Friday, 20 March 2009

Siberian Internet

My internet connection at home has been flaky today. Like the picture to the left, I probably would have had more luck sending my update out by carrier pigeon than by Internet with the connection issues I had. As luck would have it, my Friday post is now technically bumped close to Saturday, meaning you won't likely read this until tomorrow. I probably should have found some technology that would allow me to plug directly into the World Wide Web, but I have yet to discover that technology. In any case, the title has a Russian reference in it, so we're looking at the KHL today on HBIC. The semi-final series are underway, and it appears these four teams are taking no prisoners.

Game One of the Ak Bars Kazan-Dynamo Moscow series was played last night, and Ak Bars secured the first victory in the best-of-seven series. Former Pittsburgh Penguin and current KHL star Alexey Morozov opened the scoring four minutes in, and Kazan raced out to a 4-0 lead. Dynamo's Sergei Zinoviev spoiled the shutout for former Blue Jacket Fredrik Norrena with six minutes to play, but Kazan had already wrapped up the victory as they won 4-1. This marks the first loss for Dynamo Moscow in the Gagarin Cup Playoffs, snapping an impressive six-game winning streak through the first two rounds.

Game Two of the series went tonight, and Dynamo Moscow turned the tables on Ak Bars Kazan by winning 3-2 in overtime. Former New York Islander Mattias Weinhandl scored the winner for Dynamo in the eighth minute of overtime. Weinhandl opened the scoring, and teammate Konstantin Kasyanchuk added another before the first period was over to give the Moscow squad a 2-0 lead at the break. Kazan's Alexey Morozov scored in the final minute of the second period to close the gap to 2-1. The third period came down to the last minute where, during a mad scramble with the goalie pulled, Kazan's Danis Zaripov netted the tying goal to force overtime. Game Three of this series goes Sunday night in Moscow.

Game One of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl-Metallurg Magnitogorsk series - a repeat of last year's Russian Super League semi-final - started tonight, and the 6th-seeded Metallurg team sent a message to Lokomotiv with a 3-0 opening game victory. Scoring machine Jan Marek notched two goals while Igor Mirnov had one. Ilya Proskuryakov recorded the shutout with an impressive 40-save effort. These two teams will resume their series tomorrow night.

In other KHL news, Avangard Omsk Oblast star Jaromir Jagr has said that he will not terminate his contract, and will remain in the KHL next season with Avangard. This should kill off all the Jagr-to-Edmonton rumours that are out there.

However, Jagr did have some interesting news in that there was an arrangement in place to send Jagr to the Oilers if Avangard had failed to reach certain milestones this season. Had Avangard missed the playoffs or were swept in the first round by Salavat Yulaev Ufa, Jagr had been cleared to report to Edmonton if he wanted.

"Yes, such an opportunity really existed," Jagr told Denik Sport. "The teams had discussed how that could be fulfilled. But it did not depend on me. Should Omsk ask me to join Edmonton, I’d do that. But that was not something I desired myself. After we made the playoffs, the whole thing ceased to be an issue."

When asked of his intentions next season, Jagr replied, "Will I voluntarily terminate my contract with Avangard and go to America? That definitely won’t happen. Only if the two hockey clubs reach an agreement. But I won’t do it by myself."

It seems that one of Russia's biggest stars will be remaining behind the Iron Curtain for another season. After that, an NHL return would be highly doubtful. The wily veteran will enjoy another season in Omsk with his club of choice, and most likely retire in the Czech Republic after that. He has not ruled out playing for the KHL or any other European League after his contract expires, though.

So there's a quick update on the Gagarin Cup Playoff race in the KHL. These series look to be close, so expect more updates as we near the historic first Gagarin Cup Final.

Until next time, when I hopefully have decent Internet service, keep your sticks on the ice!

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