Mozyakin and Friends
A mere 48 hours after our last post on the man, this blog is in some danger of becoming the Official Sergei Mozyakin blog; the Metallurg Magnitogorsk superstar has the pedal to the metal in a major way this season. Read on, as he breaks YET ANOTHER record, and in spectacular fashion too — plus we will talk a little bit, because we should, about his oft-overlooked comrades at Metallurg (and there will be a short programming note at the end)!
One game after eclipsing the KHL’s single-regular-season points record, Sergei Mozyakin took to the ice today for Metallurg’s home game against league-leading SKA St. Petersburg, and had a quiet first three quarters of an hour. As the game, quite plausibly a preview of the 2016-17 Gagarin Cup final, noodled along towards the five-minute mark of the third period, SKA held a 3-1 lead, Mozyakin had no points, and there was little sign that anything was about to change. But change it did; by the halfway point of the final frame, just five minutes later, the score was 4-4 and Sergei Mozyakin had a hat-trick. Some timely SKA penalties certainly helped (two of our man’s goals came on the powerplay, one of those on a five-on-three), but it served as a stark reminder of just how lethal Metallurg’s number ten can be. The game ended up going to a shootout, where Danis Zaripov eventually won it for the Magnitogorskians — not however, before Mozyakin had kept his team alive with a must-score shootout goal of his own.
Mozyakin’s hat-trick broke one record and tied another. The three goals gave him 84 points in 2016-17, setting a new mark for Russian hockey in the post-USSR era (the previous record had belonged to Alexei Morozov, who recorded 83 points for Ak Bars Kazan in the 2006-07 Russian Superleague season). The hat-trick also pushed Mozyakin’s goals total this season to 47, tying his own record for a single KHL campaign… including the playoffs! Just a reminder here that Metallurg still have two games left in the regular season alone, plus however far they can get in the post-season.
That might be quite a long way indeed. In focusing on Mozyakin himself (guilty as charged), we do something of a disservice to the other talented members of the Metallurg Magnitogorsk team, which after all is the KHL’s defending champion for a reason. Zaripov (55 gp, 16-28-44) and Jan Kovář (57 gp, 23-40-63), Mozyakin’s usual line-mates, are formidable attacking talents in their own right — those numbers are not entirely a result of playing alongside their captain. When the big line leaves the ice, the likes of Alexander Syomin (57 gp, 16-14-30 and better known to North Americans as Alexander Semin) and Oskar Osala (58 gp, 14-14-28) provide more than adequate secondary offense. Behind them all lurks an excellent goaltending pair in Vasily Koshechkin and young Ilya Samsonov. In short, this is an very good, very deep, team all-round.
And that brings us to defenseman Chris Lee, who, almost un-noticed amid the Mozyakin excitement (guilty as charged, again), has been notching up a record or two himself. The 36-year-old native of MacTier, Ontario, scored Metallurg’s first goal today and then assisted on all three of Mozyakin’s tallies, pushing his season line to 58 gp, 14-50-64. That means that Lee has now broken the KHL record for points by a defenseman in one season, previously set at 58 by Barys Astana’s Kevin Dallman in 2008-09. And he has absolutely smashed his own record for assists by a defenseman in one KHL campaign; the previous league-best was his 37 in 2014-15.
In fact, Lee is only the second player at any position in the KHL era, and the third in Russian hockey post-USSR, to record 50 helpers in one season. Alexander Radulov had 60 for CSKA Moscow in 2014-15, while Albert Leshchyov of Khimik Mytishchi had previously posted 52 in the Superleague in 2006-07. How impressive has Lee’s scoring output been this season? Second place on the defense scoring chart in 2016-17 currently belongs to Spartak’s Matt Gilroy, who has 38 points. Again, having Mozyakin around to pass to the puck to certainly helps, but does not tell the whole story.
So, keep your eye on Metallurg Magnitogorsk a little bit; they have weapons even beyond the little man in the number ten sweater. And if, as the standings seem to portend at the moment, we do end up with a Gagarin Cup final featuring Metallurg and SKA St. Petersburg, it may be one for the ages.
A quick blog note: the next Women’s Hockey Update will be along on Monday, after the Winter Universiade women’s tournament wraps up. Team Russia is through to the semi-final, against China tomorrow, having defeated the US 7-1 and Japan 10-1 in group play. Full write-up on how it all turns out on Monday!