Torpedo was one of the surprises of the season. This summer, not many were ready to bet on them getting to the playoffs, especially in sight of its new head coach’s lack of experience. However, Torpedo not only got to the postseason, but it went to one period to the second round as the team lost to Barys in the lone seven-game series of the first round. We started our talk with the bench boss discussing the series.
The playoffs are now history, but the coach is admittedly still bitter. “The resentment from the loss is still around, and it won’t go away for a bit,” Nemirovsky shares his feelings. “In game-seven, the score was 2-2, and everything was in our hands. However, maybe fate provided otherwise. I don’t feel like we made mistakes on the ice or in the locker room. I think that we did everything well. A couple of mistakes that cost us a goal, and the double ricochet that got the puck directly on Darren Dietz’s stick, who didn’t miss the chance… We could tie the game up, but we did not.”
Both teams had their chances to close the series before getting to the deciding seventh game. “If we won the second game – when we were up 4-0 – we will be back in Nizhny Novgorod with the series tied at one, and everything could have been different. It may end earlier and in our favor. Even in game-four, when we were down by three goals, nothing was lost yet. No matter the score, we analyzed the first period of that clash and I can confidently say that we played well. If you remember, the opponent scored lucky goals. It’s good that we rallied back in the third period and win the game.”
“It can be said that Barys gifted us the fourth game, while we handed them game-two,” Nemirovsky goes on. “However, those were very different games. In the second game, we didn’t have enough experience. We can’t talk about a lack of motivation: if a player can’t be motivated in the playoffs, then he can retire. We simply tried too much to defend the result and defend. This was a mistake.”
Considering the team’s preseason, many were surprised to see that Torpedo players had the forces to get back on track in such difficult situations. “Our preseason didn’t start in July, but in May,” Nemirovsky explains. “All the players were given programs to ensure that everyone was ready to work in the third and fourth stages. At first, the players start getting engaged; the second stage is a “shock cycle”; in the third stage players had a slight decrease in loads, and at the fourth – an addition. Now many people see that our preparation has worked, and they praise the initiative. But it’s not entirely my idea, this program is a quarter of a century old. Five years ago, it might not have worked. But hockey is continue progress. Moreover, reducing the number of teams helped in this aspect. The competition has increased, the players became more responsible for their own pre-season preparation.”
During the series, the teams scored many goals and it pleased especially the Nizhny Novgorod fans. Barys’ bench boss Andrei Skabelka wasn’t equally happy, as he soundly declared after the third game. But Nemirovsky doesn’t fully agree with him. “I think that Skabelka was more talking about discipline. However, if you look the rest of the world, in the playoffs usually it’s the same hockey that showed Barys and Torpedo. Have a look at the stats in the NHL. It’s not unusual to score more than 10 goals in a game. Boston won a game-seven with a 6-5 score. 1-0, 1-1, 1-2 – I don’t think that those are good scores in the playoffs.”
Nemirovsky doesn’t even think that he should have paid more attention to the defensive aspect of the game. “Most of the goals we allowed weren’t the consequence of tactical mistakes; simply the players lacked the experience to play a simpler game in some moments. When the team keeps the puck in the offensive zone, it’s not going to have any problem on defense. The hardest things in hockey are to play in penalty killing or when the team spends a lot of time in its own zone.”
With his offensive style, Nemirovsky can be considered an heir of the Soviet hockey school and traditions. The coach agrees with this point of view: “I grew with Soviet hockey. I always watched the games of the USSR national team, and I had a collection of more than two hundred tapes with games, including the Super Series. I always loved the way that team played. Of course, I also enjoyed the Canadian style. An interesting thing is that ten years ago when I watched the NHL, the hockey was simpler than now. Today, the NHL has incorporated a lot from Soviet hockey.”
