SKA comeback from 0:3
SKA continues to pleasantly surprise fans and experts. Until recently, the team was experiencing difficulties and balancing on the verge of getting into the playoffs, but in November it won nine victories in a row and soared to fifth place in the Western Conference table.
Moreover, the St. Petersburg team deals not with outsiders, but with direct competitors in the fight for the Gagarin Cup. Having scored nine points against Lokomotiv, CSKA and Spartak, they then defeated Torpedo and Dynamo at home, and in both meetings they showed character.
The game against Nizhny Novgorod did not start in the best way for Roman Rotenberg's wards. By the ninth minute, the visitors took a 2-0 lead thanks to accurate shots by Alexei Kruchinin and Anton Silaev, and the hosts had to replace Johan Mattsson with Nikita Serebryakov at the last line. This reshuffle fully justified itself and helped to make a comeback, because the newcomer conceded only once and made 22 saves. However, when Bogdan Konyushkov increased the advantage in the second period, it seemed that the intrigue died.
But in the final period, the team from the banks of the Neva River worked a miracle. And the main character was Valentin Zykov, who scored a double in less than five minutes. Having got a chance to save, SKA did not miss it. Shortly before the buzzer, Igor Larionov's hockey players once again retired and allowed Alex Galchenyuk to convert on the power play. As a result, everything was decided in a shootout, where Serebryakov did not allow his opponents to realize a single attempt.
In the match against Dynamo, the team also made the fans nervous. She was leading 3:1, but at the start of the final segment she allowed her opponents to score twice in unequal lineups. This time, Marat Khairullin came to the fore at a difficult moment. The striker, who did not shine with performance this season, twice upset Ilya Konovalov and helped his teammates to extend a successful streak.
Torpedo, on the other hand, did not perform in the best way in another important encounter with Lokomotiv. The "zeros" on the scoreboard burned until the 49th minute, when Vladislav Firstov and Vasily Atanasov shot a doublet. However, Yaroslavl also quickly recouped through the efforts of Dmitry Simashev and Maxim Shalunov. And in the "lottery" luck smiled on Nizhny Novgorod residents.
Spartak's unsuccessful away streak
Spartak, on the contrary, slowed down and suffered four defeats in five games. Despite this, he continues to share the leadership in the Western Conference with Dynamo. After the Red-Whites failed to cope with Lokomotiv and SKA, they also lost to Metallurg, who scored a terrific move.
Shortly before the break, Nikita Mikhailis opened the scoring with a snap from close range, taking advantage of a mistake by the visitors. However, immediately after that, Andrey Loktionov closed the attack at the far post and restored the status quo. But in the final quarter, Magnitogorsk still put the pressure on their opponents, and it looked absolutely logical, because they made almost 50 shots. The fate of the meeting was decided by the young Danila Yurov. The forward organized a beautiful slalom pass from the middle of the court, evading three opponents, and outwitted Andrey Kareev. And Arkhip Nekolenko put an end to the power play.
Not a very successful segment of the Muscovites can also be explained by the injury of the main center Ivan Morozov. The hockey player was out of action during the game against Salavat Yulaev and will return to action no earlier than January. In his absence, Alexei Zhamnov's team has a hard time. Spartak scored only once against Lokomotiv and Metallurg, while SKA scored twice. In addition, the coaching staff has to shuffle the links.
For example, in the game against Avtomobilist, the top scorer of the KHL regular season, Nikolai Goldobin, did not find a place in the first. This did not prevent the capital team from gaining the upper hand. And the double was scored by Yegor Filin, who was transferred to the top three. Goldobin did not leave the court without his 25th goal of the season, hitting an empty net in the end.
It seemed that then the Muscovites would calmly defeat Kunlun in Mytishchi, but a "cold shower" awaited them. Even before the break, the visitors conceded twice, although they had the advantage. After that, nothing changed, but the outsider's counterattacks looked much more dangerous. So when Luke Lockhart widened the gap, no one was surprised. Moreover, at the start of the final segment, the Canadian scored a double. The Red-Whites fought to the end and even reduced the gap to a minimum, but Jiang Fu's goal removed all questions.
Miracle from Barys
In the East, Metallurg interrupted an impressive winning streak at the mark of 12 meetings, and did it in a match not with the giants, but with modest Barys, which closes the conference table together with Admiral.
