In the regular championship of the KHL (Continental Hockey League) there is still a lot of time left before the finish, but the struggle not only for tickets to the playoffs but also for a more profitable “seeding” there has heated up to the limit. In a traditional weekly column, we analyze the main things that happened these days.
In the Western Conference, in addition to Jokerit (Helsinki, Finland), CSKA Moscow and Dynamo Moscow, SKA St. Petersburg, Loko Yaroslavl, and the sensationally breaking hockey players of Severstal from Cherepovets, have already guaranteed themselves participation in the fight for the Gagarin Cup. And in the East – Magnitogorsk “Metallurg”, Ufa “Salavat Yulaev”, Chelyabinsk “Tractor”, Kazan “Ak Bars”, Omsk “Avangard”, as well as – with a high degree of probability – Novosibirsk “Siberia”. Nizhny Novgorod Torpedo, Moscow Spartak, Minsk Dynamo and Sochi in the West, Yekaterinburg Avtomobilist, Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik, Barys (Astana, Kazakhstan) and clinging to their chances of the Khabarovsk “Amur” are in the East.
Hockey club “Sochi” looks especially amazing in this row. More recently, it seemed that the season for the winter Olympic capital was lost. But, as we assumed here, Andrei Nazarov’s return to active coaching prompted the “leopards” to feat: they are fighting desperately, now lagging behind the playoff zone by only three wins. One of the most modest in terms of budget clubs in the league, Nizhnekamsk “Neftekhimik”, which not only regularly scores points but also shows bright hockey, continues to amaze. But out of competition in the category “sensation of the season”, of course, Cherepovets “Severstal”. The uprising of the hockey “poor” under the leadership of Andrei Razin continues 5 victories in a row at the moment, and in total the team has already 19 games in a row (starting from October 11) gaining at least a point in the standings.
HERO: Krikunov headed Riga
The case when even the result is not in the first place. Although the Riga “Dynamo” now led by Vladimir Krikunov managed to earn a point on Wednesday – in a match with the very “Severstal”, which is currently second only to “Jokerit” in the Western Conference. Another thing is more important: the most authoritative and winning almost everywhere, where possible, the coach risked to lead the team, in which, as far as I remember, the best years of his playing career passed, already in the eighth ten! But, I remember, back in 2014, accepting God knows how many times the national team of Belarus (once it was he who took it to the semifinals of the Olympic Games – in Salt Lake 2002), Vladimir Vasilyevich said in an interview with MK: “It is quite possible that this will end my coaching career.” Yeah, no matter how it is! ..
KURIEZ: “Auto” is going slower and slower
The legendary Pavel Datsyuk, who, as they say in hockey circles, not only continues to play for his native Yekaterinburg Avtomobilist but also determines a lot there, seems to have had to admit the mistake of inviting Canadian coach Bill Peters. Or maybe the sponsors’ management intervened – I don’t know, to be honest. But in reality, it looked more and more like a curiosity: a team with a budget that allows, if not to qualify for the Gagarin Cup, then at least more or less regularly get into the final of its conference, even for a place in the playoffs cannot be calm. “Auto” will now be driven by Nikolay Zavarukhin– and it will be very interesting to see how he will succeed in the fight for a place in the eight against the much more modest Amur and Neftekhimik, which is so attractive to many neutral observers. Intrigue, eh?
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