Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur was probably pleased to hear that former Penguin Aleksey Morozov announced his retirement on Sunday.
In an interview with Dan Patrick that was published in ESPN The Magazine on March 4, 2002, Brodeur - arguably the greatest goalie to ever play the game - named Morozov as the one player he didn’t want to see coming at him on a breakaway.
“The kid's got probably over 25 percent of his career goals on me. It's unbelievable,” Brodeur said at the time. When Patrick followed up by asking, “What is it about him?” Brodeur replied, “I don't know. If you figure it out, please tell me. When he shoots the puck, I never catch it really clean. When he's going to make a pass, I think he's shooting. When he's shooting, I think he's making a pass. The guy's in my kitchen. He's in my head. I can't get rid of him.”
Brodeur ended up being slightly off, as Morozov finished his NHL career with 12 goals (14.2 percent of his career total) and 25 points in 30 career games against the Devils.
Morozov, 37, was selected by Pittsburgh in the first round (24th overall) of the 1995 NHL Draft. He left his native Russia to join the Penguins at the age of 20 and made his NHL debut on Oct. 1, 1997 vs. Los Angeles, scoring a goal in the game.
Morozov went on to play seven consecutive seasons with Pittsburgh from 1997-04, finishing with 84 goals, 135 assists and 219 points in 451 career regular-season games. He also skated in 39 postseason games for Pittsburgh, helping the Penguins reach the Eastern Conference Final in 2001 – where they lost in five games to Brodeur and the Devils (Morozov had two goals in the series).
Morozov’s last three seasons in Pittsburgh were his most successful, as he played on a line with Mario Lemieux and Alex Kovalev after the former made his comeback to the NHL and was able to find offensive consistency skating alongside those two stars.
Morozov recorded his first 20-goal season in 2001-02 and was on his way to a career year in 2002-03, posting 25 points (9G-16A) in 27 games before a broken wrist sidelined him for the remainder of the year. However, Morozov was able to bounce back in 2002-03 – his final season in the NHL – as he posted a career-high 50 points (16G-34A) and ranked second on the team in scoring.
The Penguins were the only NHL club Morozov played for, as he returned to Russia during the 2004-05 work stoppage and remained there for the next nine years, playing for Kazan Ak-Bars and CSKA Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). He finished with an exemplary international career.
Overall, Morozov represented Russia in seven World Championships (1997, ’98, ’04, ’07, ’08, ’09, ’11) and two Olympic Winter Games. He won silver in Nagano in 1998 and captained Team Russia in Vancouver in 2010, as he was Russia’s national team captain at all of his World Championship and Olympic appearances between 2007 and 2011.
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