A month of NHL missing and another already axed. The Winter Classic is kaput to boot. It’s starting to look like the KHL could be the only game in town this year. Here’s what you may have missed this week:
Radulov is roaring
As he seems to do every year, Alexander Radulov once again is tearing up the KHL scoring sheets.
In three games, Radulov amassed three goals and three assists to stay atop the scoring leaderboard for the second straight week. He now has 31 points in 23 games.
Radulov isn’t doing it alone. He’s getting help from his NHLer friends. Mikhail Grabovski and Pavel Datsyuk are certainly clicking on the second line, setting each other up on a nightly basis and putting up some strong statistical numbers for the Red Army. Grabbo has 11 points in 14 games, whereas Datsyuk has contributed 19 points in 15 games.
The Red Army began with a 4-2 home win over Sibir on Monday. Radulov scored the game winning goal on a powerplay early in the third period, and then added an empty net insurance marker to cap the win.
In a shocking turn of events, CSKA was responsible for one of the biggest collapses of the week on Wednesday night. Up 3-0 in the third period, the Red Army simply imploded, allowing Metallurg Novokuznetsk to score five unanswered goals before regulation time expired, the game winner coming with 1:11 left on the clock.
The Red Army returned to their winning ways on Friday, finishing off the week with a strong 6-2 showing over Amur. Radulov, Grabovsky, and Datsyuk each had two-point nights.
Metallurg Magnitogorsk: just thumping teams
What do you get when you combine the all-time leading scorer in the KHL and one of the best scorers the NHL has had to offer post-lockout? No surprise, you get a club like Metallurg Magnitogorsk, who have just been rocking their opponents lately, and have closed the gap to sit tied with Traktor Chelyabinsk for tops in the Eastern Conference.
Magnitka are making the most of the lockout. With Sergei Gonchar, Nikolai Kulemin, and – oh yeah – Evgeni Malkin, these boys are lighting teams up.
After back-to-back 7-2 victories over Spartak Moscow and Dinamo Minsk, Metallurg took down Severstal and Vityaz Chekhov, and outscored their opponants 23-6 over the span of four games (Enver Lisin had an absolute beauty against Severstal, by the way). Naturally, stats are being padded.
Brampton’s own Justin Hodgman had consecutive four point nights against Spartak and Minsk, and the highest scoring KHLer ever, Sergei Mozyakin, is currently tied for first overall in goals scored this season, lighting the lamp 13 times in 20 games. He’s now just two points behind Radulov for the overall scoring lead.
Not to be outdone, Malkin has been contributing at a furious rate, with 28 points in 18 games – good enough for third in the league, and only three points shy of Radulov.
If the lockout continues, it will be interesting to see if Malkin can keep this red-hot pace alive. It could be the first time that someone has simultaneously held the NHL and KHL scoring titles, thereby making Geno officially eligible for Champion of the World status.
Avangard in charge
Look atop the Chernyshev division and you’ll see Avangard Omsk leading by a significant margin. After Friday’s game, they now have a seven point advantage over their next closest rival, Metallurg Novokuznetsk.
Led by the strong goaltending of Finland’s Karri Ramo, who has put up consistently good stats for Omsk since arriving in the 2009-10 season, Avangard put together a solid October, going 10 -2, and starting November with a 2-0 win over Yugra on Friday night. They’ve picked up Ws in nine of their last ten matches. I believe hot is the word you’re looking for.
On the offensive front, Avangard is lead by last year’s regular season MVP in the Finnish SM-liiga, Slovak Tomas Zaborsky, who – so far – has 20 points in 24 games in his KHL debut. Along with Alexander Popov, Anton Belov, and former NHLers Alexander Frolov, Sergei Kostitsyn, and Alexander Perezhogin, Avangard is quietly making a case to be considered a threat this year in the Eastern Conference.
Surely the highlight of their week was a 5-2 win over Yugra on Sunday, in which their leading scorer Zaborsky scored four goals and assisted on the fifth, for a cool five-point night. The budding superstar scored even strength, on the powerplay, shorthanded, and an empty netter (the last two on the same goal). It’s not a Mario 5-trick, but it’s pretty damned impressive.
