Thursday, 23 August 2018

KHL - 2017-18 Review - Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod

Torpedo had a good season. The team, of course, had some low points, but there were no doubts that it would reach the playoffs. Peteris Skudra showed that he has the ability to build a good locker room, with which he can reach good achievements. Unfortunately for their fans, though, they couldn’t run past Lokomotiv in the Gagarin Cup playoffs’ first round. Torpedo was swept by the opposition and Skudra left the team.
The story of the season
The Nizhny Novgorod team started the season with an away trip. A result of seven points out of the possible maximum of twelve in the Khanty-Mansiysk – Omsk – Novosibirsk – Astana itinerary is indeed good. But after this promising start, a few misfires didn’t allow the team to have a truly successful first part of the season. The best game of the period was the home win (3:0) against Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, where Torpedo did not leave any chance to the team then coached by Alexei Kudashov. The home team was better in any part of the game. This slightly reduced the pressure on the team’s results. The team then won three straight games and got into the playoffs zone.
But during the fall the team didn’t have any long winning streak. The team tried to get the best in each of their games, but there were also some misfires. For example, in Minsk, the team coached by Gordie Dwyer had a huge win against Torpedo (5:1). Then, Torpedo lost another four games and left the playoffs zone, until the streak was broken in Moscow, when they defeated Dynamo (1:0) with a shootout win. Unfortunately for the team, the next games were lost again, against Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (1:4) and SKA St. Petersburg (4-5 SO).
This way, the win in Kazan against Ak Bars was even more important. It was a hard game, with not many scoring chances and three fundamental points for Torpedo (2:1). In November, Torpedo had five wins in six games and the October bad results were a thing of the past. The Nizhny Novgorod team got to the playoffs as the fifth seed and had to face Lokomotiv in the first round.
Maybe in a few years the fans will think that it was an easy win for Lokomotiv, considering the final score, but it would be a huge mistake. All the games ended with just one goal of difference and, moreover, at both games played at the Arena 2000 in Yaroslavl, Torpedo actually scored first. And if in the first game the hosts managed to turn the game around (2:1) still in the middle of the game, the next day Lokomotiv had to battle hard to avoid going to an uncomfortable overtime. Petri Kontiola gifted his team a win just 100 seconds to the horn.
In Nizhny Novgorod the fans saw more goals and both games ended up at the overtime, where the guests had a bit more luck. This was in particular true for the fourth game, when during the overtime Torpedo had several good scoring chances. Skudra’s team could well get the series back to Nizhny Novgorod, but they run out of luck.
That game was the last for Peteris Skudra at the helm of the team. After five years of work with the team, the Latvian coach left Nizhny Novgorod. The team changed also the boards, not only the coaching staff. Yan Golubovsky will be the team’s new general manager.
Peteris Skudra spent five consecutive seasons at the helm of Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod. As usual, he changed a lot of the roster during the summer pause, had a very hard preseason and got his team to the playoffs. The fans had a chance to watch the usual Peteris Skudra: very emotional and always eager to win more games. The coach managed to fulfill the minimum goal for the season, but there were more expectations for the Gagarin Cup playoffs.
For some time, it wasn’t clear whether Skudra was going to leave Torpedo. But now, it’s a fact. He will be replaced by David Nemirovsky.
Best game On November 24, Torpedo got to a city where winning a game is traditionally very hard for away teams. This is about Magnitogorsk. Moreover, Torpedo wasn’t in their best streak, without speaking about the difficulty of facing Sergei Mozyakin and company. But the Nizhny Novgorod team managed to show the opponents their best hockey. The home team didn’t create many chances to beat the goalie Ivan Lisutin, while Torpedo capitalized their chances and the goals by Ivan Zakharchuk and Vladimir Galuzin gave three deserved points to Skudra’s squad.
Worst game On October 9, Nizhny Novgorod was visited by the future Gagarin Cup champions: Ak Bars Kazan. During the last season, the teams faced four times, and this was the first game of this series. A packed arena in Nizhny Novgorod witnessed an easy win for the away team. Torpedo could not do much, while Vladimir Tkachyov, on the other hand, was unstoppable. He added two helpers of a hat-trick, becoming the main hero of Ak Bars’ huge win.

