Today was a record-breaking day in the KHL, as not just one, but two milestone goals found the back of the net 2400 kilometres apart. Read on as we discuss history-making tallies!
As you probably guessed from the video clip at the top of this piece, our Mr. Mozyakin was at it again today for Metallurg Magnitogorsk. Fourteen minutes into the first period of a then-scoreless game against visiting Avangard Omsk, he strolled to the top of the faceoff circle to the right of Avangard goalie Dominik Furch and unleashed one of his patented venomous and accurate shots (seriously, for a guy on the small side Mozyakin strikes the puck with amazing force). The puck nestled into a tiny spot where the post meets the crossbar and with that, we had a new KHL record for goals by one player in a single regular season. Mozyakin’s 37th of the current campaign broke the old mark that had been set just a couple of seasons ago by Steve Moses, then of Jokerit Helsinki.
This is, of course, not Mozyakin’s first record-breaking goal of the season. Back in September, we watched as he scored the 428th of his career, passing Boris Mikhailov to become the all-time leading sniper in the history of Soviet and Russian domestic hockey. Jan Kovář and Chris Lee drew the assists on that one; the helpers on today’s goal went to Alexei Bereglazov and Danis Zaripov. Metallurg, for the record, went on to win 4-2, with Mozyakin picking up another assist along the way. His season scoring line now stands at 52 gp, 37-36-73, tops in the league in points as well as goals.
Some more context for today’s goal: Metallurg have eight regular season games remaining, and have already clinched their post-season berth. Barring an early-round upset or an injury, Mozyakin is in prime position to challenge the KHL single-season record for goals including the playoffs. That mark currently stands at 47, and is held by… well, Sergei Mozyakin, who set it in 2013-14. The all-time record for goals in a Russian hockey season, including the Soviet era, is held by Veniamin Alexandrov, who scored 53 for Central Red Army in 1962-63. If Metallurg go deep into the playoffs, and they are certainly capable of it, that mark too may come under some pressure from the seemingly ageless Mozyakin (he’ll be 36 in March, which simply adds another level of amazing-ness to today’s feat).
Just last Spring, it looked very much like we had seen the last of Ilya Kovalchuk in the colours of SKA St. Petersburg. Stripped of the captaincy, benched, and barred from practicing with the team — all that during the playoffs, to boot — he seemed certain to be on the way out. But the arrival of Oleg Znarok, not to mention Pavel Datsyuk, on the banks of the Neva worked a miracle: not only is “Kovi” still with SKA, but he’s playing like he’s ten years younger than his actual 33. His scoring line of 51 gp, 27-41-58 has him trailing only Mozyakin in points, and tied for third in league in goals.
And Kovalchuk struck twice today at home against Jokerit, albeit in a losing cause (the Finnish club took it by a final of 5-3). His first was a powerplay one-timer from the top of the circle, after which he exchanged some chit-chat with the Jokerit bench. His second, just a few minutes later, was a picture-perfect re-direction of a Yegor Yakovlev pass. The goals were also the 215th and 216th of this season for SKA, and that first tied and then broke a league record for goals by one team set in 2009-10 by Salavat Yulaev Ufa (oddly, our two record-breaking goals — Kovalchuk’s second and Mozyakin’s — entered their respective nets in almost exactly the same place).
How big has the SKA scoring juggernaut been this season? Second place on the “Most Goals — Team” list in 2016-17 currently belongs to Mozyakin’s Metallurg Magnitogorsk, with 173; that’s almost a full goal per game less than the St. Petersburg boys have scored. Including Kovalchuk (tied for third with 27, as mentioned), SKA have four players in the league’s top 13 goalscorers. The others are: Yevgeny Dadonov (tied for third with 27), Nikita Gusev (tied for 7th with 21), and Vadim Shipachyov (tied for ninth with 19). Even more terrifying: SKA have also given up the fewest goals in the league, with 92. Despite some recent roadbumps (bizarrely, they experienced a four-game losing streak, a franchise record in a KHL regular season, around Christmas), SKA will almost certainly enter the playoffs as heavy Gagarin Cup favourites, and deservedly so.
Congratulations both to Mozyakin and to Kovalchuk (and to his SKA team-mates) on their record-breaking goals! There is a good chance, even allowing for the uncertainties of the playoffs, that we will see both in a few months in the Gagarin Cup final, and that should be tremendous entertainment if it happens.