BY VIKTOR TIKHONOV
With the regular season finished, I thought it would be a good time to wrap up my first year in the NHL and let you know what I’ve been up to lately.
Growing up around the San Jose Sharks, I obviously followed their series against Anaheim pretty closely. Goaltending was a big factor thanks to Ducks rookie Jonas Hiller and, in the end, the Sharks didn’t get the scoring they needed from their stars.
The Washington-New York series was another fun one to follow, but I was pretty surprised at how easily Detroit dispatched Columbus. The Red Wings have so much experience, but I thought that series would be tougher.
As for my season with the Phoenix Coyotes, we were obviously upset our push for the post-season came up short. Despite that, we played well as the season wound down and the mood was good when we had our end-of-year meetings.
Along with player meetings, I also met with coach Wayne Gretzky, GM Don Maloney and our gym trainer Mike Bahn, who gave me instructions on how to keep up my fitness in the off-season. I want to physically get stronger and add some weight to my frame over the summer.
My NHL rookie experience was really good. I got lots of ice time and the opportunity to contribute on the penalty kill. But looking ahead to next season, I am aware I need to step up my game and avoid the ‘sophomore jinx.’
In order to do this, I have to learn from mistakes I made this season and keep in mind that the coaches won’t show as much patience next year. There is a lot more expected from an NHLer in his second season and it’s a whole new level of pressure, one that is as much mental as it is physical.
I tried to establish good habits this year and on off-days I would spin on a stationary bike or go for a run. This season, my broken hand kept me out for about a month and gave me a break (not that I wanted one), so paying attention to my conditioning during the season will also help me succeed next year.
On a personal note, my season ended on a very high note. In our final game, we took Anaheim to a shootout. With the game still tied after three shooters, we went to sudden death. Teemu Selanne missed for the Ducks, so I had the chance to win it all.
I had been doing pretty well on the shootout in a few previous practices, so I was confident. My teammates told me to get out there and just do it, so I did, stuffing the puck past J-S Giguere’s left goal pad.
The goal felt great and afterward the guys were teasing me about how we lost a chance at the draft lottery because the extra point put us ahead of the Kings in a standings tiebreaker.
I’ve already started playing a lot of golf this summer and other than that, my plans are to take a couple trips based around NHL Players’ Association meetings – one is in Las Vegas, the other in Paris, mostly for players living in Europe in the summer. I’m going to take my girlfriend to that one.
Have a good summer, everyone!
Viktor Tikhonov was drafted 28th overall by the Phoenix Coyotes at the 2008 draft. In 2007-08, he played in the Russian Super League (now the Kontinental League) for Severstal and is the grandson of legendary Russian coach Viktor Tikhonov. He’ll be blogging for THN.com throughout the 2008-09 season. Read his other blog entries HERE.