Thursday 8 January 2009

KHL Standings - Updated

With the NHL in the "dog days" of winter - games that are played out simply to move the schedule along - before the NHL All-Star Game takes place, there's "that other league" playing across the ocean that will be playing their All-Star Game in two days. Yes, it's true that no one in North America is paying attention to the KHL All-Star Game, which is good news for the NHL, but there are a number of reasons to glance over to Russia as teams prepare for the playoffs there. First and foremost, teams in the NHL may want to start scouting the ranks of the KHL for the next star. Secondly, there are a lot of former NHL players making an impact on each team, and they should be looked at for teams that need help. And that's where I come in. This is the update to the original look at the KHL standings that I did on October 22, 2008. We'll work backwards again this time, and I'll add the standings from last time in parentheses after the team name. I'll also highlight some of the notable names on each team.

24. Khimik Voskresensk (23rd): Khimik hasn't done much to improve on their last-place standing in the KHL. They went from 3-11-0-5 in 19 games to 6-29-1-9 in 41 games for 29 points. Yeah, ouch. They are last in goals-for with 75 in 41 games, and 20th overall in goals-against at 130. Their powerplay is ranked 23rd overall at 8.8%, and their penalty-killing is sitting at a brutal 82.2%, good for 22nd overall. Is there any question as to why they are last-place overall in the KHL? This is a team with absolutely no offensive output, nor can they stop the puck from going in their net. Forward Viktor Gordiyuk leads the team with 20 points (8-12), and forward Sergei Luchinkin leads the team with 10 goals.

23. Vityaz Chekhov (21st): Vityaz is stuck in a holding pattern at the bottom of the standings. After posting a 2-9-2-6 record in 19 games, Vityaz is sitting with a 5-22-4-11 record after 42 games for 34 points. You read that correctly in that Vityaz went 3-13-2-5 in the last 23 games. Forward Gleb Klimenko leads the team in goals (19) and points (28). Brayan Berard (Bryan Berard) has played 13 games, recording three goals and eight assists. Kris Saymon (Chris Simon) is tearing up the league with four goals, 14 assists, and 195 PIMs. However, can someone explain to me why Derrik Volzer is still playing? He's -25 in 41 games - horrendous for a defenceman. Nathan Perrott only played one game for Vityaz, but put up an impressive 27 PIMs in that time. He spent half of his one game in the penalty box. Wow.

22. Dynamo Minsk (23rd): Minsk put up a record of 3-14-2-1 in 20 games early in the season, and has turned that into a 9-26-2-5 record in 42 games for 36 points. Endi Chiodo (Andy Chiodo) has been brutal in net, posting a 6-10-3 record with a 3.44 GAA. If Chiodo wants to make his way back to the NHL, he has to be better than that. Forward Yaroslav Chupris leads the team with 21 points (8-13), and forward Andrey Mihalev leads the team in goals with 11. For a team with four former NHL defencemen - Ben Klaymer (Ben Clymer), Rihard Lintner (Richard Lintner), Brayan Myuyr (Bryan Muir), and Igor Ulanov - you'd expect this team to be better defensively. Except they aren't. Which is why they are near the bottom of the standings.

21. Metallurg Novokuznetsk (16th): Here's a team that has fallen from their strong start. Metallurg NK started off with a 6-10-3-2 record, but is now 8-22-4-7 in 41 games for 39 points. There are three players tied for the lead in points with 22 - Yegor Mikhaylov (9-13), Valeriy Klebnikov (7-15), and Rihard Kapush (6-16). Miloslav Horava leads the team with 13 goals. Despite Metallurg NK's strong start, their lack of big-name players to carry the scoring seems to be their Achilles' heel. Their goaltending tandem of Maksim Sokolov and Sergey Bobrovsky have a combined GAA of 2.69, so stopping the puck isn't a problem. However, scoring goals appears to be very difficult.

20. Amur Khabarovsk (21st): Amur started the season with a record of 4-13-1-2, and have pushed that record to 11-20-4-5 in 40 games for 46 points. The problem with Amur? Putting the biscuit in the basket. This team simply does not score. Forward Oleg Belkin leads the team with 18 points (9-9), and forward Peter Nyulander leads the team with 11 goals. Belkin's 18 points are the lowest of all the team leaders. Former NHLer Nolan Prett (Nolan Pratt) has only appeared in 20 games, but has six assists to show for his efforts. Goaltender Tyler Moss has respectable numbers in his 27 games: 8-13-3 with a 2.77 GAA and four shutouts.

