The KHL has been on break for the last few days, as the Russian national team took on Finland, Sweden, and the Czech Republic in the third leg of the Euro Hockey Tour. Team Russia went 3-0 against her rivals, and as a result has clinched first place in this season’s EHT with one leg still to go. It was a youngish Russian team that did the work, and among the names that stood out was that of Kirill Kaprizov (above); the 19-year-old Salavat Yulaev Ufa forward. Kaprizov record a hat-trick in a 4-2 win over Sweden, and general cemented his reputation as one Russia’s up-and-comers in hockey.
For Kaprizov and his club team, this will be a an interesting week. The KHL regular season wraps up on Saturday, with a number of playoff spots yet to be determined. Read on, as we look at the races in each conference!
The field of playoff contenders has been weeded down, for good reasons or bad, since last we checked in. In the West, three teams now contest two remaining available post-season berths. To the East, meanwhile, there are still four spots up for grabs, and seven teams have at least mathematical hopes or worries (we will see shortly that, in reality, there are three places available for five contestants).
A quick reminder that the top eight teams in each conference make the playoffs. Should there be tie on points, the tie-breakers are, in order: regulation wins, overtime wins, shootout wins. I have listed each team’s record in the order of regulation wins, overtime wins, shootout wins, shootout losses, overtime losses, regulation losses. So let’s take a look!
7. Vityaz Moscow Oblast, 57 gp, 25-3-4-4-0-21, 93 pts.: Vityaz have their hands on a first-ever KHL playoff berth — can they grasp it? They will, no matter what happens elsewhere, if they win two of their last three in regulation, with all remaining games at home against far-eastern opposition. In fact, any combination of points gained by Vityaz and dropped by Jokerit that adds up to four will mean qualification for the Podolsk side. Points gained by Vityaz and dropped by Sochi that total six will also be good enough. Games: Feb. 14 vs. Kunlun Red Star, Feb. 16 vs. Amur, Feb. 18 vs. Admiral.
8. Jokerit Helsinki, 58 gp, 23-2-3-6-6-18, 91 pts.: Nervous times for the Finish side, as they could conceivably win out in regulation and still miss the playoffs. Jokerit need to get, at worst, two fewer points from their last two games than HK Sochi do from their last three to ensure qualification, or get three more than Vityaz do. It will not be automatic, but at least Jokerit will be at home for the attempt. Games: Feb. 14 vs. Neftekhimik, Feb. 16 vs. Ak Bars.
9. HK Sochi, 57 gp, 24-2-5-1-1-24, 88 pts.: Win out in regulation and the Black Sea team will qualify whatever else happens; HK Sochi need to find three more points than Jokerit do, or five more than are gained by Vityaz. But oh, that schedule… All three games are on the road, and Sochi must hope that giants SKA and CSKA are in pre-playoffs “take it easy” mode rather than fighting tooth and nail for the KHL regular season title. Games: Feb. 14 at CSKA, Feb. 16 at SKA, Feb. 18 at Severstal.
5. Barys Astana, 57 gp, 25-5-0-1-1-25, 87 pts.: The Kazakh team is more-or-less in after missing out last season; one single point gained by Barys, or dropped by either Sibir or Salavat Yulaev, will be enough, and other possibilities exist even if that doesn’t happen. They have a home game remaining against last-place Metallurg Novokuznetsk, so the omens are very good. Games: Feb. 14 vs. Sibir, Feb. 16 vs. Metallurg Novokuznetsk, Feb. 18 vs. Avangard.
6. Kunlun Red Star Beijing, 57 gp, 24-2-2-3-0-26, 83 pts.: The most basic playoff-qualifying scenario for Kunlun Red Star is: get five points from their remaining three games. Alternatively, get at worst four points fewer than Sibir do, or get one fewer than Salavat Yulaev do, or get the same number of points that Admiral do (all these assume that Neftekhimik don’t go on a massive run). So it’s looking good, and the only tricky bit is that all three of the Beijing team’s games are on the road in the West. Games: Feb. 14 at Vityaz, Feb. 16 at Lokomotiv, Feb. 18 at Dynamo Moscow.
7. Admiral Vladivostok, 57 gp, 23-2-1-7-0-24, 82 pts.: For the Far-Easterners, the magic number is six, and that’s any combination of points gained by Admiral or dropped by either Sibir or Salavat Yulaev. Catching Kunlun Red Star or (less likely) Barys would work just fine too. Like the Chinese team, though, Admiral will have to cope with three road games many time zones from their home base. Games: Feb. 13 at Lokomotiv, Feb. 16 at Dynamo Moscow, Feb. 18 at Vityaz.
8. Salavat Yulaev Ufa, 58 gp, 19-2-4-10-3-20, 82 pts.: Numbers-wise, Salavat Yulaev are in a very similar position to Jokerit (discussed above); they can win out in regulation and still miss the playoffs. The Ufans need to gain, at worst, two points fewer than Sibir do, or get one more point than Admiral do, or get two more points than Kunlun Red Star do. The difficulty increases when we consider that two of Salavat Yulaev’s top scorers, Teemu Hartikainen and Linus Omark, are out hurt, but they do have an emerging superstar in Kaprizov and will be home to finish the season. Games: Feb. 14 vs. Ak Bars, Feb. 18 vs. Lada.
9. Sibir Novosibirsk Oblast, 57 gp, 20-2-5-2-3-25, 79 pts.: Win out in regulation, and the Siberians will be in the playoffs without regard for other teams’ results. Otherwise, they can qualify by getting three more points than Salavat Yulaev do, or four more than Admiral do, or five more than are gained by Kunlun Red Star. It will be a tricky task on the road, but Sibir are a good team with a real chance at the post-season. Games: Feb. 14 at Barys, Feb. 16 at Ugra, Feb. 18 at Avtomobilist.
10. Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk, 57 gp, 20-1-7-1-0-28, 77 pts.: Neftekhimik have done well to recover after a dismal first couple of months, but the mountain remains very steep. They need to catch two teams, so that means getting two or three more points (depending on tie-breakers) than Sibir do AND five more than Salavat Yulaev do. There are also scenarios for catching Admiral (out-point them by six) and Kunlun Red Star (outpoint them by seven), but none of it will be easy as Neftekhimik travel to three of the KHL’s western outposts. Games: Feb. 14 at Jokerit, Feb. 16 at Dinamo Minsk, Feb. 18 at Dinamo Riga.
11. Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg, 57 gp, 18-1-5-3-5-25, 74 pts.: In reality, Avtomobilist’s hopes are probably only theoretical at this point. They need to win all three of their remaining games, at least two of those in regulation, and hope that a whole heap of other results turn out precisely their way. It’s highly unlikely, even if they are at home for the remainder of the regular season. Games: Feb. 14 vs. Metallurg Novokuznetsk, Feb. 16 vs. Avangard, Feb. 18 vs. Sibir.
The fun starts tomorrow, with Admiral’s visit to Yaroslavl to face Lokomotiv! You can follow results and standings here, and we’ll update the scenarios on Wednesday. Thank you for reading!