Wednesday, 22 October 2008

That Other League

I figured today would be a good day to get everyone caught up on that other league that plays across the ocean in a number of Russian and European cities. The KHL has seen a large number of media outlets and bloggers take issue with the league for the Alexei Cherepanov incident, and we still have no conclusive reasons as to why this young man passed away, but they have assured everyone that they are investigating all possible reasons for the tragedy. While this is going on, though, the hockey being played has been forgotten, so we'll take a look at what's been happening in the KHL up to this point. We'll work our way from worst to first.

23 - tie. Khimik Voskresensk: Khimik is sitting in last place right now with 14 points in 19 games played (3 wins-11 losses-0 shootout/overtime wins-5 shootout/overtime losses). Aleksandr Gorelov leads their defencemen in scoring with two goals and three assists in 17 games, while Denis Kartsev has three goals and four assists to lead the forwards in scoring. The problem looks like they need a much better defensive game. Their goaltenders have faced 542 shots in 19 games thus far, giving up an average of 29 shots-per-game. If your team can't score, you can't give up a ton of shots, and Khimik is doing that.

23 - tie. Dynamo Minsk: Dynamo Minsk has 14 points in 20 games (3-14-2-1) so far. Ben Klaymer (aka Ben Clymer) and Brayan Myuyr (aka Brian Muir) leads their defencemen in scoring with six points. Klaymer has two goals and four assists, while Myuyr has one goal and five assists. Andrey Mihalev leads the Minsk forwards in scoring with seven goals and one assist. Again, this is a team that just gives up too many shots while not taking enough shots. They have surrendered 525 shots thus far, while Endi Chiodo (aka Andy Chiodo) has tried to keep them in games. However, his 3.54 GAA and .868 save percentage indicate that this team needs some defensive help. Minsk has given up the most goals in the KHL this far with 72 GA. Offensively, they've been shutout six times in 20 games, so they could use some offensive help as well as they've only managed 36 goals total.

21 - tie. Vityaz Chekhov: Vityaz current sports a 2-9-2-6 record for 16 points in 19 games. Derrik Volzer leads their defencemen in scoring with three goals and four assists, while Aren Spaylo leads the forwards with ten goals and five assists. The problem with this team? Penalties. Vityaz currently has the most PIMs of any team in the KHL with 663, leading the next closest team by 229 PIMs. Goaltending hasn't been all that bad as Alexey Volkov has a 2.76 GAA with one shutout, but penalties will kill you. And it seems evident.

21 - tie. Amur Khabarovsk: Amur has a record of 4-13-1-2 for 16 points in 20 games. Alexandr Aksenenko and Vasiliy Turkovsky lead the way on the blueline for Amur with five points. Aksenenko has one goal and four assists, while Turkovsky has five assists. Oleg Belkin leads the way up front, recording five goals and seven assists. The goaltending is led by Tyler Moss, whose 2.65 GAA, .913 save percentage, and two shutouts suggest that this team should be better than what their record shows. The problem? 35 guys on the roster with numbers, and only 13 of them have scored goals. This team is offensively anemic, especially when you consider they've been shutout six times in 20 games.

20. HC MVD: HC MVD currently sits with a 4-11-3-1 record, good for 19 points in 19 games. Maksim Solovyev and Maksim Velikov are tied with seven points on the blueline. Solovyev has three goals and four assists, while Velikov has one goal and six assists. Up front, Alexey Tsvetkov leads with one goal and 13 assists. Mikhail Biryukov has steadied a team that was up and down earlier in the season by posting a 5-5 record with a 2.87 GAA and an .885 save percentage. MVD doesn't has the firepower that some of the top teams in the KHL do, but they should be a middle-of-the-pack team if they can continue to play to their full potential against some of the other mid-level teams.

19. Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod: Torpedo has a 6-12-0-2 record for 20 points in 20 games. Peter Podhardsky leads their defencemen with two goals and eight assists, while Mikhail Varnakov and Yegor Shastin share the lead for forwards with 13 points. Varnakov has eight goals and five assists, while Shastin has seven goals and six assists. The problem with Torpedo is that they appear to be a one-line team. Varnakov, Shastin, and Pavel Brendl have a combined 26 goals thus far. The other 22 guys have a total of 20 goals combined. Mika Noronen has played in 13 games, but his 2-8 record is nothing to be proud of. This team needs secondary scoring badly.

