A Walk Through the KHL: October 17th, 2016
And herewith we start a new weekly thing here at the blog, as I attempt to find interesting and feasible ways to keep you more-or-less caught up on KHL news. My plan is, every Monday, to present you with one very short comment or news item or thought or random collection of words relating to each of the league’s 29 teams.
Read on, for the first edition of this new project!
Before we get to the team-by-team commentary, however, there as a frightening incident in the KHL this past week when Metallurg Magnitogorsk forward Wojtek Wolski slid hard and head-first into the boards with a fallen opponent on top of him (video, if you wish to watch it). Wolski suffered two fractured vertebrae, a bruised spinal cord, a concussion, and various lacerations, and spent a couple of days in the intensive care ward. However — and this is the important bit — it appears that he will be ok in the long run. Wolski himself took to social media after the incident to say: “It will be a few months before I can play again but the doctors are confident I will make a full recovery.” Here’s wishing Wojtek Wolski a speedy and complete return to health!
To the matter at hand, and we will do this, at least for now, in order of Conference standings:
1. SKA St. Petersburg (17-5, 54 pts.): A few months ago it appeared that Ilya Kovalchuk had played his last game for SKA; he had not, and the rejuvenated Kovy in fact now leads the KHL in scoring (22 gp, 13-16-29).
2. CSKA Moscow (17-7, 53 pts.): A recent kerfuffle involving new signing Valery Nichushkin seems to have blown over, and the young forward has scored 3-6-9 in 12 games since returning to the KHL.
3. Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod (15-7, 45 pts.): At the heart of Torpedo’s success this season lies journeyman goalie Ilya Proskuryakov, whose .942 sv% in 21 games leads all netminders who have played more than ten.
4. HK Sochi (13-9, 38 pts.): Last season’s surprise package are — surprisingly — flying high again, but leading scorer Andre Petersson is now out indefinitely with an injury, so we’ll see if they can keep it up.
5. Dinamo Minsk (13-7, 35 pts.): The team from Belarus has cooled off after a 10-3 start, but are still doing well, and new netminder Ben Scrivens recently helped matters by achieving the ultra-rare “two-point game by a goalie” with a pair of assists against Neftekhimik.
6. Dynamo Moscow (12-9, 35 pts.): Financial problems threatened the storied club’s existence this summer, but it now sounds like matters have improved, if not 100%. Given that situation, 6th in the conference is probably not a bad place to be.
7. Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (11-9, 34 pts.): Regression to the Mean has played a nasty trick on Lokomotiv this season: goalie Alexei Murygin has seen last year’s otherwordly .954 sv% slump to a more mortal .919 (that’s ok, but not super).
8. Vityaz Moscow Oblast (11-9, 31 pts.): For the third year in a row, Vityaz have started well in the hunt for a first-ever KHL playoff berth. The last two times, they faded in winter, so the next stretch will be very important.
9. Jokerit Helsinki (9-12, 30 pts.): A massively disappointing campaign so far, but recent wins over CSKA and Torpedo suggest that perhaps — just perhaps — the ship is being righted.
10. Severstal Cherepovets (8-13, 27 pts.): Don’t sleep on little Severstal; they went 1-10 to start the season, and needed a month to get their first regulation win. Since then, a much different story, and the playoffs are well within reach.
11. Spartak Moscow (9-12, 26 pts.): A four-game losing streak cost coach German Titov his job last week; the red-and-whites are 2-2 under new interim boss Alexei Yarushkin (both wins via shootout, mind you).
12. Medveščak Zagreb (9-12, 26 pts.): The Croatian side had its signing ban (for wage debt) partially lifted this week after sending Gilbert Brulé to Neftekhimik, and duly added forward Lucas Lessio from the Montreal Canadiens organization and goalie Drew MacIntyre from the Washington Capitals.
13. Slovan Bratislava (8-12, 24 pts.): With neither of his goalies (Barry Brust and Justin Pogge) above a .906 sv%, we wonder how long it will be until coach Miloš Říha takes a long look at 20-year-old Slovak netminder Christián Pavlas, who posted a .945 sv% for Slovan’s junior team last season.