Discover Stanislav Galimov managed to revitalize his career in Nizhny Novgorod. After an unlucky period in Kazan, the goalie’s career seen a new peak. His great year was noticed by both fans and experts. The KHL awarded him with goalie of the month honors in September. And most importantly, playing for Torpedo Stanislav managed to make a big jump forward and become the team’s starting goalie. The goalie definitely didn’t fail in his efforts. In 39 regular season games, he had very good stats with a saves percentage of .917 and posting a goals-against average of 2.13.
Disappointment In Nizhny Novgorod, there were big expectations from Ziga Jeglic. The Slovenian national got to Torpedo during the summer, but he didn’t manage to become a leader for the team. Jeglic had just four assists in fifteen games, without scoring any goal. He was a shadow of himself, and Skudra decided to move on and release him still during the season.
Top scorers
Regular season: Yegor Dugin – 29 (12+17), Kaspars Daugavins – 27 (11+16)
Playoffs: Yury Sergiyenko – 4 (2+2), Kaspars Daugavins – 2 (0+2)

KHL - 2017-18 Review - Metallurg Magnitogorsk

5eba0e9e21d3f581f7456332110b70b4.jpgMagnitka didn’t manage to repeat last year’s achievements and was eliminated at the second round of the playoffs. What prevented the Ural team from performing better?
Metallurg’s roster significantly changed from last season’s lineup. A number of defensemen, including Chris Lee (who then returned during the season) and forward Danis Zaripov left the team. The departure of the veteran winger wasn’t just a loss, it was a true challenge for Magnitka.
The team had significant problems during the Fall, that caused the firing of the head coach Ilya Vorobyov. Metallurg didn’t seek an external replacement and gave the team to Viktor Kozlov. The Ural team managed to make it to the postseason, but they didn’t manage to go through the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Story of the Season

The Gagarin Cup current runners-up didn’t have a good August and September. Metallurg had pretty much as many wins as losses. But the most important thing is that the Urals team lost to Ak Bars, Lokomotiv, Salavat Yulaev, SKA, and Traktor – all teams who aspire to a high place in the KHL standings. Among the few positive moments, a win against Barys (3:2 SO) can be noticed. In October it looked like Metallurg could improve the situation. The team won five games out of six, but then they stumbled again as they lost 2:7 against CSKA. Unfortunately for the team, that defeat started yet another losing streak. On November 2, Magnitka lost against Lada at home (1:3) and after that game, it was announced that Ilya Vorobyov was released from his duties as Metallurg head coach. The boards entrusted Viktor Kozlov as a new head coach, but that wasn’t the only announced change – Metallurg’s lineup was enriched by a few players who left the team in the 2017 offseason. More precisely, Chris Lee, Alexei Bereglazov and Wojtek Wolski. This latter suffered from a serious injury last year, had a great start of the season with Kunlun Red Star and once again wore Metallurg jersey.

6470d0e87935e2bfe6c6149b1953d259.jpgThese changes allowed the Urals team to be more consistent as they started defeating the leaders. CSKA was defeated in Moscow (4:1), while Lokomotiv Yaroslavl was beaten at home (4:1). The two wins against Jokerit Helsinki (2:1 SO, 2:1 OT) were also worthy of a mention. All this gave the team more confidence, but the team didn’t avoid the occasional slump. As a result, Metallurg Magnitogorsk finished the regular season as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, having to face Vladimir Krikunov’s Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg in the playoffs first round.
Many experts named this series as the most uncertain of the whole first round, but the bigger experience of the Metallurg players played a key role in the contest. Metallurg looked better than the opposition, playing very well with the special teams and deservedly winning the series (4-2). Even Krikunov praised Metallurg’s special teams after the series. The coach declared that Metallurg continuously changed the way they were playing on the powerplay and his team had a very hard time in getting used to their style.
But in the next round, Metallurg didn’t manage to stop the next Gagarin Cup champions. The team led by Kozlov won the first game (4:3 OT), but then suffered from four consecutive defeats, finishing their season. Most likely, Metallurg needs a rebuild. The team already lost a great line when Zaripov left the team, and now they will also need to find a replacement for the Czech center Jan Kovar.

It was the first time that Viktor Kozlov was a head coach. Kozlov had to deal with many problems and huge expectations from the fans. He managed to give the team a good guide, but could not defeat Ak Bars in the playoffs. It’s hard to evaluate Kozlov’s job, since he got the team midway through the season.
It’s already known that the new Metallurg Magnitogorsk head coach will be Jozef Jandac. This, however, doesn’t mean that Kozlov’s history with Magnitogorsk is over. He’ll stay with the team as an assistant coach and will have another chance of becoming the head coach again in a couple of years.
Best Game