17 - tie. HC Sibir Novosibirsk: Sibir has a record of 5-8-3-3 for 24 points in 19 games. Defenceman Dmitriy Yushkevich is way out in front of the other defencemen on this team, having scored four goals and seven assists. Yevgeniy Lapin leads the forwards in scoring with nine goals and six assists. Tom Lawson has a goaltending record of 6-7, and has posted some excellent numbers with a 2.28 GAA, a .906 save percentage, and two shutouts. The problem? One line does the majority of scoring. Again, without secondary scoring, some of these mid-level teams will suffer against the powerhouses.

17 - tie. HC Lada Togliatti: Lada currently sports a record of 6-9-2-2 for 24 points in 19 games. Dmitriy Vorobyev leads the blueliners with three goals and seven assists. Konstantin Panov and Yevgeniy Ketov leads the forwards with 13 points each. Panov has eight goals and five assists, while Ketov has six goals and seven assists. Goaltending has been a toss-up between Mike Fountain and Vasiliy Koshechkin. Both have played ten games. Fountain has a 3-6 record with a 2.14 GAA and a .920 save percentage, while Koshechkin has a 4-5 record with a 2.24 GAA, .905 save percentage, and one shutout. Lada has scored 45 goals-for while only giving up 50 goals-against, so it appears that they win big, but lose a lot of close games. If Lada can turn this around, they could make up some ground in the KHL standings.

16. Metallurg Novokuznetsk: Metallurg NK is one of three teams that has played 21 games, and they've recorded 26 points on a record of 6-10-3-2. Marat Davydov leads their defencemen in scoring with three goals and five assists. Valeriy Klebnikov and Dmitiry Dudarev both have 13 points to lead the forwards. Klebnikov has four goals and nine assists, while Dudarev has three goals and ten assists. Metallurg NK is a balanced team with two solid scoring lines, and they've scored 57 goals thus far. Defensively, they look solid and get points from their defencemen while only giving 57 goals-against. Maksim Sokolov has a 5-6 record between the pipes with a respectable 2.58 GAA, .920 save percentage, and one shutout. If this team can put together a four- or five-game winning streak, they would find themselves in the upper echelon of the KHL standings.

13 - tie. SKA Saint Petersburg: SKA has a record of 7-8-4-0 for 29 points in 19 games. They are led from the blueline by Mark Popovik with four goals and three assists. Up front, they are led by Maksim Sushinsky with eight goals and ten assists. This is a team built on one solid scoring line, and a ton of team defence. Sushinsky, Nils Ekman, and Sergey Brylin have combined for 17 goals thus far, or about 39% of the goals scored by this team. They legitimately have an NHL defensive unit with Popovik, Raymond Giroux, Sergey Gusev, Kirill Safronov, Andrey Zyuzin, and Daryus Kasparaitis anchoring the blueline. Because of that, goaltender Robert Esh has a 7-6 record with a sparkling 1.84 GAA, .907 save percentage, and three shutouts. Backup goaltender Dmitriy Yacahnov is 4-2 with a 1.45 GAA, a .902 save percentage, and two shutouts. If SKA could get their secondary scoring going, this team could make a serious run in the standings.

13 - tie. Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk: Neftekhimik is sitting with a record of 8-6-0-5 for 29 points in 19 games. Denis Sokolov has one goal and four assists to lead their defencemen, while one line leads the forwards in scoring. Andrey Ivanov has seven goals and three assists, Yevgeniy Lapenkov has five goals and five assists, and Dmitriy Makarov has three goals and seven assists. Neftekhimik plays in a lot of one-goal games, and they need to start winning some of them. Those five shootout/overtime losses are the difference between 13th spot in the standings and 5th spot in the standings.

13 - tie. Traktor Chelyabinsk: Traktor has only played 17 games thus far, and have a record of 8-5-1-3 for 29 points. Oleg Piganovich is way out in front of his defensive teammates with two goals and eight assists. Former NHLer Andrey Nikolishin leads the forwards with four goals and nine assists. This is a team that just takes too many penalties. They have 403 PIMs on the season so far, and four players have more than 30 PIMs on the season. With a team as talented as Traktor is, they could be much further up the standings with a little discipline. They have decent secondary scoring, but they need to tighten up defensively in front of goaltender Danila Alistratov to lower his 3.04 GAA. This is a team that is ranked third on the powerplay in the KHL, so they need to work on staying out of the sin bin rather than being in it.

12. Severstal Cherepovets: Severstal currently has 31 points in 19 games on a record of 8-7-3-1. Dzhoel Kvyatkovski (aka Joel Kwiatkowski) leads Severstal's defencemen in scoring with seven goals and two assists. Josef Straka leads their forwards in scoring with six goals and nine assists. Severstal has solid scoring as every player but one has recorded a point this season. They do need to tighten up their defence, though, as they have given up more goals than they've scored. Goaltender Rastislav Stana has a 7-2 record, but that doesn't reflect his 2.91 GAA or .894 save percentage. Those certainly aren't bad stats by any means, but lowering them will result in Severstal moving up in the standings quickly.

