About the League
Chayka Nizhny Novgorod head-coach Nikolai Voyevodin has some harsh words to say about Game 1, while his counterpart Igor Grishin had similar things to say about Game 2.
In the opening round both Chayka and Tolpar Ufa had exciting series. Top team of the Eastern Conference struggled against the eighth seed – Nizhny Novgorod lost Game 1 and enjoyed shootout wins in Game 2 and 3. Chayka closed out the series with a regulation win in Game 4.
Despite making the playoffs only as the fifth seed, Tolpar was considered the favorite in the series against Mamonty Yugry Khanty-Mansiysk. However, the series proved to be intense. Ufa narrowly avoided taking it to Game 5.
That’s exactly why the quarterfinal series scenario between Chayka and Tolpar is hardly surprising. Tolpar kicked it off with a 4-1 win on the road in Game 1. Chayka head-coach Nikolai Voyevodin said right away, “We lacked men’s aspect in our approach to playoff games, when everyone is ready to give all of his health and heart.” The next day Nizhny Novgorod bounced back with a solid 8-2 victory. Notably, Chayka had a 7-0 lead in the second period.
We asked coaches and players of both teams about the two completely different outcomes of the games.
“I had to raise my voice and name names”
Chayka head-coach Nikolai Voyevodin spoke about motivation rather than tactics.
− You said you were going to ‘look into things’ after Game 1. How did it go?
- I did a few things. I had to raise my voice and name names. It worked. The boys bonded – and that’s what matters. We won and it was a solid victory. We played as a unit. We played as a team.
- What did you try to explain to your players after the loss the day before?
- That we had to get back to our better game. The one we had already shown back in the series against Irbis [Kazan]. After Game 1 of the series nobody needed icepacks. There were no cuts or bruises. Today the boys asked for snow and freeze gel after every period. That was true playoff hockey – no one went easy neither on themselves, nor on the opposition. When half of the team needs icepacks for the bruises, when they fight on the ice for their teammates, for their team and for the fans. They fought even when they were up 8-1. The boys still had emotions and strength. So it’s fair to say we made up for the loss in Game 1.
- The day before you had a lot of scoring chances but the puck refused to go into the net. How would you explain today’s conversion rate – was it luck or you made a few changes?
- The boys changed their approach. They got angrier in those situations. And they finally started scoring!
- You didn’t let Tolpar do anything today. Did you play better defensively or did your offense just steamroll over the opposition from the get-go?
- You can’t have quality offense without good defense. Because solid defense saves energy and lets you spend more time in the offensive zone.
- Was it the best game for Chayka this season?
- We try to play the perfect game and we’re going to continue to get better.
- You spent a lot of energy and emotions but at the same time you’ve angered you opponent. Do you have what it takes to build on that tomorrow?
- These guys are young. It’s up to us, coaches, to find the right words so they could restore their emotions and energy. We take it one game at a time. We’re not going to be satisfied with just one win. We need to win three more games to go further.
“We’re not getting ahead of ourselves at all”
Chayka forward Denis Pochivalov agrees with his coach.
“We shouldn’t have the mindset we had coming into Game 1,” believes Pochivalov. “I don’t know. Maybe we were affected by the days off somehow. Today we played as a team, just as we always do. As a result, everything went well and we won. We watched video after Game 1 and coaches pointed out the mistakes to us. We fixed them, stuck the gameplan and got the result we wanted. Everyone understand that it’s the best-of-three series.”
- After Game 1 your coach said that Chayka lacked persistency and men’s playoff hockey. Did he say the truth?
- He did. We didn’t show teeth. We were taking shots on net but the puck would bounce to the slot and we couldn’t bury it. We would just skate past it. It wasn’t on purpose, obviously. We wanted to out-skill them and relied on individual skill. But as Game 2 proved it’s the team work that brings result. We going to approach upcoming games as we did today’s. We have to play smart defensively. We’re not getting ahead of ourselves at all.”
“If you look at the bigger picture, it’s not so bad, actually,” says Grishin. “We got a win on the road. But the fact that we blew Game 2 play-wise and score-wise… We’re going to talk to the boys and look for answers.”
− The team fell apart after Chayka came out hard. Does it have to do with the mentality or did the opposition leave you no chance?
- Chayka was super motivated. In my opinion, they had almost a perfect game. Turns out we weren’t ready for that. When you can’t get your head into such a difficult game early on, it’s difficult to get back into it as it moves on. You start making mistakes, problems pile up and lucks turns away from you. We hit the posts instead of scoring goals. That’s what usually happens when you come out unprepared against such a motivated opponent. We told the boys that the opposition would be super motivated. But it looks like we couldn’t get them in the right mindset.
- You named key factors for the win before the series – sticking to gameplan, mindset and play off your upsides, your skill set and will to win. What did you have yesterday that you didn’t have today?
- A lot of factors worked in our way in Game 1. We stuck to the gameplan and tried to play just as we had wanted. Today the opposition switched up their play, they played aggressively, bold and tough. Turns out the boys weren’t ready for that.
- What were you telling your players in the locker-room during intermissions?
- After the opening period we told them that the game wasn’t over. You can still recover from being down 4-0. I have had situations like that in my career. In the second intermission I asked the boys to play the right way in the last period so we could get off the right foot in the next game and carry over the right mindset.
- Before the series you said that goaltending would be a key factor. Do you have any reproaches to Kuleshov and Vyazovov?
- Not really. I have more questions for my skaters. They let the opposition pepper our goaltenders with shots from in tight. I don’t have any serious reproaches to our goaltenders. We pulled Kuleshov to shake the team up a bit. Vyazovoy played well and bailed us out a few times. Kuleshov played well as well.
- Was it the worst Tolpar’s game this season?
- I believe so.
- Is it too early to give up on Tolpar?
- Way too early. This is the playoffs. The final score of the game doesn’t matter. You either win or lose. It happens in hockey. You can get blown out of the water in one game but you come out a changed team with a different mindset for the next game. It’s too early to give up on our team. We believe in our boys. We’re going to do our best to make them heed to our words and make them understand why this happened. Our mindset is to win the series.
Tolpar scored their first goal when they were already down 7-0. Captain Pavel Yelizarov was very emotional on the play. It almost seemed as if Ufa opened scoring in the game. We asked the defenseman about Tolpar’s mindset coming into third period.
“The opposition came out very motivated,” says Yelizarov. “We’re not looking for excuses. We’re getting ready for next games. This is just one game. It’s better to lose one game 8-2, than to lose three games 1-0.”
− What happened to your team today?
- To be honest with you, I can’t even find the right words. Let’s put it this way. It wasn’t our day. We’re going to bounce back at home in front of our fans. We believe they will come to support us.
- You’re the captain. How were you pumping your team up?
- After the first period we talked with raised voices because the way we played was unacceptable. Last year we came back from being down 4-0 after the first period. We already have this experience. But after second period we just agreed to play for fun and don’t look at the scoreboard. We won the third period and it was one of the upsides of today’s game.
- You were very emotional after scoring Tolpar’s first goal. You didn’t crack after going down 7-0?
- That’s exactly what I’m saying. We agreed to play on the positive side, to have fun out there and won the frame. That’s why we supported each other when we scored goals and got into brawls. We didn’t give up.
- You had two very different games in Nizhny Novgorod. What should we expect now as the series moves forward?
- I think, Game 3 is going to be key. Whoever wins it, will get the advantage and will feel more loose. It’s going to be a new game and the score will be 0-0. We have to come our harder. I believe, Chayka won’t let themselves lose focus after this game. I’m certain that it’s going to be an exciting game.