While the NHL inches its way closer to a new season, there still isn’t any top quality hockey in North America. You and I both know that real fans can’t stay away from the game for too long, so why not quench that thirst with a Russian twist. Here’s what you may have missed from the KHL this week:
A Dynamic streak snapped, the goal scoring machine that is St. Petersburg, and some impressive moves from East to … well, further East
Dynamo Moscow’s impressive winning streak was snapped at 8 games this week. They started strong, with a 3-2 victory over Metallurg NK on Saturday, then followed it up with a convincing 4-1 win over Amur the next night. Two months into the season and, league-wide, the chemistry between teammates is gelling beautifully, but I’ll use Dynamo’s Konstantin Gorokov and Yuri Babenko‘s score against Amur as Exhibit A.
However – and I’ve always wanted to be a super hackey journalist and say this – the beasts from the East defeated the best in the West. Chernyshev division-leaders Sibir Novosibirsk ended the streak, courtesy of an overtime winner from Nikita Zaitsev. Dynamo didn’t go down without a fight though. Alex Ovechkin, the team’s leading scorer, fed a nice pass to Dmitry Pestunov, who tied this game with two minutes left.
Still, the loss turned out to be costly. By the end of the week, the boys in blue would be overtaken in both the Western Conference and league standings.
Across town, CSKA Moscow had a hot week as well, winning 3 of 4 and throwing down some pretty highlights. After trailing most of the game, the Red Army erased a three goal deficit against Neftekhemik on Saturday – the last goal coming from Alexander Radulov with under three minutes to go. It was Radulov’s second of the game. Maple Leaf Mikhail Grabovski showed some slick hands in overtime, stealing the puck, making the move, and ending the game.
Actually, this one was full of fantastic hockey. The opening score by Igor Polygalov was a dandy, Pavel Datsyuk sliced through Neftekhemik before dropping a perfect pass onto the tape of Igor Grigorenko (who just had to tap it in), and Radulov treated the fans to a beyond-dirty celebration after tying the game at 4 apiece – something he does more often than not, mind you. That’s Alex Radulov: Tremendous hockey talent, massive d-bag.
CSKA continued to roll, earning a 4-1 victory over Salavat on Monday. Against his former team, Radulov scored the game winner on a 5 on 3 and added a terrific assist on the opening goal. Like him or not, he is dynamite in the KHL .
After falling 5-2 to AK Bars, Radulov shored up his week by snagging two assists against Lev Praha on Friday, propelling the two-time defending scoring champ back to the top of the league scoring sheet. Though, this was seriously out-shadowed by a Pavel Datsyuk goal, the wizardry of which will be gracing highlight reels all week long.
In spite of the strong week, CSKA still sits three points back of Locomotiv for the Tarasov division lead.
Remember when I said that Dynamo Moscow had been overtaken? Well, that’s because SKA St. Petersburg had a ridiculous week, winning all four of their matches. Led by a massively productive top line, the team is using sheer firepower to overwhelm their opponents, scoring their way out of dodge on a nightly basis.
It started with an impressive 6-5 victory on Saturday against Avtomobolist. Down 2-0 in the first, St. Petersburg called a timeout and put three into the Avtomobilist net before intermission, two of them shorthanded.
They again erased a 2-0 deficit on Monday night versus Metallurg NK. Someone must have given an epic pep-talk during the second intermission, because Petr Prucha came out of the dressing room roaring and scored a shorthanded goal 10 seconds – 10 seconds! – into the period to tie the game. I’ve gotta learn how to say roof daddy in Russian…
Shortly after, Alexei Grishin picked up a 5 minute major for a leaping headshot on Maxim Rybin and SKA went to work. They scored two powerplay goals on the major penalty and never looked back. Grishin was given a game misconduct and later suspended 1 game for the hit.
After a 7-3 drubbing of Amur, SKA finished their perfect week by doing something Dynamo Moscow could not – they defeated Sibir. Ilya Kovalchuk scored a gorgeous game winner and St. Petersburg completed the week atop the Western conference and league standings.
This team is a lot of fun to watch lately. No matter how deep the hole, they seem to be able to score their way out of it, leading the league in goals scored by a healthy margin (67 goals for; 8 better than Torpedo) They’re special teams monsters as well – they have the top PP% (29.7) and the most shorthanded goals on the season (6).
Ilya Kovalchuk will be sorely missed if the lockout ends anytime soon. He’s riding a 10 game scoring streak. For those keeping score, that’s every game he’s appeared in so far and the team has a 9-1 record with him in the lineup, the lone loss coming in a shootout. With Kovalchuk in the lineup – this is the best team in hockey right now. Hell, even without him it would be close.
Elsewhere around the league, Traktor reclaimed their lead atop the Eastern Conference, after briefly losing it to Sibir. The Russian team picked up two wins a shootout loss, to gain 7 of 9 possible points. As the mighty philosopher Bubbles would say … Deee-eee-eeecent.
They opened the week with a 4-2 win over Atlant on Saturday. Young Evgeny Kuznetsov had the highlight reel goal in this one, going through all of Atlant for the score. Unfortunately, he was later injured and wouldn’t return until two games later vs. Torpedo.
Though they lost their next game in a shootout, Canadian keeper Michael Garnett at least brought it that far, making a goal line save on Alexander Chernikov with under two minutes to go and salvaging a point for his squad. Garnett currently leads all goaltenders with 11 wins.
Traktor extended their conference lead by three points with a 6-3 victory over Torpedo on Wednesday. This game was also notable for Torpedo’s forwards continuing to pad their stats. The KHL’s leading goal scorer Martin Thornberg potted two in the first period and, in an astounding stat, 9 of his 12 goals this season have come on the powerplay.
My boys in Prague got fed something fierce this week, going 0-4. Though Zdeno Chara scored his first as a Lion, they went on to loose a heartbreaker against AK Bars – the winning goal coming with 18 seconds left in the game. They followed this up with three more losses, first to Neftekhemik in a shootout, then a 4-2 sinker against Salavat Yulaev, and completed their road trip with a 3-0 loss to the Red Army. Prague is clinging to playoff contention at this point, having lost 6 straight games, and eight of their last nine. Ouch.
Just some personal favourites from this week:
Until the Datsyuk dangle from Friday, Justin Hodgman had my favourite goal of the week, taking a feed from Malkin and putting it home. That’s the fun thing about watching Metallurg Magnitogorsk, whenever Malkin is on the ice, he certainly has his chances, but he definitely makes EVERYONE else a lot more dangerous. He’s, by far, the best playmaker on the ice each and every shift.
Speaking of Metallurg, in a play that I would one day love to see in Maple Leaf blue, Malkin scored a game-winner off a pretty feed from Nikolai Kulemin. Kuli streaks down the right side, finds Malkin entering the zone, and Malkin goes shelf. Elementary.
Finally, In a 3-2 SO win over AK Bars, Miroslav Satan showed some sick mitts and cunning wits in the shootout. He had two attempts – deking on the first, and opting for a slapper on the second, winning the game for his club.