The Washington Times - April 12, 2011, 11:21PM

Alexander Semin’s last goal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs was almost two full years ago: April 28, 2009 – Game 7 of the Capitals’ first-round series against the Rangers. Since then, the Caps have dropped series to the Penguins and Canadiens and are back at it this year trying to erase that.

Now, it’s up to Washington – and Semin – to do that in a Rangers rematch. But the enigmatic Russian winger doesn’t believe he and his teammates played poorly last season vs. Montreal.


“We did play great; but the luck just wasn’t on our side,” Semin told The Times in an exclusive interview with an interpreter. “Regardless of whether you play in the regular season or the playoffs, that little bit of luck plays a huge part – especially in the playoffs. It wasn’t there for us.”

But just like all of his teammates (and many, many experts) have been saying – the Caps appear more ready for playoff hockey.

“This year we’re playing a lot better, we’re playing a lot better defensively, and I think we’re gonna do much, much better this year,” Semin said through interpreter Dmitry Chesnokov.

Alex Ovechkin is obviously in the spotlight again as the series starts Wednesday night at Verizon Center, but Semin has some pressure on him too. Except he’s not letting anyone see that, even if he’s feeling it.

“He looks determined. I think they all know what’s at stake … I have no qualms that Alex will give his best effort,” coach Bruce Boudreau said Tuesday. “He’s pretty quiet. He handles pressure in his own way and doesn’t really reveal it. If there is, then it’ll make him more determined. If there’s not, hopefully he’s relaxed and can score a few.”

Semin missed a game last week with an undisclosed injury – though Boudreau said it was good for the winger to get some action at the Panthers on Saturday night. But how he’s feeling now is even a mystery.

“You will see everything on Wednesday,” Semin said.

Of course. It’s the playoffs.

There’s an idea out there that many European players don’t care as much about winning the Stanley Cup as North Americans. Ovechkin has discussed his desire to get his name etched on that trophy, but Semin is naturally more reserved. Though it doesn’t seem like he lacks the passion, either.

Asked how important it was to him to win a Cup, Semin said only: “I’d rather not talk about it, because I’d rather win it first and then talk about it.”

Caps fans would love to hear about it if that happened.