.
DT: Recently the Rangers signed Lindy Ruff, who doesn’t have a reputation of getting along well with Russian players.
PB: As far as I understand, he will work with defensemen, so I am not too worried.
DT: It was rumored that Ruff was one of the reasons why Valeri Nichushkin left the Stars.
PB: Well, Ruff was his head coach at those times. We’ll see, I’m not worried about it.
DT: What did you feel when you were sent to the farm team in late February? Didn’t you panic or want to get back to Cherepovets?
PB: I talked with our general manager, and I knew that it was just a formality as the club needed to clear a spot before the deadline. I played some games there, then I was called back to the Rangers, as I was promised.
DT: What can you tell us about the AHL. You scored five points in four games there.
PB: When I got there, the team was last in the standings. It happened that I spent there four games, and we won three of them. I had a lot of ice time, scored some points, and I had good linemates. My first impression from the AHL is that I didn’t know where I ended up (laughs). I was crushed into the boards at my second shift (laughs). It’s a very physical league, there are a lot of players who try very hard, but aren’t very technically sound. A lot of dump and chase, fights, hits. Your typical North American game.
DT: Was going to the AHL very hard?
PB: I wouldn’t say that the conditions are terrible if compared with the NHL. Of course, it’s like day and night with the NHL, but pretty much you can say the same about the KHL. Hotels and flights are on a whole another level. In the AHL you mostly ride autobuses, only the longest trips are on a plane. No lunches, sometimes you don’t even get a breakfast.
DT: Do people in Hartford remember that there was an NHL team some 20 years ago?
PB: I know that there was a team there. It shows that the arena is a bit old, but the locker rooms are good. The staff there is great, they helped me a lot.
DT: Does a lot of people attends AHL games there?
PB: No, there were some 1,000 people in the stands.
DT: Did you talk with your coach when you had your 12-game goal drought? Was it hard for you?
PB: Yes, I was a bit nervous in that period. My teammates supported me, they understand that in such situations your partner needs to score. The coach scolded me because I don’t shoot enough. After the practices he wanted me to stay to train my shooting. You know, maybe it’s just our Cherepovets mentality, find a teammate to give him a good pass.
DT: Cherepovets mentality?
PB: I think that all the players from Cherepovets are more playmakers than goal scorers. We just have our way to think the game. Maybe it’s because we are taught that way at the hockey school.
Highs and Lows in the NHL
DT: When you were playing, the Rangers defeated Montreal in the first round of the playoffs. Then you weren’t playing in the latest game against the Senators, and your team lost. What did you feel when the coach decided not to play you?
PB: I had mixed feelings. Of course, I wanted to play! But what can you do? It’s a coach’s decision. He always supported and helped us. I think the team played well, just lacked some luck.
DT: Do you think that you could help the team?
PB: When watching from the stands, everyone thinks to be at least at the level of Sidney Crosby. I am not thinking about it, it’s the past, now it’s time to think about the future.
DT: Generally speaking, how would you judge your last season? What rating can you give you?
PB: I’m not going to give me a rating. It was a hard season because of the injuries. I started well, scored some points, and the team was winning. After the injury I didn’t have a fixed spot in the lineup. I was going from one line to another and I couldn’t find my best game.
DT: At one point, it looked like Ilya Kovalchuk could sign with the Rangers. Would you have enjoyed playing again with Kovalchuk?
PB: Ilya is a great player and a great person. It was his decision, and everyone has his own reasons. Of course, the Olympics played a role there. I think he’ll go to South Korea.
DT: Aren’t you disappointed about the NHL decision not to go to the Olympics?
PB: I wouldn’t have a chance.
PB: Because there will be players much better than me. Now, if NHL players will go to the Olympics, I wouldn’t stand a chance. Maybe, if I was still playing in Russia, and still the NHL wouldn’t go. I could have some probability to get picked.
Vegas, Shipachyov, and English Language
DT: How is your English now?
PB: I can’t speak freely yet. I understand, but I have still some difficulty in building correct phrases. But my teammates are used to it and they understand me now.
DT: Do you enjoy living in New York?
PB: Well, it’s not like I have much free time to visit the city. I went to Central Park, walked in the downtown a bit.
DT: In February you posted a picture where you are a dealer at the casino. Was it a team event?
PB: Yes, we had some similar events. Earlier than that I was just once in a casino. It was an interesting experience.
DT: The NHL now has 31 teams. Are you looking forward the first game against Vegas?
PB: Yes, I do. I remember the city from the movie “The Hangover“. I really want to visit the city.
DT: In Vegas one of the centers will be Vadim Shipachyov. Did you talk with him?
PB: Yes, I did. He is worried about some things. He asks me about English language. It would be much easier to him if there will be other Russian players. I think that Vadim has already talked with other players who played more than me at the NHL level. I don’t think he needs to ask me things, he is 30, I’m just 22.
DT: The Rangers signed Alexei Bereglazov.
PB: I’m in good tiews with him, we played on the same unit with the national team. I knew that he was going to sign with the Rangers and I congratulated him as soon as I could. I’m often talking with him and I hope he can find himself playing in the first defensive pairs.
A professional hockey writer and translator. Loves Russian culture, language, and hockey. Reachable on twitter @AlexSerenRosso