The scheduled opening of the NHL regular season has come and gone, so why not take a moment to catch up on all the action in the KHL last week. Here’s what you may have missed:
Ovi, Kovi, Kostitsyns and Kane! Three are heating up, and one’s in pain.
Defending Gagarin Cup champs Dynamo Moscow finally reached the top of the Western Conference standings. Entering this week they were riding a four game winning streak, and kept it alive with a pair of road wins on Sunday night in Slovakia and Tuesday in the Czech Republic.
Leading the charge was Alexander Ovechkin who picked up a pair of goals and an assist, including the game-winner Tuesday night in Prague. No longer the Great 8, Number thirty-two in blue has been putting up Ovi-like stats in the KHL, now sitting with a cool 9 points (4+5) in 8 games.
Former Buffalo Sabre and current Slovan Bratislava captain Miroslav Satan scored twice (including a nice shortie) in the 3-2 loss to Ovechkin’s Moscow club. The 37 year-old is turning back the clock this year, picking up 6 goals and 5 assists in 13 games. Satan must have made a deal with the devil. Ba-dam.
In a showdown between the two top teams in the Eastern Conference on Monday night, Sibir Novosibirsk defeated Traktor Chelyabinsk, 2-1, and leapfrogged into the Conference lead with 29 points. Although Sibir followed up the victory with a surprising loss to division-rival Metallurg Novokuznetsk on Thursday, they still finish the week atop the Eastern Conference, and tied with Dynamo Moscow for the league lead.
It took nine games, but Sergei Gonchar finally netted his first-ever KHL goal in a 3-0 win over Amur Khabarovsk on Monday. Georgi Gelashvili picked up his first shutout of the year and Evgeni Malkin scored his second of the campaign – a Malkonian beauty to boot.
Also on Monday, in arguably the best game of the week, CSKA Moscow – led this season by Alexander Radulov and Pavel Datsyuk – got out to a 2-0 lead against SKA St. Petersburg. However, Ilya Kovalchuk responded with a breakout game, scoring a hat-trick to lead his club to a 4-2 victory over the Red Army. Kovalchuk has scored a point in every match he has appeared in this season, nabbing 10 points (4+6) in 6 games. His team has 5 wins and a shootout loss over that span.
Teammate Vladimir Tarasenko had a strong week as well. First, he broke the hearts of the Prague Lions in their debut at 02 Arena on Saturday – scoring the winning goal with under three minutes left in the game – then picked up three assists in the win over CSKA. The youngster has 8 points (5+3) in 5 games.
CSKA’s Ilya Bryzgalov is now 0-2 to start the year. Must be bears nearby.
Finally, while it was a physical game, Evgeny Artyukhin picked up a game misconduct in the third period after a delivering a vicious blow to the head of Niklas Persson. The KHL handed him a three game suspension – two for the hit, one for being a repeat offender, but all three for being a jackass.
In my opinion, Artyukhin is the textbook definition of a bum. This guy leads the league in penalty minutes (60), yet contributes nothing on the ice. He is pointless on the season, Minus 5, and has a long history of pulling this kind of crap. In a league without fighting, his only role is to dangerously deliver cheap shots to other players on the ice.
With Andrew Ladd saying no, Sergei Kostitsyn took his place on the Avangard Omsk roster. The younger Kostitsyn picked up a goal and an assist in his debut (a 7-3 loss to Torpedo), and followed up by scoring the overtime winner against Atlant on Wednesday evening.
With brother Andrei already in the KHL playing with Traktor, the two are set to go head-to-head on November 16th.
If it’s any consolation, his squad finally eked out a win over lowly Donbass on Thursday night – then promptly became the first KHL team to fire their head coach this season. Kane was out of the lineup for the win, apparently ill. His teammate Pekka Rinne – who is also having a lukewarm start – stopped 37 shots for the W.
There’s part of me that thinks Kane must be a masochist. Atlanta, Winnipeg, and then with the whole world to choose from, he goes to Belarus?! Though, Jets fans should be happy – if there’s anywhere in the world that will make you excited to play in Winnipeg, it’s Minsk.
Finally, Nail Yakopov continued his strong start in the K. The first overall pick in this past summer’s NHL draft, currently suiting up for hometown Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk, scored his fourth goal in three games in a shootout loss to Slovan on Thursday. Boy, is he ever going to look good in Oiler blue.