JHL playoffs MVP Maxim Krovyakov: “SKA-CSKA rivalry is a derby. We’ve taken revenge for the senior team”

05.05.2022 в 13:00

JHL playoffs MVP Maxim Krovyakov: “SKA-CSKA rivalry is a derby. We’ve taken revenge for the senior team”

The most valuable player of the Kharlamov Cup playoffs Maxim Krovyakov speaks about the first trophy won by SKA-1946.

SKA-1946 forward Maxim Krovyakov won the first-ever Kharlamov Cup with the team and was called up to the Russian national team. Based on the playoffs results, the forward was recognized as the most valuable player: Maxim scored six goals and was credited with 17 assists in 17 games. 23 points is the best result of the second stage of the championship. In an interview with the JHL website, Krovyakov talked about the final series against Krasnaya Armiya, a character win over Irbis, his personal progress and plans for the next season.

“We were talking about the game in Kazan. If we did allow a goal, the season would be over”

– It's been over a week since the final game was played. Do you realize that you’ve done a great job?
– I certainly do. There was a couple of days of initial euphoria – of the cup, of the first championship in the history of the club. We are happy that St. Pete won its first Kharlamov Cup.

– With whom did you spend the first days after winning the championship?
– My family lives in Moscow, so I was with my girlfriend and my team.

– There is a tradition in the KHL when each player is allowed personal possession of the cup for a day. Will the members of your team have such privilege?
– Last season, when Dynamo won, each of their players did get the cup for a day. We were told that we would, too. I’ll most likely take it to my first hockey school Orbita in Zelenograd.

– Is the final series the most difficult one in the playoffs?
– From an emotional standpoint, it is. After all, it’s the final. But the series against Irbis was also tough, Kazan has a good team. We won the away game in the second overtime. That game ended well for us. We were playing our hearts out till the last second without thinking that allowing a goal would mean the end of the season for us. We were talking with guys about that game a little while ago. If we did allow a goal, the season would really be over. It wasn't until some time later that we realized it.

– Did the series against Irbis give you a psychological confidence boost?
– There were some big regular season comebacks too, when we managed to bounce back by coping with psychological pressure. The series against Irbis was a tough one. I can agree that we gained confidence by winning it. It helped us to stick together as a team before the finals. If we talk about that series, the overtime in Kazan was really difficult, it took a lot of effort and emotions. The game moved to the second overtime, but the energy has got its limits.

“All the clubs were trying to reinforce junior teams. It is quite a natural thing”

– During the series against the Kazan team, the VHL guys and Marat Khusnutdinov from the KHL joined the team. It looked like they quickly found their places, was it really so?
– Absolutely. We all know one another. It wasn’t like they joined a team without ever having talked to us. We played together in the Junior Hockey League during previous seasons, and we stayed in touch. The guys blended into the team so well.

– Did you notice any dark looks given by those who were scratched from the lineup?
– No. The guys understood that everything was done in order to win the Kharlamov Cup. In our team, no one holds grudges or goes into shell. Everyone was cool with it.

– Did your team manage to replace Dmitry Buchelnikov?
– Yes, the guys who joined the team, were experienced players. Nikita Chibrikov notched a hat trick against Krasnaya Armiya. There were moments when the guys took extra responsibility and demonstrated leadership skills. We did feel the lack of Dima, but the newcomers were a good help.

– Don’t you think that sending VHL and KHL players to a junior team is sort of a cheat code?
– Many teams did so in the playoffs. Think, for instance, of Omskie Yastreby - a lot of VHL and KHL players joined their team. Irbis and Krasnaya Armiya also got senior teams’ players joining them. Vladimir Grudinin and Takhir Mingachyov played in the finals (although the latter only appeared in home games). All the clubs were trying to reinforce junior teams. It is quite a natural thing.

– I’ve noticed that none of the SKA-1946 players was trying to grab the biggest piece of the pie. Can you confirm it?
– You're right. The coaching staff tells us to always share the puck. There are moments when you need to drive the net, to step up to the plate. But we always try not to be greedy and look for partners. It helps to win. When you start being selfish, the team falls apart.

– Lacrosse-style goals scored by Matvei Michkov seem almost miraculous to the fans. Does this surprise you, or does Matvei find ways to impress?
– Matvei is a very creative player. He always tries to make the most of his stickhandling abilities and to score some nice goals. He works on this during practices. At first, I thought: how does he manage to lift the puck up onto his stick like that? And then I realized that it came with practice. I think everyone tried to score a lacrosse-style goal during practices. I didn’t manage to score one in a game yet. There hasn't been any appropriate occasion.

– What qualities help Michkov score such goals?
– Matvei is a very hardworking player. He loves what he is doing and always gives his best. Whatever the drill is, he always tries to score or to rebound the puck, he drives the net. He succeeds due to his desire and character.