10 - tie. Barys Astana: Barys currently has a record of 7-8-5-1 for 32 points in 21 games. Along with Metallurg NK and Spartak, they have played the most games thus far, so there could be a few teams that move past Barys this week. Kevin Dallman is the Mike Green of the KHL, having scored 12 goals and five assists thus far. Konstantin Glazachev leads the Barys forwards in scoring with nine goals and ten assists. The problem is that everything on this team seems to go through Kevin Dallman. He leads the team in shots, game-winning goals, powerplay goals, and goals. When your top defenceman is more effective than your first-line forwards, there's a problem. Barys needs some additional scoring in order to keep them in the top half of the standings.

10 - tie. Dinamo Riga: Riga has a record of 9-6-1-3 for 32 points in 19 games. Filipp Novak and Dyui Vestcott (aka Duvie Westcott) lead their defencemen with eight points. Novak has two goals and six assists, while Vestcott has one goal and seven assists. Martsel Hossa (aka Marcel Hossa) leads the forwards in scoring with 12 goals and seven assists. Riga really needs Hossa on the ice more often than he is. Hossa leads the team in PIMs with 49, effectively handicapping his offensive totals. He does have five powerplay goals, but he needs to stay out of the box to be effective. Sergey Naumov has played in 11 games, and his 3.37 GAA isn't helping Riga move up in the standings. The goaltending and defensive play needs to improve for Riga to be a contender.

6 - tie. HC Spartak Moscow: Spartak has a record of 8-8-4-1 for 33 points in 21 games. Denis Baev leads Spartak's blueline in scoring with three goals and four assists. Branko Radivoevich leads the forwards in scoring with nine goals and 13 assists. Spartak could be much higher in the standings with some improved defensive play. Goaltender Martin Prusek has a 9-7 record, but his 3.06 GAA and .871 save percentage are hardly anything to write home about. If this team can improve defensively before the playoffs hit, they could be a sleeper pick to win it all. They have solid scoring with seven players in double-digits for points, so offence isn't a huge problem. It's keeping the puck out of their net that needs some improvement.

6 - tie. HC Dynamo Moscow: Moscow has put together an 8-5-4-1 record for 33 points in 18 games thus far. Karel Rahunek leads their defencemen in scoring with one goal and six assists. Maksim Pestushko leads Moscow's forwards with nine goals and three assists. Moscow is all about defence. They've scored 51 goals while only giving up 39 goals. However, they do need some additional scoring to keep their lofty position in the standings. They only have four players in double-digit scoring - a credit to their balanced attack - but they are the Minnesota Wild of the KHL. Defence comes first in every situation.

6 - tie. HC CSKA Moscow: CSKA has 33 points in 17 games thanks to a 9-4-2-2 record. Denis Kulyash has three goals and three assists to lead the blueliners. Sergey Shirokov leads the forwards with seven goals and nine assists. CSKA went through a tragedy earlier this season when Jussi Markkanen's son fell to his death from Markkanen's apartment. Markkanen only played in four games, going 3-1 with a 1.25 GAA, a .926 save percentage, and one shutout. Despite missing Markkanen, CSKA has weathered the storm and shown some resiliency. Getting Markkanen back before the end of the season could prove to be the move that makes CSKA a favorite in the KHL.

6 - tie. Avangard Omsk Oblast: Avangard got off to a horrible start, but have since put together a 10-7-1-1 record for 33 points in 19 games. Alexey Bondarev leads their defencemen in scoring with five goals and five assists. Yaromir Yagr leads the team in scoring with 12 goals and 14 assists. Of course, there's no denying that Avangard is a team in turmoil after Alexey Cherepanov's tragic death. Whether or not they can pull together will determine Avangard's final standing. However, they are getting good goaltending from Dzhon Grem (aka John Grahame) who is 7-4 this season with a 2.34 GAA, a .905 save percentage, and two shutouts. They have solid, balanced scoring, and look to be a favorite for the championship. But, again, their reaction to Cherepanov's death will be a telling factor.