On October 21 Metallurg got to Moscow to face CSKA. The Red Army was the second team in the overall standings and was starting to think about the playoffs already, while Magnitogorsk just started their battle to get to the playoffs. CSKA started the game very well, since Kirill Petrov scored already at the sixth minute, while Magnitka couldn’t find a solution against the home team’s defense. However, midway through the game Wojtek Wolski tied the game up, and then it was all Metallurg. The Urals team played a tactically perfect game and deservedly won the contest.
Worst Game
Oddly enough, Metallurg played against CSKA also its worst game. The Red Army got to Magnitogorsk on October 18 and the fans were eagerly waiting for the battle between the Gagarin Cup runners-up and one of the top contenders for this year’s title. But the game wasn’t really a battle. Vasily Koshechkin allowed a couple of early goals and was replaced by Ilya Samsonov, who allowed five goals to the opposition. All of the seven CSKA goals were scored by different players.
It’s hard to call the discover of the season one of the most experienced foreign players in the KHL. As you probably have already understood, we’re talking about Matt Ellison. In 55 games, he scored 45 (20+25) points, even surpassing Sergei Mozyakin in the top-scorers standings of the regular season. Why are we talking about him? Many fans weren’t sure about Ellison, but with his strong game he confirmed to be a high-level player and that wherever he plays, his hockey is always great. f3ca1f03dd89f36b29a4c286e8c1bbfe.jpg
Anton Shenfeld got back to Magnitogorsk from Togliatti to take a step forward in his career. 37 games, seven (2+5) points – this is definitely not what the expectations were for Lada’s leader. Just in one season, Shenfeld’s production fell by almost five times. Naturally, he didn’t become a leader.
Top scorers
Regular season: Matt Ellison – 45 (20+25), Sergei Mozyakin – 42 (19+23)
Playoffs: Sergei Mozyakin – 12 (4+8), Wojtek Wolski – 11 (5+6)

KHL - 2017-18 Review - Jokerit

During the tenth Kontintental Hockey League season Jokerit celebrated its 50th birthday. During the whole season several events were organized to celebrate such an impressive achievement. The culmination of the celebrations was the first KHL regular season game on open air. The results of the Finnish team were good on ice too as Jokerit ended on the third place in the Western Conference behind CSKA and SKA.

The story of the season
The Helsinki team had a very thoroughly preparation towards the 2017/2018 season. The previous campaign wasn’t the best for the Jokers as they got to the playoffs only as the eighth seed and lost 0-4 against CSKA Moscow in the first round, thus they needed to improve. A serious motivation boost was of course the 50th birthday of the team, to be celebrated in 2017 Winter, but a few off-ice events can’t make up for a good result on ice, thus they needed to show their worth on the rink.
The Helsinki team started with a few swing, but then the team led by Jukka Jalonen had an amazing streak of 15 wins on a row, with only one of them being an OT win. During the six-weeks streak, the Finns managed to defeat CSKA 4:0 and also to get the best out of the top teams of the Eastern Conference, Salavat Yulaev Ufa and Ak Bars Kazan. The Jokers’ triumphal parade was stopped by their closest neighbors, SKA St. Petersburg, who also were in the middle of a great streak, perhaps even more impressing.

Later in November, Jokerit had another great streak with seven games in eight games, three of them without allowing any goal. By the way, shutouts need to be mentioned apart. The regular season leader for shutout games was Jokerit goalie Ryan Zapolski. This was the second season in the KHL for the 31-years-old American netminder, by far the best one. Ryan had nine shutouts, was named once the best goalie of the month (and another twice the best goalie of the week) and was called to the All-Star Game. The first half of the season was very successful for the Jokers, even if counting the little swing they had in late October. One of the biggest reasons for their success was the great acquisitions during the summer. The Helsinki-based team signed one of the top-scoring defensemen in the league, Sami Lepisto, from Salavat Yulaev Ufa, the Danish national Nicklas Jensen from North America, who scored 20 goals during the regular season, and the successful teenager Eeli Tolvanen, a Finn starlet with a great shot and an even better nose for the net.
However, Jokerit didn’t manage to play the whole season at the same high level. In the second half of the season, the team led by Jalonen relaxed a bit too much and, as a result, before March 1 they lost two games in a row for three times. This problem, however, didn’t have any significant effect on the standings, as the difference in points within the Western Conference was so big that the team never left the third place, saving itself from meeting SKA St. Petersburg in the second round.
In the first round, Jokerit faced HC Sochi, and the first game was won by the team led by Sergei Zubov. But in the rest of the series, the Finns didn’t give any chance to their opponents, defeating them twice with a 7:2 score and winning two games with an overtime. Jalonen’s main weapon was Tolvanen, who scored five goals in five games. In the next round the Finnish team faced CSKA Moscow, but they couldn’t defeat the Red Army. The first two games were won by CSKA with a general 6:0 score, but then Jokerit proved wrong the ones who already thought that they were going to surrender. In the next three games Jokerit won twice, and the fifth clash was the most memorable as it became the longest game in the history of the KHL. The game-winning goal was scored only at the 143rd minute, and its author was Jokerit’s forward Mika Niemi. In this game the Finnish team gave its maximum, and out of mental and physical tiredness their season ended at the sixth game of the Western Conference semifinals.