14. Dinamo Riga (4-17, 12 pts.): A possible bright spot is the recent play of Jānis Kalniņš in goal. Recruited this summer from the Hungarian league, he’s on a .918 sv% after 6 games for Dinamo — not great, but better than anticipated.
1. Ak Bars Kazan (15-8, 45 pts.): The Tatar giants had an eight-game win streak snapped today in Zagreb, but should have d-man Ziyat Paigin (knee) back soon; 2015-16’s breakout star is off the injured list, though not with the team on its current road trip.
2. Avangard Omsk Oblast (14-9, 39 pts.): Czech forward Vladimir Sobotka, who had been rumoured to be returning to the St. Louis Blues this season, is back with Avangard, and has scored 0-4-4 in seven games since his return.
3. Metallurg Magnitogorsk (14-7, 44 pts.): We speak much and highly of Sergei Mozyakin, but let’s tip the hat also to defenceman Chris Lee; his line of 21 gp, 6-17-23 has him tied for fourth in league scoring (all positions).
4. Salavat Yulaev Ufa (11-11, 36 pts.): The Bashkir team is 7-2 in its last nine, and a big part of the reason is the play of forward Teemu Hartikainen, 7-4-11 over that stretch.
5. Sibir Novosibirsk Oblast (10-11, 31 pts.): Dire news for the Siberians, as regular starting goalie Alexander Salák will miss the rest of 2016-17 through injury. It’s now on youngster Alexei Krasikov, who has been good so far (14 gp, .932 sv%).
6. Ugra Khanty-Mansiysk (11-12, 30 pts.): After going 7-7 since their early September coaching change, Ugra have removed the “interim” tag and made Andrei Sokolov the official bench boss.
7. Admiral Vladivostok (9-11, 30 pts.): Vladimir Tkachyov has cooled off a bit in recent games. September’s KHL “Young Player of the Mongth” is 2-3-5 in his last nine after starting the season 10 gp, 6-8-14.
8. Lada Tolyatti (10-11, 29 pts.): He’s on his seventh KHL team since 2011-12, but former NHL first rounder Nikita Filatov is doing good things in Tolyatti, and may have found a home (21 gp, 7-10-17).
9. Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (11-10, 28 pts.): The Petrochemists have released several players recently, including former Isles prospect Kirill Kabanov. New arrival Gilbert Brulé recorded 1-2-3 in his first game for Neftekhimik.
10. Traktor Chelyabinsk (9-11, 27 pts.): The recent arrival of Ryan Vesce, who had been at training camp with the Edmonton Oilers, has meant the end of the line in Chelyabinsk for veteran scorer Igor Mirnov (17 gp, 1-4-5, well below his usual standard).
11. Amur Khabarovsk (9-14, 27 pts.): They were the first team to beat CSKA in Moscow this season, but the far-easterners still have a steep hill to climb. Goalie Juha Metsola (20 gp, .937 sv%) is doing his usual sterling work, though.
12. Kunlun Red Star Beijing (8-10, 24 pts.): This has been a very acceptable debut season so far for the Chinese side, but KRS now face the prospect of five games without key defenceman Janne Jalasvaara, suspended for shooting the puck at the referee.
13. Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg (8-13, 23 pts.): A poor stretch for Avtomobilist (1-9 in their last ten), and while head coach Andrei Razin still has his job, rumours are that negotiations with former SKA bench boss Sergei Zubov are underway.
14. Barys Astana (6-12, 20 pts.): Barys have been better since firing Andrei Nazarov early in the season, but not by enough, and the Kazakhs still face another month without the services of injured forward Dustin Boyd.
15. Metallurg Novokuznetsk (5-16, 15 pts.): Its another long season in the Kuzbass, but at least the fans can look back fondly on a rare, and surprising, victory over the other Metallurg, the defending Gagarin Cup champions (5-4 in a shootout on October 1st)!