19. HC Sibir Novosibirsk (17th): Sibir started the season with a 5-8-3-3 record, and has improved that mark to 11-21-5-5 in 42 games for 48 points. Forward Yevgeniy Lapin leads the team in goals (17) and points (31). Dmitriy Yushkevich leads the defencemen in scoring and playing time, and the 38 year-old has appeared in every game. Sibir is 16th in goals-for and 17th in goals-against, putting them in the bottom-half of the standings statistically. However, beyond the first line, there really isn't much to speak of in terms of scoring.

17 - tie. HC Lada Togliatti (17th): Lada was tied for 17th overall with Sibir after the first 20 games, and it appears there has been no change. Lada started the season 6-9-2-2, and is now 13-19-5-5 in 42 games for 54 points. Forward Yevgeniy Ketov leads the team in goals (14) and points (23). Much like Amur and Sibir, this team simply needs more finishers. Their lack of scoring has hurt them, especially when getting superb goaltending from Vasiliy Koshechkin and Mike Fountain. Ketov is the only player in double-digits with goals.

17 - tie. Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod (19th): Torpedo opened the season going 6-12-0-2, and has since improved to 15-20-3-3 over 41 games for 54 points. KHL All-Star Pavel Brendl leads the team in goals (27) and points (34). Brendl has been a star with Torpedo thus far, making his teammates around him better while scoring on just over 25% of his shots. Former Canuck Artyem Chubarov (Artem Chubarov) has 15 points (3-12) in 28 games thus far this season, and has provided some solid secondary scoring. While the team's GAA is respectable, almost everyone on the team has a minus rating, proving that Torpedo needs to focus more on defence before the end of the season if they hope to move up in the standings.

15 - tie. HC MVD (20th): HC MVD began the season with a little trouble, going 4-11-3-1. However, they have improved to 16-20-4-1 in 41 games since then, good for 57 points. Forward Alexey Tsvetkov leads the team in scoring with 30 points (4-26). Forward Oleg Antonenko leads the way in goal-scoring with 18 lamps lit. Former NHL defenceman Dzheff Dzhillson (Jeff Jillson) has appeared in 12 games thus far, scoring three points (1-2). However, his -8 rating doesn't bode well for a return to the NHL. After Tsevtkov and Antonenko, the scoring falls way off - a common theme with the teams in the bottom-half of the standings. HC MVD plays steady, but unspectacular, hockey and will need to work hard to maintain their standing throughout the rest of the season.

15 - tie. Dinamo Riga (10th): Riga started off the season with a strong 9-6-1-3 record, but has fallen off to a 17-19-1-4 record in 41 games since, good for 57 points. Forward Martsel Hossa (Marcel Hossa) leads the team in goals (16) and points (29). In 19 games, Hossa had 12 goals and 19 points, showing that the last 22 games have been much tougher for Riga when it comes to scoring. Hossa was thought to be an early MVP selection, but that hasn't developed for the Swede after his scoring pace fell off. He will be playing for Jagr's team at the KHL All-Star team, however. Aside from Hossa's line, there isn't a lot of scoring coming from anyone else, and that's a big reason why Riga has slid down the standings. However, goaltender Martin Prusek has been spectacular since coming over from HC Spartak Moscow. In 14 games, Prusek has put up a 7-5-1 record with a 1.68 GAA, a .942 save percentage, and five shutouts.

14. Barys Astana (10th): Barys had played the most games in the first quarter of the season when I first previewed the standings. They had posted a record of 7-8-5-1, and have since gone 15-19-6-1 in 41 games for 58 points. If there is one problem with Barys right now, it's defence and goaltending. No goaltender has a GAA of less than 3.00, and none have a save percentage better than 90%. This team can score, however, as both Konstantin Glazachev and Maksim Spiridonov lead the forwards with 37 points, and Glazachev has the team goal-scoring lead with 21. However, the man leading the way? Former Los Angeles Kings defenceman and KHL All-Star Kevin Dallmen (Kevin Dallman), who has recorded 42 points this season on 20 goals and 22 assists. He is literally the Bobby Orr of the KHL this season. And this is a guy who the Kings jettisoned as soon as the free agent period began. Oops!

13. Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (13th): Neftekhimik started the season with a 8-6-0-5 record, and has consistently added to their totals by going 16-19-2-7 in 44 games for 59 points. Neftekhimik has played the most games, so their 13th overall ranking might be misleading. This is another team that suffers from "goal drought". For a team on the precipice of being in the Top-12, they have only scored 99 goals-for. Forward Konstantin Makarov leads the team in scoring with 21 points (11-10) while forward Andrey Ivanov leads in goals with 12. Neftekhimik only has three players in double-digits with goals, and their lack of scoring will hurt them down the stretch. However, superb goaltending from Ivan Kasutin (2.46 GAA) and Sergey Khoroshun (1.97 GAA) will keep this team's head above water.