In 2017 October it became clear that, no matter the result, Jokerit head coach Jukka Jalonen will leave the KHL to coach the Finland national team. The specialist already guided the national team, winning the IIHF World Championship gold medal in 2011. Jalonen arrived in Helsinki in 2016, and before of this job he coached SKA for two years (winning the regular season champions title), then staying without a club for two further seasons. Jokerit didn’t win any KHL medal, but Jalonen’s team played very good hockey, competed hard and the fans thanked him for the great job he had.
Best game
Of course, here it could be mentioned the 4:0 win against CSKA in September, or even the incredibly long game they had in the playoffs, but the first game that comes to the mind is another one, and Jokerit didn’t even win. But it was definitely the best game. To celebrate Jokerit’s 50th birthday and the KHL’s 10th season, Jokerit and the league decided to play a game in open air on December 2 at the Park Kaisaniemi. Jokerit’s opponents were SKA St. Petersburg and it was truly memorable. More than 17,500 spectators attended the game, becoming a new attendance record for the league. The atmosphere was incredible, but the game was even better. Jokerit managed to make it a tied game twice and fought until the final horn. This game will be remembered for a lot of time.
Worst game
During the 2017/2018 season Jokerit twice lost with a 0:4 score. The first time it happened during the regular season as on October 30 Barys scored them four unanswered goals. The Finn team had 82 shot attempts, with 44 shots on goal, but they couldn’t beat Henrik Karlsson. The second 0:4 loss happened on March 16, in the first game of the second round of the playoffs against CSKA Moscow. This time the loss was more deserved, as the Red Army defeated Jokerit in pretty much any aspect of the game.
Eeli Tolvanen was awarded with best rookie of the week honors for six times. A further time he was the top forward of the week and twice the best rookie of the month. The kid didn’t simply get to the KHL, but took it by storm as he scored a hat trick in his very first game in the league. Earlier, Tolvanen was playing in the USHL and he made the right move signing with Jokerit. He started the season scoring with an incredible rate, 20 (11+9) points in his first 15 games. Later he cooled down a bit, but he finished the regular season with 36 points in 49 games. If that’s not enough, he represented Finland at the Olympic Games, making it to the All-Star team of the tournament, being its third top scorer. During the playoffs, the 18-years-old guy (he turned 19 only in April) played a bit less efficient, but once Jokerit finished his season he moved to the NHL, where he intends to play even in the future.
If compared with the two previous seasons, the Danish forward Peter Regin seen a significant decrease in his production. His 48 points in the regular season (he maintained this level for two seasons) was changed by 29 (8+21) points. That being said, it’s hard to call this season a true disappointment: Regin’s ice time went down, and his role in the team passed to other players. Most likely, the Finnish public expected more from the return of the then KHL top goalscorer Steve Moses, but he didn’t have too much time for his adaptation.
Top scorers
Regular Season: Nicklas Jensen – 37 (20+17), Eeli Tolvanen – 36 (19+17), Brian O’Neill – 29 (14+15), Peter Regin – 29 (8+21), Sami Lepisto – 29 (7+22)
Playoffs: Matthew Gilroy – 11 (1+10), Olli Palola – 7 (6+1), Eeli Tolvanen – 7 (6+1), Sami Lepisto – 7 (0+7)

KHL - 2017-18 Review - Salavat Yulaev Ufa

The 2016/2017 season wasn’t the best for Salavat Yulaev as they had a first-round exit against Ak Bars Kazan (1-4). Changes in the hockey operations team were unavoidable and on March 27, 2017 the team announced that they hired 59-years-old Errka Westerlund as their new head coach. The Finn is one of the most-known European specialists and had already KHL experience from his stint with Jokerit Helsinki.
During the offseason, Salavat Yulaev had a lot of events. The biggest loss was, of course, the move of Kirill Kaprizov to CSKA Moscow. The club had new players in all roles. The goaltending line was filled in by the extravagant Ben Scrivens, the defensive corps by Philip Larsen and the forward lineup by Ilya Zubov and Jonas Kemppainen. The latter was signed with the scope of forming a good first line with Teemu Hartikainen and Linus Omark and that is what exactly happened.

