SPECIAL REPORT: Facets of family violence
What you need to know about COVID-19 today
Daily forecasts and weather facts from Cindy Day
Have you heard about the SaltWire News app?
Continuing coverage: Mass shooting in Nova Scotia
Business Tool Kit 2021
IN DEPTH: Covering a contentious lobster fishery
SaltWire Selects: Stories you don't want to miss
If you think rookie Russian defenceman Alexander Romanov’s NHL debut with the Canadiens was impressive, you should have heard him speaking English on Friday.
After logging 21:30 of ice time — including 2:58 on the power play and 2:17 short-handed — and picking up an assist on a beautiful breakaway pass to Tomas Tatar in the Canadiens’ 5-4 OT loss to the Maple Leafs Wednesday night in Toronto, Romanov did his first video conference with the Montreal media Friday morning from Edmonton.
“I just want to remind the media that Alexander is starting his interview in English, so we’ll do one question each and make it a short question and clear question, please,” Paul Wilson, the Canadiens’ senior VP of public affairs and communications, asked before the conference started.
There were a couple of questions that had to be repeated for Romanov to fully understand them, but he was able to express himself very well in a new language.
“Well, he’s actually been pretty good (in English) even from the time that I remember talking to him in development camps and stuff like that,” coach Claude Julien said about Romanov, who was selected by the Canadiens in the second round (38th overall) of the 2018 NHL Draft and played the last two seasons with CSKA Moscow in the KHL. “He’s actually pretty good. He understood fairly well and he’s just gotten better. So he’s been a quick learner on the ice. It looks like he’s a quick learner off the ice as well.”
Romanov played with a veteran’s confidence in his first NHL game, bringing back memories of P.K. Subban’s debut with the Canadiens during the 2009-10 season. Speaking of Subban, he logged a whopping 30:18 of ice time for the New Jersey Devils Thursday night in their season-opening 3-2 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins.
Julien was asked how a coach can help a young defenceman like Romanov keep that confidence while also correcting his mistakes along the way.
“There’s a couple of things,” Julien said. “As a coach, you identify confidence vs. cockiness. And he’s not cocky, he’s very confident. But, at the same time, you can tell that when you talk to him he really wants to learn, he wants to get better. So he is confident, but he also knows that he’s got an opportunity here to get better as a defenceman, especially in this league playing against the best players in the world. So I think that’s where we like where he’s at right now is that he comes in with that little bit of swagger, but also that understanding that I still have a lot to learn and he’s very eager to learn as well. So that’s where when you get to know an individual you know exactly where he stands.”
Romanov also has the calm, cool and collected Luke Richardson as his assistant coach in charge of the defence behind the Canadiens bench, someone who really could have helped Subban during his early days with the Canadiens.
When the 21-year-old Romanov was asked Friday who his favourite defenceman was to watch as a kid, he said: “I don’t know. Maybe Erik Karlsson or Drew Doughty.”
The 6-foot, 208-pound Russian said he was more excited than nervous before playing his first NHL game.
“A little bit nervous because I don’t know what is it the NHL in real life,” he said. “But it was OK. It was good.”
When asked what the biggest difference was from the KHL to the NHL, Romanov said: “Maybe it’s more faster than in KHL, than in junior world championship, and the IQ level is more higher.”
After the game, Romanov called his parents back home in Russia.
“They’re really proud of me,” said Romanov, who answered a few questions in his native language from Russian reporters at the end of the video conference. “They said that it was a good game. A good start.”
Romanov will face a real tough test Saturday night when the Canadiens play the Oilers (7 p.m., SNE/W/P, CITY, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM) and he has to go up against Edmonton’s two-headed monster that is Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
“It’s a very good challenge in the start,” Romanov said. “It’s very good and so excited to play against them.”
Romanov said the most difficult part of his first NHL game was his first shift.
“Because on the first shift I didn’t understand where I am,” he said. “It was so fast. I was nervous a little bit, but next shift it was better, better and better.”
Just like his English.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2021