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The All Tsars
Fedorov’s impact is most apparent on Semin, a 25-year-old emerging star from the industrial city of Krasnoyarsk. Semin can make magic happen on a 200-by-85 sheet of ice as well as anyone — including best friend Ovechkin in the stall next to him.
Ovechkin was an instant sensation, but coaxing greatness out of the mercurial Semin has taken longer.
A lockout erased the 2004-05 season, and when the NHL’s players returned Semin did not. He opted instead to spend a year in Russia despite pleas — and legal action — from the Caps.
Semin eventually returned, and he would put on a virtuoso display one night and a disappearing act the next. He chafed at learning English — or at least at using it to communicate with teammates and coaches.
When Fedorov arrived, a profound change took place. The number of dominant performances by Semin grew, and the days when he made coach Bruce Boudreau want to yank out his few remaining hairs dwindled.
“He really looks up to [Fedorov],” Green said. “They are really close. Anytime [Ovechkin and Semin] are getting out of line, he will say something to them. That’s what they need sometimes. They are two crazy guys, and he kind of keeps them under wraps. It is good.
“I was the same way when he first came here. He is a star in the NHL. There are guys that are just stars. He just had that presence, and then obviously what he has done in the league is incredible. You have to listen to everything he has to say, and you can ask him questions because he is wise — very wise.”
Away from the ice, Semin now is less introverted. Case in point: A visit by Semin and Ovechkin with kids at a local hospital earlier this season. Ovechkin played a boxing game with a child on Nintendo Wii, flailing his arms in unorthodox fashion.
Ovechkin was mocking the fighting style of Semin, who a few days earlier took part in his first NHL scrap and earned plenty of ribbing for his, um, unconventional technique. But instead of feeling embarrassed by Ovechkin’s jest, Semin broke into hearty laughter.
“Obviously, [communicating with teammates] is easier,” Semin said through an interpreter. “I wouldn’t say it was a lot harder [before Ovechkin, Kozlov and Fedorov joined the team]. The problem was my own because I didn’t know how to interact with the other players, and everything was new to me. It was difficult in that respect.”
He still is naturally shy, but other teammates besides Ovechkin and Kozlov interact with him more. He still doesn’t speak English to reporters, but he understands the language and knows more than he lets on.
Semin is not yet a finished product — on ice or off — but his great progress gives reason for hope of more to come.
“I think we communicate a lot better,” Boudreau said. “I think he can speak and understand a lot more than he says. I think we’re on a good level. Him and Alex are best friends, and they play together like it when they’re on a line. He’s been an easy guy to coach for me now.”
Putting down D.C. roots
Kozlov, the sixth overall pick in the 1993 draft, also was burdened with great expectations early in his career. He never became the dominant force scouts thought his combination of size and skilled hands would produce, but the 34-year-old Kozlov has fostered a long and productive career.
About the Author
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