The story of the season
The start of the season was very inconsistent for Salavat Yulaev Ufa. And this problem accompanied the team for the whole year. The Ufa team alternated great moments and fails, big wins and unexplainable huge losses.
The calendar gifted Salavat Yulaev a good start of the season with six games at home against teams surely within its reach. But the team led by Westerlund didn’t manage to live up to the expectations. After a win over Admiral (3:1) the team suffered from a loss from Amur (4:5) and an incredible defeat against Kunlun Red Star (1:2) with a goal allowed only two seconds to the final horn. However, those two games were followed by two big wins against HC Sochi (11:3) and Neftekhimik (6:0).
After the start, the season has been a true roller-coaster for the Ufa team, that oscillated between the top of the Eastern Conference standings and outside the playoffs zone. Mostly this was due to the fact that the Chernyshev Division leadership was often fought between Salavat and Avangard, who was even more inconsistent. Therefore, the Ufa team always tried hard to climb into the first place of the division, which would automatically give them the second seed in the playoffs. The second half of November was particularly bad for Salavat, when they lost six games out of seven. After that streak, many started questioning if Westerlund shouldn’t have been fired, and defenseman Zakhar Arzamastsev gave a resonant interview where he criticized the head coach and the General Manager Leonid Vaysfeld.
But between the end of December and mid January, Salavat completed their longest away tour with a good record of six wins in ten games, a streak that went on during the last few home games. However, the team didn’t manage to solve its inner problems and on 25 January the boards announced that Vaysfeld was leaving Ufa.
The club didn’t secure itself a playoff spot until the Olympic Games, but in the end they finished the regular season as the second seed in the Eastern Conference, getting Avangard as their opponents. The teams gifted the fans one of the most spectacular series of the postseason, that ended as the second series with more goals in the KHL history.
The teams scored 10 goals in the first game already (6:4), and during the game Salavat was behind (0:3) and (2:4). The most productive players were Omark and Hartikainen, who scored four and five points respectively. The result of the second game was a true surprise, as in Ufa the team on home soil was destroyed (2:7), and the third game was won by Avangard as well. The key moment of the series was the return of Ben Scrivens, who picked up an injury during the Olympic Games. Salavat started allowing fewer goals and a better defensive game became very important for their further success. The culmination of the series was the end of the seventh game. Avangard managed to tie the game at only 17 (!) seconds to the final horn playing six-on-three. But during the overtime, Maxim Goncharov won the game, and the series, for Ufa.
The next opponent was Traktor and once again the series went to the seventh game. The Chelyabinsk-based team managed to do the most important thing: blocking Salavat’s first line. Moreover, Traktor found a joker in the deck in Vitaly Kravtsov. It was Kravtsov to score the game-winning goal in the first game of the series (2:1). It looked like Salavat could get the initiative back after winning the second game (3:2 OT), but then surprisingly Mikhail Yunkov scored a double in the third game to gift an unexpected win to Traktor (0:2).
This was just the start of the intrigue. Traktor won 4:1 on their head coach Anvar Gatiyatullin’s birthday, but Ufa replied with a great performance by Ben Scrivens, who not only got a shutout, but also participated in the only goal of the game, scored by Anton Burdasov. It was the last win by Salavat. In the sixth game the team led by Gatiyatullin demoralized Ufa scoring seven goals, and in the seventh game they demonstrated that they were the true surprise of the season, getting an early lead (2:1) and then containing the opposition until the final horn.
Already during the pre-season tournament in Nizhny Novgorod, Erkka Westerlund told that his slogan was “We came here to win”. He confirmed his words as Salavat won the Governor Cup. And everything was on his side to think that his season will be a success: a lot of experience (Olympic Games and World Championship medals), a good record in the KHL with Jokerit and a very good roster, even considering the loss of Kirill Kaprizov.
That being said, it’s hard to call “successful” Westerlund’s first experience with a Russian team. The Finn specialist, most likely, couldn’t find the key for a couple of specific situations. Throughout the season he was criticized by the press, by the fans and even from his own players with whom, apparently, he never found a common language.

On April 4th Salavat Yulaev announced to have parted ways with the Finn. The next season will start under the guide of Nikolai Tsulygin, who was one of his assistants. Moreover, Westerlund during an interview with a Finnish outlet opened up and said that the boards of Salavat were really pressing on him. On the other hand, it’s impossible to call this season a failure for Salavat Yulaev. The club managed to get to the second round of the playoffs, thus improving the results from one year ago. But anyways there were bigger expectations on the team.

Best game
On March 20 the Salavat Yulaev – Traktor playoffs series got back to Chelyabinsk with a 1-1 score. Traktor started the game very actively in front of its fans, without scoring, but outshooting the opposition 15-4. In the next period, Ufa managed to get the initiative, but Traktor started scoring. The Chelyabinsk team scored twice, and both times Alexei Kruchinin and Vitaly Kravtsov were instrumental: at the 23rd minute Kruchinin defeated Scrivens with a backhander, and seven minutes later he crafted the offensive play finalized by Alexander Sharov with a great shot.
The third period was even more interesting. First Mikhail Yunkov narrowed the gap, with the goal being awarded only after the replay. Linus Omark scored a powerplay goal, and then Mikhail Yunkov scored again to get a double. Yunkov’s performance was even more interesting if we consider that it was only the second game of the veteran forward of the playoffs.