Other than with its offensive style, Torpedo was also characterized by the lack of rotation in the lineup. “More than everything, we had to deal with a decrease of the team’s budget,” Nemirovsky explains. “Thus, we couldn’t count on a long bench. This is bad when the team starts piling up injuries. However, the situation had a positive impact: the team was very united, and the players felt the coaches’ trust. This is very important. We gave our players the right to commit mistakes.”
Considering that last year Torpedo was coached by Peteris Skudra, the team underwent a U-turn in coach’s personality. “The job of a coach is to talk to the guys, explain them what they should do, and analyze the opposition and videos,” the coach says. “If you need to tell players what to do during a game, it means that you didn’t prepare the team well. Of course, you need to do some corrections and react to the events. But if something goes wrong, hardly you’ll get anything by yelling at the players. Quite the opposite, you need to calm them. Just remember our comebacks during the season. We didn’t change pretty much anything, we just went on our way. The most important thing is to respect the system and scoring chances will come.”
However, Nemirovsky admits that in the locker room he can show less calm. “Yes, there were some moments where I yelled and throw things around. In the locker room, you can allow yourself to show much more emotions. The opposition needs to see that we aren’t panicking.”
The situation for Torpedo got even harder when they lost starting goalie Stanislav Galimov to season-ending injury. Nemirovsky played Barry Brust, a goalie known for his fantastic saves and terrible mistakes. However, he was satisfied with Brust and thought about playing Andrei Tikhomirov only once. “I thought about playing him only when we were down 0-3 in the fourth game. However, Andrei didn’t have an easy season and we determined that he isn’t ready for the playoffs yet. We knew that Brust plays an aggressive style. This is a big plus. When a player talks to his defensemen and isn’t scared to get off the crease it’s much easier for the skaters. Barry was our third defenseman and often our offensive plays started from him.”
Another veteran who had a good showing in the playoffs was Anton Volchenkov, who scored three times. “Everyone knows that Volchenkov is a good playoffs’ player,” Nemirovsky says. “He not only scored three times, he fantastically dealt with his primary tasks: block shots, give good passes, play a simple game. Nothing shocking: Anton is a real warrior.”
So far, Nemirovsky doesn’t have any plan for the vacations. “I’m not taking time off now. Torpedo’s GM – Yan Golubovsky – and I are now working with the roster in sight of the next season. You’re not going to see big chances; the most important thing is to retain the team’s foundation. Then I’ll get back to Canada for a bit, to talk with other coaches and gather experience.”
Many said that Barys’ international players played better than Torpedo’s imports. Darren Dietz, Brandon Bochenski, Andre Petersson, and others are critical players in Kazakhstan. “First then everything, Barys has twelve import players,” Nemirovsky explains. “Second, I don’t really think that our imports played bad. They had their chances, but sometimes in hockey, the puck just doesn’t get in. I can’t say that during the playoffs some of our players disappeared.”
Even with Torpedo out, Nemirovsky keeps on following the League. “I like Avangard,” he admits. “This team always shows exciting hockey. CSKA is also an excellent team. I’m watching all the games now. By the way, I wouldn’t cross SKA out yet – I’m sure their best hockey in the playoffs is yet to come.”
Born on August 1, 1976, in Toronto, ON, Canada.
Playing career: Pickering Panthers, 1991-92; North York Rangers, 1992-93; Ottawa 67s, 1993-95; Sarnia Sting, 1995-96; Florida Panthers, 1995-99; Carolina Monarchs, 1995-97; Best of New Haven, 1997-98; Fort Wayne Comets, 1998-99; St. John’s Maple Leafs, 1999-2001; Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, 2000-01; Ilves, 2002-03; Jokerit, 2003; Khimik Voskresensk, 2003-04; Ak Bars Kazan, 2003-05; SKA St. Petersburg, 2005, 2007-09; CSKA Moscow, 2005-07, 2011, 2013-14; Barys Astana, 2009-10; Dinamo Minsk, 2010-11; Mighty Dogs Schweinfurt, 2010-11.
Coaching career: Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod: 2018 – today.