12. Severstal Cherepovets (12th): Severstal jumped out to a 8-7-3-1 record, and have built that into a 14-16-8-4 record in 42 games for 62 points. Forward Josef Straka leads the team with 24 points (11-13), while forward Yuriy Trubachev leads the team in goals with 12. In the running theme of the KHL, this team is suffering from goal malnutrition. They have three players in double-digits for goals, and one is defenceman Dzhoel Kvyatkovski (Joel Kwiatkowski). That can't be good for the 12th overall team. Goaltender Rastislav Stana has been good, posting a record of 15-8-6 in 30 games with a 2.47 GAA and a .902 save percentage. Stana finished third in voting for the KHL All-Star Jagr team, but will not be participating as he did not finish in the top two.

11. HC Dynamo Moscow (6th): Moscow kicked off the season with a 8-5-4-1 record, and has improved their record to 16-12-5-5 in 38 games for 63 points. Moscow has played the least amount of games, so they could jump up in the standings once they even out their games-played. The reigning Spengler Cup Champions are lead in scoring by former NHLer Petr Chayanek (Petr Cajanek) and Alexey Kalyuzhny, who both have 23 points. Chayanek has nine goals and 14 assists, while Kalyuzhny has eight goals and 15 assists. Goal-scoring is lead by Maksim Pestushko who has 14. This is a very balanced team as they have 13 players in double-digits for points. Goaltending is solid as both Vitaliy Yeremeyev and Andrey Malkov have GAAs of less than 2.60. This team could go deep in the KHL playoffs if they continue with their balanced attack.

10. Avangard Omsk Oblast (6th): Avangard started off the season with a 10-7-1-1 record, but has since gone 16-17-7-2 in 42 games for 64 points. I'm not sure if this team will ever recover from the loss of Alexey Cherepanov, and they haven't played as well since that fateful day. Yaromir Yagr (Jaromir Jagr) leads in goals (21) and points (44). There is some solid scoring on this team, and they have two good offensive lines. Avangard does need a better goaltending effort from Dzhon Grem (John Grahame) if they want to move up the standings again. Grem's 9-10-2 record isn't what Avangard was bargaining for when they signed him. In Grem's defence, however, he does have a respectable 2.86 GAA with three shutouts, but his save percentage is below 90% which doesn't help.

8 - tie. HC Spartak Moscow (6th): Spartak began the season with a 8-8-4-1 record, and have since improved to 18-16-6-3 in 43 games for 69 points. KHL All-Star and former NHLer Branko Radivoevich leads the team in goals (16) and points (38). Spartak has a balanced attack despite not having the star power that some KHL teams have. Seven players have 21 or more points on the season. What I don't understand is why they sent Martin Prusek to Dinamo Riga. Evgeniy Konobriy has put up similar stats to what Prusek did, so it appears that team defence needs to be tightened before Spartak begins their playoff run.

8 - tie. Traktor Chelyabinsk (13th): Traktor had played the least amount of games in my first preview, but still put up a respectable record of 8-5-1-3. Since that time, they have compiled a 20-15-2-5 record in 42 games for 69 points. Former NHLer and KHL All-Star Andrey Nikolishin leads the team in scoring with 34 points (9-25) while Evgeniy Skachkov leads the team with 14 goals. Oleg Kvasha has contributed 24 points to lead the secondary scoring on this balanced team. However, for a team this high in the standings at this point in the season, they shouldn't have a negative in the goals-for vs. goals-against category. Traktor has scored 113 goals on the season, but has allowed 122 goals. That has to improve if Traktor wants to make a deep playoff run.

6 - tie. HC CSKA Moscow (6th): CSKA jumped out to a 9-4-2-2 record, and is now 19-8-5-8 in 40 games for 75 points. CSKA has solid scoring as three players are tied for the lead with 29 points - former NHLer Oleg Saprykin (13-16), Sergey Shirokov (11-18), and Anton But (10-19). Former NHLer Petr Schastlivy leads the team in goals with 15, and former Maple Leaf Alexandr Suglobov has chipped in with 11 goals and 11 assists. Former NHL goaltender Yussi Markkanen (Jussi Markkanen) has only played 10 games this season, and appears to have put his season on hold after the death of his infant son. However, CSKA has gotten great goaltending from Konstantin Barulin to help them move up the standings.