5. Metallurg Magnitogorsk: Magnitogorsk has a record of 9-6-3-1 for 34 points in 19 games. Vitaliy Atyushov leads the blueliners with three goals and ten assists. Jan Marek is tearing up the league with 18 goals and 11 assists. Andrey Mezin and Ilya Proskuryakov have split the goaltending duties, and both have respectable statistics. Where Magnitogorsk needs to improve is in their overall scoring and team defence. Marek has scored one-third of Magnitogorsk's goals this season, and that reliance on his scoring can't happen if Magnitogorsk wants to go far in the playoffs. Defensively, Magnitogorsk has given up the most goals of the five top teams, and they need to tighten up their defensive system in order for them to improve on their current standing. Magnitogorsk looks solid, but they need to improve their secondary scoring and defensive responsibility.

4. Lokomotiv Yaroslavl: Lokomotiv has posted a record of 11-5-0-2 record for 35 points in 18 games. Alexandr Guskov leads the defencemen in scoring with five goals and five assists. Konstantin Rudenko leads the forwards with four goals and ten assists. Lokomotiv has a balanced scoring attack, and play solid defensive hockey. Their 26 goals-against is second in the KHL to only Salavat Yulaev Ufa, and their goaltending is solid. Georgiy Gelashvili is 10-6 with a 1.81 GAA, a .933 save percentage, and two shutouts. Lokomotiv could benefit by hitting the scoresheet more often as only four players are in double-digits for points, including Alexey Yashin who has four goals and six assists. However, their defence-first ideology seems to be working, so I can't really recommend any changes for this team. I'm thoroughly surprised that someone has Yashin playing defence-first hockey, and keeping him happy while doing it. That's an accomplishment in itself.

3. Ak Bars Kazan: Kazan has jumped out to an 11-3-2-2 record for 39 points in 18 games. Ilya Nikulin leads Kazan's defencemen with three goals and ten assists. Alexey Morozov is leading the forwards with nine goals and 13 assists. Kazan has played solid hockey thus far, getting contributions on the scoresheet from every line. Stanislav Galimov is 6-0 in seven games this season with a 2.00 GAA, a .919 save percentage, and two shutouts. Ueyd Dubelevich (aka Wade Dubielewicz) has provided solid backup goaltending for Kazan, posting a 7-4 record with a 2.80 GAA and a .888 save percentage. Kazan's overtime record is 1-2 thus far, and could prove to be crucial when points matter late in the season.

2. Salavat Yulaev Ufa: Ufa has a record of 13-3-2-1 for 44 points in 19 games. Kirill Koltsov leads the Ufa defenders in points with three goals and eight assists. Alexey Teryeschenko leads the forwards with five goals and 13 assists. Along with Alexandr Perezhogin and Aleksandr Radulov, Ufa's top line is one of the best in the KHL. Radulov, however, needs to start playing with some discipline as he leads the team with 42 PIMs. Ufa's balanced attack is complimented by their solid team defence. They have only surrendered 32 goals this season. Alexandr Yeremenko is 10-2 on the season with a 1.59 GAA and a .941 save percentage, while backup goalie Vadim Tarasov has a 4-3 record with a 1.67 GAA, a .924 save percentage, and one shutout. Ufa appears to be a very solid team, and should be considered a favorite for the KHL championship.

1. Atlant Mytishchi: Surprisingly, Atlant is the top team in the KHL thus far, sporing a record of 14-1-2-2 for 48 points in 19 games. Magnus Johansson is tied for the lead in defenceman scoring with Kevin Dallman, having recorded four goals and 13 assists. Sergey Mozyakin leads the forwards with nine goals and 17 assists. This is a team with balanced scoring and solid defensive play. They have nine players in double-digits for points, and only have one player in the minuses for plus/minus. Raymond Emeri has a 6-3 record with a 2.38 GAA and a .926 save percentage. However, Atlant's other goaltender is the best in the KHL right now. Vitaliy Kolesnik is 7-0 with a 1.19 GAA, a .955 save percentage, and three shutouts. In 12 appearances, Kolesnik has only surrendered nine goals. Atlant has no glaring holes whatsoever. They lead the KHL in powerplay percentage at 22.9%, have no shorthanded goals-against, and rank eighth in penalty killing percentage at 86.0%. They have the most even-strength goals with 50, and rank first in the KHL with 4.0 goals-per-game. Atlant has to be the favorite to win it all in the KHL due to the solid team game they play.

So there you have it. The KHL season is rolling, and there are a number of stories already being written. Again, my condolences and thoughts go out to Alexey Cherepanov's family, friends, and teammates for their loss. It would be an amazing story if Avangard could win the KHL championship in memory of this upstanding young man.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

kingspin said...

Kevin Dallman got a really raw deal from Crawford (and the Kings) --- he's actually a pretty good undersized offensive defenseman, who is at least WILLING to use his body when the situation calls for it.