Worst game
The Green Derby is always a special game. The fans in Bashkiria and Tatarstan are always eagerly waiting for the games. And losses are always painful. Especially in cases such as what happened on November 22nd in Ufa. It was the first clash of the season between the two teams. It was impossible to say that Kazan had an overwhelming advantage, but with the help of the strictest execution of the game plan and an almost 100% realization of their chances Ak Bars slowly made it so that only one team remained on the ice. Two powerplay goals on the start of the first and the second period became the foundation of the win, that in the end was very large. The Kazan team even allowed itself to search for beautiful goals, in particular the fifth one, scored after a hand pass by Stanislav Galiyev to Yaroslav Kosov.
“We didn’t play like a team. I apologize to our fans, I apologize from myself and all the players,” Erkka Westerlund said after the game.

Signing the Finn forward Joonas Kemppainen to a contract last April 30th has been a big success. The arrival of Erkka Westerlund was very important for the move of the 30-years-old forward from Novosibirsk, where he spent the 2016/2017 campaign. In the end, Kemppainen was the ideal center for the other two Salavat winger Linus Omark and Teemu Hartikainen. As a result, Salavat’s top line scored 52 goals in the regular season, more than a third of the total goals scored by the team.
Disappointment It was the second season in Ufa for one of the most experienced Russian defensemen, Denis Kulyash. He was even the captain of the team, but this season after just 16 games he was surprisingly put on waivers for the first time of his career. He could have played for Salavat’s farm team in the VHL, Toros Neftekamsk, but the team dissolved the contract with the player, who was then picked up by Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg. There, he had a quite successful second part of the season.
Top Scorers
Regular season: Linus Omark – 55 (16+39), Teemu Hartikainen – 41 (20+21), Filip Larsen – 38 (11+27), Joonas Kemppainen – 37 (16+21), Enver Lisin – 24 (14+10).
Playoffs: Linus Omark – 17 (4+13), Teemu Hartikainen – 11 (4+7), Joonas Kemppainen – 9 (4+5).

KHL - Round Up - June 5-11, 2018

All change!
The appointment of Andrei Skabelka as head coach of Barys this week means that all the KHL’s 25 coaching positions are now filled. However, 13 of the men behind the benches are taking on a new challenge for the coming season. That’s just over half – with changes affecting some of the league’s strongest clubs as well as many of its outsiders.
The full list reads like this: Admiral (Sergei Svetlov replaces Oleg Leontiev); Amur (Nikolai Borshchevsky replaces Andrei Martemyanov); Avangard (Bob Hartley replaces German Titov); Avtomobilist (Andrei Martemyanov replaces Vladimir Krikunov); Barys (Andrei Skabelka replaces Galym Membetaliyev); Jokerit (Lauri Marjamaki replaces Jukka Jalonen); Kunlun Red Star (Jussi Tapola replaces Bobby Carpenter); Metallurg (Josef Jandac replaces Viktor Kozlov); Salavat Yulaev (Nikolai Tsulygin replaces Erkka Westerlund); SKA (Ilya Vorobyov replaces Oleg Znarok); Slovan (Vladimir Orszagh replaces Eduard Zankovets); Torpedo (David Nemirovsky replaces Peteris Skudra); Traktor (German Titov replaces Anvar Gatiyatulin)
Of course, not every club is changing course. Zinetula Bilyaletdinov’s position at Ak Bars is surely unassailable, Igor Nikitin’s impressive first season with CSKA has secured his position and Dmitry Kvartalnov will continue at Lokomotiv. Elsewhere, Vadim Yepanchintsev impressed in his first season at Spartak, while Dinamo Minsk has kept faith with Gordie Dwyer despite missing out on the playoffs. But with so many changes, it’s hard to have much sense of job security right now.