6 - tie. SKA Saint Petersburg (13th): SKA started off the season slowly, going 7-8-4-0. However, they've posted a remarkable turn-around as they sit with a 20-13-7-1 record after 41 games for 75 points. SKA has had balanced scoring and remarkable goaltending on their run towards the top. Forward Maksim Sushinsky leads the way with 14 goals and 33 points. They have 11 players with double-digits in points, and they have gotten spectacular play from the men between the pipes. KHL All-Star and Team Jagr starting goaltender Robert Esh (Robert Esche) has gone 18-9-3 in 29 games, posting a 1.84 GAA, a .912 save percentage, and seven shutouts. Backup goaltender Dmitriy Yacahnov has a 9-4-4 record in 15 games with a 1.19 GAA, a .929 save percentage, and five shutouts! SKA has the best goaltending in the league, and their overall standings reflect the play of the masked men.

5. Metallurg Magnitogorsk (5th): Magnitogorsk ran out to a 9-6-3-1 record, and has since improved to 18-10-11-1 after 40 games for 77 points. Magnitogorsk is lead in goals (27), assists (27), and points (54) by KHL All-Star Jan Marek. The Siberian team has decent secondary scoring, and a very capable defence in front of two capable goaltenders. I said it in my earlier preview, and I'll hold steady with my thoughts here - if Jan Marek is shutdown by a team, Magnitogorsk will struggle. Currently, Marek accounts for 20% of their goals on the season, and that can't happen in the playoffs. This team needs a couple of other players to step up to give Magnitogorsk a chance in the playoffs.

4. Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (4th): Lokomotiv started the season with a 11-5-0-2 record, and is now sitting with a 25-9-2-6 record after 42 games for 85 points. Lokomotiv is lead in goals (17), assists (20), and points (37) by former NHLer and KHL All-Star captain Alexey Yashin. This team has a very balanced attack as 15 players have double-digits in points. Of course, Lokomotiv has a solid goaltender on which they rely. Georgiy Gelashvili has appeared in 37 games, going 22-13-4 with a 1.78 GAA, a .933 save percentage, and four shutouts. He has played almost 86% of all the minutes available, making him the "Martin Brodeur"-like workhorse of the KHL. Lokomotiv will have to give him a night or two off before the playoffs so he doesn't burn out.

3. Ak Bars Kazan (3rd): Kazan sped out to a solid 11-3-2-2 record, and has since gone 26-8-3-5 after 42 games for 89 points. Former NHLer and KHL All-Star Alexey Morozov leads the team with 55 points. Morozov and KHL All-Star Danis Zaripov share the team lead for goals with 25 apiece. Much like Magnitogorsk, these two men make up 34% of the goals scored by Kazan this season, and they could suffer in the playoffs if a team figures out a way to shut the all-stars down. Kazan has three goaltenders putting up excellent numbers in Stanislav Galimov, former NHLer Ueyd Dubelevich (Wade Dubielewicz), and former NHLer Fredrik Norrena. Goaltending could make this team very dangerous in the second half of the KHL schedule.

2. Atlant Mytishchi (1st): Atlant lead the KHL at the quarter pole with a 14-1-2-2 record, and has since improved to a 25-7-7-3 record after 42 games for 92 points. Forward Sergey Mozyakin leads the team in goals (21), assists (31), and points (52). Atlant has 15 players who have double-digits in points - a sign of their balanced attack. In net, they are led by former NHLer and KHL All-Star Raymond Emeri who has posted an 18-6-0 record in 28 games with a 2.02 GAA, a .928 save percentage, and two shutouts. Backup goaltender Vitaliy Kolesnik is just as good as Emeri as he's posted an 11-4-6 record in 22 appearances with a 1.69 GAA, a .941 save percentage, and three shutouts. Atlant is solid from top to bottom, and look to be a serious challenger for the KHL championship.

1. Salavat Yulaev Ufa (2nd): Ufa started off the season with a 13-3-2-1 record, and has since gone 29-5-4-2 after 40 games for 97 points. Alexey Teryeschenko leads the team in points with 46 (21-25) while former NHLer Alexandr Perezhogin leads the team with 25 goals. This team has an abundance of NHL talent: Perezhogin, Aleksandr Radulov, Konstantin Koltsov, and Oleg Tverdovskiy, not to mention the several NHL draft picks who didn't play in the bigs. The scoring really drops off after the top-four scorers, though, so Ufa has to be careful of scoring slumps. However, the goaltending tandem of Alexandr Yeremenko and Vadim Tarasov both have GAAs under 1.95 and save percentages greater than 92%. This team is built to win, and they have the roster to go deep in the playoffs.

There is your KHL update. As we inch closer towards Saturday, you can now see the KHL All-Star Game in North America on Universal Sports. John Ahlers, the play-by-play man for the Anaheim Ducks, and Brent Severyn, Ducks' radio analyst, will be calling the game on Universal Sports, so I encourage you to check the game out. The webcast is available worldwide, so please check that site out for the action. REMEMBER: THE GAME STARTS AT 8AM ET!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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