If you haven’t seen it yet, Zaborsky’s hat-trick marker was the prettiest of the four. Watch it here.
Dynamo Moscow remains the best
Yet again, Dynamo Moscow closes out the week atop the KHL standings, with 48 points in 22 games.
This week, Dynamo won all three of their matches without the help of Alexander Ovechkin. The Washington Capitals captain was out sick with bronchitis all week, but his teammates picked up the slack and defeated Dinamo Riga, Donbass Donetsk and Spartak Moscow.
Although they didn’t exactly knock off the strongest of teams (in fact, they were three of the four worst teams in the conference) it’s always a good sign when a squad can go 3-0 without their top scorer in the lineup.
I do have to pause for a moment and just discuss Nicklas Backstrom, who has decided to join the KHL wearing Number 99. There are a couple of KHLers wearing 99 this year, but this doesn’t make it any better. There are several unwritten rules that we all must follow in order to stay on the good side of karma. You don’t cover Stairway to Heaven, you shouldn’t buy the cheapest wine in the shop, and never wear #99 in a professional hockey game. In beer leagues – fine; for pond hockey – okay; but, as a general rule of thumb, if the game is televised, you’re pushing your luck by wearing those sacred digits.
Backstrom had a goal and an assist in three games this week, but was a ghost against Donbass. Perhaps the gods are showing us that wearing 99 only works for one man.
It’s that time of year again…
Yes, October. It’s that time of year when teams are mired in losing streaks and someone has to pay the price. First on the chopping block – head coaches.
This week two coaches lost their jobs in the KHL. First, Avtomobilist relieved their head coach Andrei Shayanov of his duties. Avtomobilist had the worst record in the KHL at the time (4 wins in 20 games).
Spartak Moscow followed suit on Wednesday, firing Andrei Sidorenko and replacing him with Fyodor Kanareikin. Spartak has had a brutal year so far, currently sitting last in the Western Conference.
Shayanov and Sidorenko join Dynamo Minsk coach Kari Heikkila, Atlant’s Janne Karlsson, and Lev Praha’s Josef Jandac –all of whom had been fired in the month of October as a result of lackluster seasons.
Worth noting before we take a break
Artem Anisimov, Mr. Stick Guns himself, put on the hero jersey Wednesday evening. With a minute left on the game clock, Anisimov snuck a squeaker through AK Bars goaltender Konstantin Barulin to win the game for his club. The regulation win allowed Lokomotiv Yaroslav to extend their division lead over CSKA Moscow. They currently lead the Tarasov division by four points.
Moving from historically bad celebrations to surprisingly good ones, that same Wednesday night Dinamo Riga caught St. Petersburg sleeping and scored the game winning goal with just 8 seconds left in the game. Latvian rookie Miks Indrasis opened the game’s scoring 7 seconds into the first period, and bookended it by potting the game winner as time ran down in the third. Not only that, but he busted out the sliding kayaker in celebration.
Giving a brief glimmer of hope to their fans, Lev Prague ended their horrendous eight game losing skid with a convincing 5-2 win over Amur Khabarovsk on Halloween night. Uncomfortable with being patted on the back, the Lions responded by immediately getting to work on a brand new losing streak, falling 5-3 to Sibir the following evening.
This year I’m discovering all sorts of fantastic things about the KHL that I would’ve never noticed without the lockout. One great example of this comes form Dinamo Riga’s Alexandre Giroux, who was assessed five minutes for “fisticuffs” last week. The referee of the match was apparently on loan from the 1920s.
On Monday, Locomotiv’s Mikhail Pashnin was given a four game suspension for an elbow on Severstal’s Evgeny Mons. Not to be outdone, Vadim Khomitsky (AK Bars) earned himself a five game ban (the KHL maximum for hits like this) for shoving Igor Ignatushkin’s (Atlant) head into the boards during a Monday night game.
The KHL will hold a schedule break this coming week. The final games will be played on the 4th of November, and things will pick back up on Monday the 14th. So, hockey-wise, I’ll see you in a few weeks!