Andrey Razin's wards were close to misfire a few days earlier. They followed the path of SKA and made an amazing comeback in the away game against Neftekhimik, coming back from a 0-3 deficit. The hockey players could not take the lead until the 29th minute, but then the pucks flew into the goal of Alexander Sudnitsyn one after another. Nizhnekamsk managed to score three times in 135 seconds, and the visiting staff promptly replaced Sudnitsin with Ilya Nabokov.
However, the leader did not give up, but revived the intrigue, taking advantage of the removals of the hosts. Most of them were converted by Yegor Yakovlev and Yurov. Then Roman Kantserov restored the balance at even strength. And in the shootout, the favorite turned out to be stronger.
"A strong-willed victory. On the one hand, this is good, but still, probably, we have not tuned in. We thought that the opponents would give the game away. It's good that we woke up in time and recouped," Razin said after the final buzzer.
For the match against Astana, Metallurg, too, apparently, did not tune in properly and was punished for it. Only now the opponents scored five times, and Magnitogorsk responded only with goals by Dmitry Silantyev and Mikhailis.
"Shutouts" by Samonov and Bilyalov
In the East, other recognized grandees also look more confident. For example, Salavat Yulaev continues to pleasantly surprise with impenetrable defense. Bashkortostan not only surpassed the mark of 100 goals scored, but also conceded the least in the KHL - 70. In the last five meetings of the regular season, they recorded two shutouts.
Both were designed by Alexander Samonov. The Olympic silver medalist quickly became "number one" in the new team and deserved the love of the fans. And it cannot be said that the defenders always leave him without work. So, in the game against Traktor, the goalkeeper made 35 saves. But colleague Zach Foukale was not so reliable and conceded four with fewer shots.
In the match against Lada, the hockey player, on the contrary, did not often enter the game, but allowed himself to be upset twice. On the other hand, Ufa calmly prevailed over one of the main discoveries of the season. And Samonov, with four shutouts, shares the lead in this indicator in the current KHL draw with Philip Dolganov from Neftekhimik.
Ak Bars also improved their position in the table. Following a series of three defeats, he won the same number of victories. In particular, they managed to beat Togliatti 2-0. This allowed Timur Bilyalov to set a new club record for the most shutouts in the KHL – 22. The athlete rewrote Emil Garipov's achievement.
Despite the fact that three months have passed since the start of the regular season, the clubs do not slow down their activity in the transfer market. So, the saga with the return of Ilya Kovalchuk to Spartak is close to completion. According to media reports, in the near future he will sign a contract with the Muscovites until the end of the season.
Zhamnov did not confirm these rumors, but promised to talk to the veteran, who did not take to the ice at the professional level after winning the Gagarin Cup in 2021, during the league's All-Star Game.
But his assistant Alexei Kovalev speculated about the possible role of the Olympic champion in the team and suggested that he would not get into the main three.
"A forward of this caliber is always able to help, even on the power play. Because you still have a skill, a vision of the site. Maybe at first Ilya will be inferior in speed somewhere. Everything around you will seem faster. <... >It's not that easy, and it will take five meetings to adapt. But if Kovalchuk really returns, we will gradually introduce him into the game and use the best qualities," Match TV quotes the specialist.
Meanwhile, Ak Bars acquired Mitchell Miller from Slovak Liptovský Mikuláš. The defender is known for the story of bullying a classmate with a disability. For this, the athlete at the age of 14 even appeared in court. In many ways, remembering that scandal, NHL clubs do not want to sign a contract with the American.
However, Kazan residents were not afraid to do this. And the general manager of the team Marat Valiullin compared the legionnaire with the young Vyacheslav Voynov and noted the high performance for the representative of his position.
"He wants to win and take it to the next level. It is clear that the door to the NHL has been closed to him. But something changes in the world every day," the functionary assured.
A gift for Buzova
SKA, unlike its competitors, does not need strengthening. On the other hand, St. Petersburg residents are making every effort to expand their fan base, including among celebrities. For example, Olga Buzova recently spoke on social networks about receiving a special gift set from a squad from the Northern Capital.
She posted a video of herself opening a present, which, in addition to a sweater with the first number and her name on the back, included a cap and a scarf.
"Thank you very much to Roman Rotenberg for such a jersey. I didn't have that. I was very pleasantly surprised before the concert. Thank you. Peter, let's go," the singer said.