– SKA-1946 did not win any shootouts in the playoffs. Can you think of any logic to this?
– I can agree that we had trouble in shootouts. I don't even know what it was due to. We worked on shootouts during practices, we managed to score, but it was different in the games. That's the way it is. Probably we got used to games being decided without shootouts.


“Krasnaya Armiya was unbeatable at home, but we managed to find a way to win”

– What was the key game of the final series?
– It is hard to single out a particular game. I'll probably go with the first one. Krasnaya Armiya was unbeatable at home, but we managed to find a way to win. Game 4 in St. Petersburg was a tough one when the score was 2-2.

– What was the reason for such a difference in games results - high-scoring home games and one-goal road games?
– Playing at home, we managed to score early goals and be good defensively. Thanks to this, we got two big wins. And home ice always helps. In game 5 on the road, we allowed four goals in the first ten minutes. Perhaps luck was on their side.

– It seemed that after two big home wins your team started game 5 feeling relieved.
– No, we didn’t. Nobody wanted to relax and calm down in the final series. Everyone understood that we couldn’t do that. We played the entire game trying to pull off a comeback.

– Did the devastating defeat stirred the team up?
– I suppose so. But we shook off that game – we reflected on it in the locker room for half an hour and started preparing to the next one. We didn’t stay sitting and feeling sad about the loss.

– Was there a task to have a strong start in game 6?
– Of course. First periods are aways important. You need to set the pace by quick line changes and puck control. You are to try to open the score and take a lead.

– Were there any moments in the decisive game when you started to think that the opponent could storm back?
– Personally for me, there weren’t. I didn’t think about the opponent being able to make a comeback. I have no doubt that all the guys were confident that we would win.

– The army derby of SKA and CSKA is well known in the KHL. Was it important for you to beat Krasnaya Armiya in the finals?
– SKA-CSKA rivalry is a derby. Games between these two teams generated great interest both in the JHL and in the KHL. It's always nice to beat the Moscow team.

– Can we say that you have taken revenge for the senior team?
– Yes, because we won the series. So, we can say that we’ve taken revenge for the senior team.

“Things will get harder. I have to prove that I am ready for senior hockey”

– The 2021/2022 season was your last one in the JHL. Was it important to win the cup before moving on?
– It's nice to finish performance at the junior level on a good note. It was my fourth year with this club, and we finally won the trophy. All the fans are happy, it feels good.

– Do you realize that you are to take a serious step forward and you need to prove yourself at the senior level?
– Absolutely. I do realize that things will get harder. I have to prove that I am ready for senior hockey. No one is going to give up his spot for me. I have to work even harder, approve myself, show my best hockey. And then the club management will decide where I will play and develop.

– It was the best JHL season for you in terms of point production.
– I gained confidence and experience. I used to feel nervous unwittingly, but then I was able to keep a cool head during playoff games, it was easier for me to play. I was working on my individual skills and improving my game all season - and this is the result.

– And what can you say about your progress as a center?
– When I started playing in the JHL, I had some problems with faceoffs. I was going against elder and bigger players. I started performing better in the last season in the JHL. When I was with kids hockey school, I used to be a winger, but I was moved to center in my final year and played through following seasons as a center.

– Wouldn't you like to shift back to the wing? Wingers have fewer responsibilities. 
 – I wouldn't say that wingers have fewer responsibilities and less work to do. I'm already used to playing center. It’s a bit unusual to be at the wing. It’s not my first year as a center and I feel comfortable in this position.

– You were a creative center in the JHL, but if you are moved to a disrupting line of a senior team, will you be able to manage it?
– Sure. It wasn’t like I started playing on the powerplay unit in the JHL right away. It was earned by working very hard. If I am moved to a line aimed at putting more pressure on defensemen, I will fulfill the coach’s task.

– What does being recognized as the playoffs MVP mean to you?
– I am more happy for the team. It’s great to receive personal awards, but winning the cup is much nicer.

– Is being called up to national team another nice bonus after the season?
– It is a great opportunity to prove yourself and show the best of your hockey with the national team. I’m in combative mood, I still have enough of energy. We will strive to win.

– Do you already have an understanding of how you will prepare for the season?
–I have a plan in my head: what exactly I will do and how much rest I need. It will be an important period of preparation for the club’s training camp. We need to have a good pre-season to give a good account of ourselves.

– Does summer training change over the years?
– Last two years I followed the same training plan, but there were some adjustments. Your body changes, so some components need to be improved. I will change the training plan a little in the 2022/2023 season. We will be sent personal plans that we will need to follow to prepare for the season during the summer.

– How long is the rest period without hockey and workouts?
– We have vacation from May to June. In my case, it will start on May 10. I’ll probably take three weeks' holiday until June and then start preparing for the season. To be honest, I don't really like flying anywhere. I usually spend time with my family, because I don’t get to see them very often during the season. I try to go see my grandparents in Solnechnogorsk - the city where I grew up, to spend time with my close ones.

Mikhail Skryl