Reformed character
Olympic champion and Gagarin Cup winner Yegor Yakovlev is leaving the KHL to take on a new challenge with the New Jersey Devils. The defenseman, a key player for Oleg Znarok on the domestic and international stage, is also promising to learn from some of his past critics and insists he’s cut out the diving that once spoiled his game.
“Really, this was a big problem,” he admitted in an exclusive interview with “But I’m working on it. I understand perfectly well that in North America it won’t be acceptable and, throughout the season just gone, there were no instances where I fell easily.”
As for the move to the Devils, that’s all part of the plan. “A long time ago I had a plan for my career path,” Yakovlev added. “And I’m fulfilling it. I knew exactly what I wanted when I went to Lokomotiv, when I accepted the offer from SKA, and now, when I signed my latest contract.”
Russia’s Stanley Cup success
When the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history, it was a big moment for many people connected with the KHL. With Alexander Ovechkin captaining the team, Evgeny Kuznetsov topping the post-season scoring and Dmitry Orlov manning the defense, it could hardly have been otherwise.
Of the trio, Kuznetsov has the greatest KHL connections. He burst onto the scene as a rising star with Traktor, setting all kinds of rookie scoring records and reaching a Gagarin Cup final with his home-town team. Not surprisingly, his triumph in DC has delighted many back home, especially his first coaches within the Traktor system, Vladimir Shabunin, Alexander Shvarev and Viktor Demchenko.
Orlov played three KHL season with Metallurg Novokuznetsk before winning World Junior gold in 2011 and getting the call-up from the Caps. With over 400 NHL regular season and playoff outings, he’s established himself as one of the classiest D-men around – and the 26-year-old has now completed two-thirds of the Triple Gold Club after adding a Stanley Cup to his 2014 World Championship medal. Orlov has already promised to bring the cup to Novokuznetsk over the summer, a reminder that even with its team now in the second tier of Russian hockey, the Siberian city remains a passionate follower of the game.
The legendary Ovechkin left Russia before the KHL came into existence, returning to plunder 40 points in 31 games for his first club, Dynamo Moscow, during the 2012-13 lock-out. A Russian Superleague champion in 2005, an Olympic All-Star the following year, seven times winner of the Rocket Richard Trophy, multiple World Champion … the list of honors is endless. And, along with his Washington team-mates, the Great Eight highlights once again the strength of Russian hockey at all levels of the game.
Dmitry Orlov, Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov.

KHL - 2017-18 Review - Lokomotiv Yaroslavl

The Yaroslavl team didn’t manage to repeat last year’s success as in Spring 2017 they went all the way through the Western Conference finals, surrendering only to the eventual champion SKA St. Petersburg. This year, the “railwaymen” faced SKA one round earlier, and the team led by Dmitry Kvartalnov won only one game during the series and finished its season.

The story of the season
Lokomotiv started the 2017/2018 campaign led by Alexei Kudashov and it was a rocky first part of the season. In the first eight games, the “railwaymen” won only four times. After this first cycle, the staff managed to change something in the team’s tactics and the team started to regularly get points, with a five-game winning streak.
But what happened in late September remains a mystery. Three big losses in five games, an incredible defeat in Novosibirsk, and then a loss to Avangard Omsk at home soil. After losing 1:6 against SKA in Yaroslavl, the boards opted for a head coach change and the choice fell on Dmitry Kvartalnov, who last year was coaching CSKA Moscow when Lokomotiv defeated them at the conference semifinals stage in Spring 2017.
The head coach change had a positive impact on the team. Kvartalnov’s coming gifted new emotions to the “railwaymen” as they won nine of the first 12 games under the new coach’s guide. A key moment was when Lokomotiv managed to defeat CSKA in Moscow (3:2 OT) when the Red Army team was on a great streak, thus creating a very good streak themselves and being at that point out of the crisis. It’s hard to say if Lokomotiv had the concrete goal of unhorsing Jokerit Helsinki from the third seed in the Western Conference, but in any case, they didn’t manage to do it. During the winter the Yaroslavl team lost too many points and they could not reach them back. Lokomotiv got to the playoffs with the fourth seed in the Western Conference.
The first-round clash against Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod was for Lokomotiv of the utmost importance. These two cities are long-time rivals and the fans are always waiting for this matchup. And you can also add to the atmosphere the personal duel between Kvartalnov and Peteris Skudra. All the four games were hard fights, but in the end, Lokomotiv was stronger than the opposition in every game (4-0).
But then Lokomotiv did not manage to contain SKA St. Petersburg. Kvartalnov’s team won only the second game of the series, showing their best defensive hockey of the playoffs. The team also started very well in the third game, but they could not find the key to beat SKA goalie Mikko Koskinen. The fourth game was memorable also because of some well-discussed fights. One of the best things of the Lokomotiv season was the debut of the 17-years-old Grigory Denisenko, one of the most talented Russian 2000-born players. Generally speaking, Kvartalnov called up to the main team many players from the Lokomotiv academy, gaining much praise from the boards at the end of the season.
As we already mentioned, Alexei Kudashov was fired during the fall and substituted by Dmitry Kvartalnov. The new coach brought up his style since the very first day. The “railwaymen” started playing in a much more aggressive hockey and rapidly became the second team in the whole league for shot attempts, which became very evident even to the fans, and as it was experienced by CSKA Moscow. But the most important thing was perhaps the fact that Kvartalnov started giving more space to youngsters. Under his guide, many young players had their KHL debut, even more so during the playoffs. After that Lokomotiv got eliminated by SKA, Kvartalnov has been confirmed as the team’s head coach, thus having a chance to spend an entire offseason in Yaroslavl.
Best game
On October 13th, the future Gagarin Cup winners Ak Bars Kazan got to Yaroslavl. The clash between the “railwaymen” and the Eastern Conference leaders promised to be very uncertain, but the game reserved little suspense to the fans. Lokomotiv managed to outplay Ak Bars (6:2) and earned three well-deserved points. Forward Egor Korshkov scored a double and goalie Emil Garipov was benched after allowing the fourth goal.

