Sunday, 11 January 2009

KHL All-Star Results

I was up early enough yesterday to catch part of the KHL All-Star Game online before I began my day of cleaning and discarding. Overall, the game looked fairly good despite the temperature hovering around -20C in Moscow. It was interesting to see a "warming room" setup behind the benches where a player could escape to off the benches if he was cold. During the game, there were some great goals, and it was good to see some of the former NHL players putting on a show for the fans in the Red Square.

During the team press conferences, Jaromir Jagr and Alexei Yashin were interviewed. I found it rather interesting that Jagr attended the press conference wearing his Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup ring, and didn't hide it whatsoever when being photographed. Is this a sign to Mario Lemieux that, perhaps, Jagr is interested in returning to the Steel City to close-out his career?

I'm not writing for GQ magazine a la some former NHL player, but Vladislav Tretiak looks very stylish in his black-on-black look. Does the man ever age? I met him about ten years ago, and he still looks similar to how he looked then - very little graying hair, and still very alive and vibrant in his eyes. And while you can't see it in that picture, Tretiak's hands are enormous. He literally crushed my hand when I shook his.

Alexei Yashin's play in the NHL still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I don't think I'll ever warm up to the man as a hockey player, especially after his time on Long Island. I still have no idea how he hooked up with Carol Alt or what she sees in him. If he's as aloof and invisible at home as he is on the ice, she's probably the greatest supermodel-handywoman in the history of the known world.

Legendary player Igor Larionov was on-hand for the festivities. "The Professor" looks like he's proud of the work being done in Russia, and he deserves a lot of credit for rebuilding the hockey program within the Motherland. Despite a lot of people complaining about his entry into the Hockey Hall of Fame, this is a man who is still giving a large amount of his time to hockey. While he wasn't been awarded with any trophy for his contributions, his hoisting of the KHL Championship Cup is proof that he still loves the game. It's good to see the KHL honouring the men who were instrumental in taking Russian hockey to new heights.

As for the game itself, I was a little disappointed that there weren't very many people at the game. There were a number of rows near the top of the bleachers that had large areas of room. While playing in -20C temperatures isn't the best, sitting outdoors in that temperature is worse due to the fact that the fans aren't moving around. The KHL needs to revisit this option if they are planning to play another outdoor game in the future. However, the backdrop of the legendary Red Square is still a very impressive image.

However, once the game started, the action was up-tempo, and the players did a good job displaying their talents. Team Jagr went up 1-0 at the 7:36 mark of the first period when Team Jagr assistant captain Marcel Hossa converted a pass from Jakub Klepis, beating goaltender Alexander Eremenko. Jagr drew a second assist on the play. Team Yashin pulled even at the 11:03 mark when Sergei Mozyakin beat Team Jagr goaltender Robert Esche, with assists going to Maxim Sushinsky and Vitaly Proshkin. However, 30 seconds later saw Team Jagr strike again as defenceman Ben Clymer scored. Klepis and Jagr picked up their second assists of the game on the goal. Team Jagr went up by two goals before the end of the first period when Jaroslav Kudrna scored on Eremenko at the 14:28 mark. Esa Pirnes and Jan Marek drew assists on the play. At the end of the first period of play in the Red Square, Team Jagr lead 3-1 over Team Yashin.

In a somewhat surprising move, Robert Esche found himself on the bench to start the second period as Team Jagr went to Ray Emery to tend the goal. Team Yashin's Denis Kulyash welcomed Emery to the game by scoring at the 8:25 mark of the second period on a pass from team captain Alexei Yashin. Seconds later, at the 9:00 mark of the second period, Team Yashin made their goalie change as Emerenko went to the bench in favour of Konstantin Barulin. Just as Team Yashin welcomed Emery, Team Jagr welcomed Barulin to the game by scoring. Marcel Hossa scored his second goal of the game on a powerplay at the 15:15 mark on a pass from Esa Pirnes, who recorded his second assist of the game. Sergei Mozyakin scored his second goal of the game on an unassisted effort to pull Team Yashin within one goal at 4-3. Oleg Saprykin evened the game just before the final horn of the second period when he scored on an unassisted effort at the 19:58 mark of the second period. As both teams headed for the dressing rooms, Team Jagr and Team Yashin were tied 4-4 with one period to play.

Oleg Saprykin converted a feed from Alexander Radulov at 8:05 of the third period to give Team Yashin their first lead of the game at 5-4. Team Jagr's Jan Marek tied the game on a penalty shot goal at the 12:10 mark. That was followed by another penalty shot goal as Team Yashin's Alexander Radulov picked up his second point of the period by beating Ray Emery at 16:31. Team Jagr's Pavel Brendl tied the game with his unassisted effort at 17:13, setting up the possibility of overtime in the first KHL All-Star Game. However, that was not to be as Team Jagr's Marcel Hossa struck for his hat-trick goal with less than a minute less, beating Barulin at the 19:01 mark of the third period. Team Jagr managed to hang on for the last 59 seconds, and won the first KHL All-Star Game by a 7-6 final score.

Overall, a fairly entertaining game despite the cold, and both teams did a good job in weathering the temperatures. The KHL will resume on Monday, and if you're interested in how the teams have been faring this season, I encourage you to check out my commentary on the standings here. In somewhat surprising, and related, news from the IIHF Champions League today, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, who currently sit fifth overall in the KHL, knocked off Salavat Yulaev Ufa, who sit first overall in the KHL, in the semi-final to advance to the two-game Champions League Final.

The KHL's second half should be very interesting!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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