The Big Day
Thursday will be a monster day in the KHL; it’s the last day of the 2017-18 regular season, with 13 games on tap, and much yet to be determined. Seven of the eight first-round playoff match-ups are yet to be figured out, and there are four playoff spots up for grabs as well, with six teams involved in the hunt. When we checked in on Tuesday, there were six open post-season places (and eight teams involved); read on as we look into the situation as it now stands.
A reminder (guiltlessly copied and pasted from Tuesday’s post): the league awards points based on the 3-2-1-0 system (three points for a win in regulation time, two for an overtime or shootout victory, one for an overtime or shootout loss, and nothing for a defeat in regulation. The top eight in each conference make the playoffs. Each conference is also divided into two divisions, and the division winners are seeded first and second in the conference regardless of their total points. You can see the full standings at the league’s website here!
Tuesday’s results settled little in the West, because there was little left to settle for most teams. However, the top five spots in the Conference are now secured, and that means that we know one of the first-round playoff series: Lokomotiv Yaroslavl will face Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod, with Lokomotiv holding the home-ice advantage. And there are still two playoff spots up for grabs, with three teams contesting for them!
- 1. SKA St. Petersburg
- 2. CSKA Moscow
- 3. Jokerit Helsinki
- 4. Lokomotiv Yaroslavl
- 5. Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod
- 6. HK Sochi
7. Spartak Moscow (82 points, at home versus Dynamo Moscow): Spartak could have clinched on Tuesday, but went down to a disappointing 2-0 defeat to Lokomotiv. That means that tomorrow’s barn-burner against age-old Dynamo will tell all. Spartak need only a single point from it for the their first post-season berth since 2010-11. If, however, Dynamo win that game in regulation, then Spartak need Severstal to lose in regulation versus SKA. If HK Sochi lose on the road to Lada, Spartak could sneak into sixth place and avoid SKA and CSKA in the first round.
8. Severstal Cherepovets (82 points, away versus SKA): Severstal overcame the first part of their massively difficult season-ending schedule, beating CSKA 4-1 in Moscow on Tuesday. CSKA fêted their Olympians before that game, but only defenceman Alexei Marchenko, who barely played in South Korea, saw action against Severstal, and the Cherepovets side will be hoping that SKA are similarly generous with their own Olympic heroes tomorrow. In any case, Severstal now need only a point in St. Petersburg, or, failing that, for Spartak to beat Dynamo (either in regulation or in extras), to earn a first playoff berth since 2012-13 and possibly save their KHL future. And like Spartak, Severstal could rise to sixth if results go their way.
9. Dynamo Moscow (80 points, away versus Spartak): Dynamo, bringing up the rear of the “playoff-eligible” group in the West, nonetheless have their chances, but everything hinges on tomorrow’s game against Spartak. Win in regulation, and Dynamo are in. Win in overtime or the shootout, and Dynamo will need Severstal to lose in regulation to SKA. And If Dynamo lose against Spartak, either in regulation or via overtime or the shootout, they will be eliminated and become the first team to have both won the Gagarin Cup and missed the playoffs in the KHL era.
Eliminated from Playoffs:
- 10. Dinamo Minsk
- 11. Vityaz Moscow Oblast
- 12. Slovan Bratislava
- 13. Dinamo Riga
A great deal got resolved in the East on Tuesday: Salavat Yulaev Ufa not only clinched a playoff spot via a 3-1 win over HK Sochi, but also secured first place in the Chernyshyov Division and thus the the second seed in the Conference. Metallurg Magnitogorsk, meanwhile, beat Ugra Khanty-Mansiysk 4-0 to secure their own post-season berth, while Ak Bars Kazan locked up the top spot in the East Conference thanks to a 5-2 win over Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod. But there are still two playoff places up for grabs, and, as in the West, three teams to fight for them.
- 1. Ak Bars Kazan
- 2. Salavat Yulaev Ufa
- 3. Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk
- 4. Traktor Chelyabinsk
- 5. Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg
- 6. Metallurg Magnitogorsk
7. Sibir Novosibirsk (87 points, home versus Traktor): Sibir did what they needed to, just about, winning Tuesday’s massively important game against Avangard 2-1 in a shootout. They now face a tricky task on Thursday, at home to a Traktor team that is still eyeing third place in the East. However, the Novosibirsk side needs only a single point from the game for the playoff berth they missed out on in 2016-17. Failing that, Sibir may still be ok; they will qualify either if Avangard fail to beat Barys in regulation, or if Amur lose in regulation to Admiral.
8. Amur Khabarovsk (87 points, away versus Admiral): One down, one to go; Amur took the first game of their season-ending home-and-away pair against arch-rivals Admiral on Tuesday by 5-3, although they made heavy work of it by blowing a 3-1 lead before recovering. Amur will now make the playoffs for the first time since 2011-12 if they beat Admiral again tomorrow (either in regulation or in extra time). Amur will also qualify if they get one point against Admiral and Sibir get none against Traktor, or, whatever happens, if Avangard fail to beat Barys in regulation.
9. Avangard Omsk (85 points, away versus Barys): Avangard may well rue that shootout loss to Sibir on Tuesday, even though the Omsk team did get a point out of it. Simply put, Avangard must beat Barys in regulation to have any chance, although they may be helped by the fact that Barys are eliminated from the playoffs and have nothing left to play for in terms of the standings. But even if Avangard do take all three points tomorrow, they will still need either Amur to lose to Admiral (in any way), or Sibir to lose to Traktor in regulation.
Eliminated from Playoffs:
- 10. Barys Astana
- 11. Admiral Vladivostok
- 12. Kunlun Red Star Beijing
- 13. Ugra Khanty-Mansiysk
- 14. Lada Tolyatti
So it will be a big day tomorrow! There will be a quick post here when all is said and done to recap the results and list the first-round playoff pairings, with more detailed pairings to follow. Thank you for reading!