Worst game
Lokomotiv had a bad night even during that period when they were winning game after game. On November 4th, little people would have bet on Dinamo Riga during an away game in Yaroslavl, but the team led by Girts Ankipans moved on after the game with a shutout win (4:0). The “railwaymen” could not do anything during that game, while Miks Indrasis scored a double and added another point with an assist. The Dinamo Riga leader was simply unstoppable.

Discovery The first player in the “discovery” list is defenseman Alexander Yelesin. And not only because he broke the “fastest goal” record in the KHL. Under Kvartalnov, Yelesin really improved his game and became a key player on defense. Yaroslavl fans were pleased to see that he has a great shot and that he has a very solid psychology. The national team didn’t miss his progress and called him up for the Euro Hockey Tour.

Yaroslavl fans were expecting much more from Pavel Kraskovsky, especially so after his 2016/2017 strong season. The center was regularly called to the national team and had a solid role in the lineup, but he didn’t have the best season. He is hardly pleased by having scored only twice during the entire regular season. It’s not too strange to have such highs and lows for young players, but next year Kraskovsky has to play much better.
Top scorers
Regular season: Staffan Kronwall – 35 (10+25), Brandon Kozun – 33 (13+20)
Playoffs: Petri Kontiola – 5 (1+4), Staffan Kronwall – 3 (2+1)

KHL - Round Up - June 1-4, 2018

Vorobyov confirmed at SKA
It was widely expected, but the deal is finally done. Ilya Vorobyov is officially the new head coach of SKA St. Petersburg. Vorobyov, who led Metallurg to the 2016 Gagarin Cup, replaces Oleg Znarok in the hotseat – and is also confirmed as his long-term successor with Team Russia after signing a two-year contract with the Russian Hockey Federation. Expectations at SKA are always high, and Vorobyov could find himself following in the footsteps of Znarok and Vyacheslav Bykov to become the third man to coach two different clubs to Gagarin Cup glory.
Hartley to Omsk
Avangard has pulled off something of a coup after confirming the capture of Bob Hartley as head coach. The experienced Canadian has spent the last two seasons in charge of Team Latvia, leading the Baltic nation to its first World Championship quarter-final since 2009, and is excited about the quality of hockey – and more – in the KHL. “When I came to Riga in March, I sat down and watched the KHL playoffs and, to be honest, I was impressed with the level of hockey I saw,” he told Sport Express. “Moreover, I was impressed with the way the KHL goes about its business. Just look at the TV coverage, it’s really, really good!”
Hartley can look forward to a refreshed roster for coming campaign as well: Sergei Shirokov, Olympic Champion, is returning to the club from SKA, while Finnish goalie Karri Ramo is also heading back to Siberia.

Prokhorov takes charge of youth development
Vitaly Prokhorov, Olympic Champion in 1992 and former Spartak Moscow and St. Louis Blues left winger, has been appointed vice-president of the KHL. Prokhorov’s remit will be to oversee the development of young hockey players in Russia, from school age through the MHL Youth League and into the adult game. Prokhorov, a former head coach of various Russian junior age-group teams, will also be working to help young Russian players return home from minor leagues in North America by creating better conditions for their hockey development in Russia.
International relations
Czech referee Antonin Jerabek has been a familiar face on the KHL circuit since he first came to Russia in 2009-10 as part of an officiating exchange. Now, 285 games later, he’s heading back to his native Czech Republic, having been whistled at Olympics and World Championships and played a key role in developing the KHL’s Refereeing Department.
But one of his first memories involved an early encounter with his countryman Milos Riha, behind Spartak’s bench at the time, and a typically volatile exchange with the colorful coach. “I remember the game at Sokolniki because early in the game I blew up and thwarted a Spartak rush. Immediately, I realized I was mistaken and went to the bench to apologize to Riha. He answered me, in Czech, in good humor, accepting that these things happen. Spartak fell behind, then hauled it back to a one-goal game but right before the hooter I called [Spartak forward] Branko Radivojevic for tripping. That time, Riha was more wound up. He spoke to me in Czech again, but this time it was much less friendly,” laughed Jerabek.
SKA goes to Hollywood?
Ever thought you’d see movie star Johnny Depp or rock legends Joe Perry and Alice Cooper suiting up in the KHL? Well, we might not quite go that far, but the three did appear in SKA uniform this week after their band, the Hollywood Vampires, played the Ice Palace in St. Petersburg.