Nikita Filatov arrives in Columbus and speaks about his year away in Russia

Thumbnail image for filatov.jpgThe life of a potential phenom in the NHL can have its ups and downs. The ups come when you’re an exceptional talent like Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin and can have the world at your feet because you’re just that talented. The downs come when you’re exceptionally talented player who struggles within a rigid team system. For Blue Jackets Russian prospect Nikita Filatov, life has been more downs than they have been ups when it comes to NHL life. Last year, Filatov spent most of the season away from Columbus playing in the KHL so as to continue playing hockey in a more comfortable situation and far from the lock-and-key style of now former head coach Ken Hitchcock.

Now that Filatov is back in Columbus ahead of Blue Jackets training camp, he’s speaking about his year away and where he’s at now both as a player and as a person coming back to a situation that is familiar in Ohio, yet very different as Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch found out.

Q: Do you feel like [new Columbus head coach Scott]Arniel wants to play a style that better suits your skills?

A: Every player would like the coach who sees the game the same way, who feels it the same way. Of course, I would like that, but we’ll see. I haven’t met (Arniel), so all I know is what other people tell me about how he likes us to play.

Q: Did you ever feel comfortable in former coach Ken Hitchcock’s system?

A: I can’t say anything bad about Hitchcock. It’s his vision of hockey. He’s one of the greatest coaches in the league. He’s had success. You can’t say anything about it. He did win the Stanley Cup. And to be honest, I can say he taught me a lot, especially my defensive game. Maybe I didn’t like all of his processes, how he taught it, but I learned a lot. The coach in Russia (Sergei Nemchinov), when I came back, he said he was impressed that I was playing the best defense. Of course, Hitcher taught me a lot here.

Trying to read between the lines here of what Filatov is saying seems pretty easy to do. A hard-minded coach like Hitchcock wants a player to be able to backcheck in all zones and is willing to sacrifice offense to make it happen. Filatov is a guy that needed seasoning in the first place as when he was drafted he was still a pretty thin guy. Now he’s a little bigger and a little stronger and a lot wiser (it would seem) and adding muscle and smarts to a guy that was already a quick and offensively gifted player can amount to the Blue Jackets seeing an offensive blast out of the blue next season.

Whether this pans out and new coach Scott Arniel can make things work with what could be a very gifted offensive team and not just Rick Nash and eleven other guys remains to be seen. Filatov has the talent to be a top six forward by leaps and bounds, whether his development was stunted in Columbus from playing in the AHL to playing a handful of minutes per game in the NHL is unknown, but if he can shake all of that off, he might turn out to be one of the mentally toughest players in the league.

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    PHT Morning Skate: Shane Doan takes a (friendly) shot at the Miracle on Ice

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    PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

    Shane Doan took a friendly jab at the the movie “Miracle” and the Miracle on Ice. (BarDown)

    –The best of the worst Upper Deck hockey cards from 2015-16. (Puck Junk)

    –Here’s a list of the top 50 players in WHL history. (WHL)

    –Watch the highlights of last night’s game between the Penguins and Capitals. (Top)

    –A sad story about how Chris Phillips feels helpless as his hometown of Fort McMurray burns. (CBC)

    –“You want to get back into things right away (but) I think these last four or five months have been good for me.” Former Penguins coach Mike Johnston is ready to coach again. (Local XPress)

    –Blues forward Jori Lehtera is in a pretty random commercial:

    Penguins push Capitals to brink of elimination with OT win

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins ended a long run of playoff overtime struggles on Wednesday … and are now one win away from ending the Washington Capitals’ season.

    Many expected the Penguins to crater on defense without Kris Letang (they were 2-8-1 in the regular season without him). While there were shaky moments, Pittsburgh emphasized its speed and other strengths in taking a 3-2 overtime thriller against Washington.

    With that, the Penguins’ series lead grows to 3-1.

    It was a thrilling, sometimes nasty contest, from Sidney Crosby shaking off an Alex Ovechkin slash, to Evgeni Malkin delivering a hit some thought was over the line and plenty of typical playoff skirmishes.

    Ultimately, Matt Murray played another strong game and Patric Hornqvist scored the overtime-winner to put the Capitals in a tough spot.

    The Penguins lost their previous eight playoff overtime games, so maybe it was just a matter of time before such a game went their way?

    Then again, the history between the two teams is a little different:

    If the Capitals want to advance beyond the second round for the first time in the Ovechkin era, they’ll need to accomplish quite the feat against arguably the hottest team in the NHL.

    Sidney Crosby looks hurt (and furious) after Alex Ovechkin slash

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    Sidney Crosby is known to get fiery, but even for his feisty standards, he was furious during the third period of Game 4.

    An Alex Ovechkin slash caught Crosby on the hand, leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins star shaking his mitt and pleading for a call.

    After that, Crosby left to get his hand looked at … but not before flipping out and destroying his stick.

    You can watch it happen in the GIF and the videos above.

    Crosby was able to return not that long after that moment, although we can only speculate regarding how his overall game will be affected if his hand isn’t 100 percent.

    Dirty or not? Evgeni Malkin’s hit on Daniel Winnik

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    Tensions seem to rise with every passing game in the playoffs, particularly in a series with bad blood like the one between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.

    Kris Letang was suspended for his hit in Game 3, and some wonder if Evgeni Malkin should suffer a similar fate for his check on Daniel Winnik on Wednesday.

    Winnik left the contest and has not yet returned during the third period.

    Take a look at the hit in the video above and decide for yourself.