|2008 Super League|
12th Round: Avangard Omsk vs Lada Togliatti.
Belousovís Avangard hosted Lada Togliatti, one of the historic Russian hockey schools, that has produced many players in the past and present. What are some names? Alexei Kovalev (Montreal Canadiens), Alexander Bumagin, Viktor Kozlov (New Jersey Devils), Igor Grigorenko (Detroit Red Wings), Vasily Koshechkin (Tampa Bay Lightning), Vyacheslav Butsaev and many others. †The team has gone downhill since then starting two seasons ago, when the main sponsor, Lada automotive factory †withdrew most of their financial support. Now the team will also get a new arena, and therefore it is getting into a transitional period that could last for another couple of seasons.
In this game not much happens until the first penalty, whistled against Dmitri Vorobiev (Toronto Maple Leafs). Avangard tries to keep the pace high with a scoring chance by Kalyuzhny-to-Artem Chubarov, who dangles and shoots, but Fountain saves. The game doesnít take off, Alexei Cherepanov (New York Rangers) hunts for the puck but doesnít shine. 7th minute: Pervushin shoots from the point, Yakutseniya attempts a deflection and Vorobiev actually makes the save with Fountain out of place. Avangard dominates, leaving Lada stuck in the defensive zone for a long time, and after all the pressure, Marat Kalimulin tries to clear the zone but his attempt is too weak and Kalyuzhny collects the puck, feeding Chubarov behind the net. Former Vancouver Canucks player easily sends the puck in front of the crease to Alexander Popov who scores on a one-timer. †Right after the goal Lada reacts, led by the Bodrov brothers, and gets a power play because of a penalty on Lupaschuk for cross-checking. As outlined several times in our articles, Avangard has a good set of penalty killers and only a desperate dive by Ryazanov rescues Lada from a quick counterattack by Kalyuzhny and Chubarov. Their chemistry is impressive. In the last minute of the first period Lada is again on a power play and once again Kalyuzhny is all alone against the goaltender who has to make a miracle save for his team. The first twenty minutes end then with Avangard in a deserved advantage.
The second period starts with Lada on a powerplay but, on a third attempt, Avangard scores a shorthanded goal: after an error in the neutral zone by the opponents, Chubarov picks up the loose puck and runs on the right flank. He centers it to Kalyuzhny, who deflects the puck in for the two goal lead. After all Lada is known for raising young talent and so the youngsters are what this team is made of. Artem Krysanov got a good chance near to the net at the fourth minute after a nice wraparound, but Fomichev gloves it. †Avangard plays well now and this doesnít seem the same team that struggled when the season was still just starting. †At the sixth minute it is Kuryanov who missed an open net, when he doesnít finalize the great pass by Pavel Rosa from the left side. After that chance Cherepanov tries to use his position in front of the goalie and Grigory Panin has to break some rules with him, collecting a two minutes penalty. Omskís gem remains on ice and showcases all his talent a handful of seconds later: Kuryanov playmakes through the center and feeds Alexei between the circle, who stickhandles and dribbles past Makarov in great style to score with a top-shelf shot over helpless Fountain. What a goal by the Rangersí prospect!
Lada tries hard to get back on track and manages to get a chance with former Traktor player Chernikov who after a good feed by Ozolin gets past a defenseman and shoots, but Fomichev is in good shape and glove saves it. Togliatti team is playing well with new coach Novikov but they still could not take advantage of three consecutive powerplays to get a concrete advantage of the situation and the score remains the same until the second horn.
In the third period is Fauntain the goalie who first rescued his team: after an error in the defensive third by Evgeni Bodrov, Popov feeds Kalyuzhny deep in the slot but the Canadian goalie keeps the position and rejects the shot of the Belarusian. The music seems to not change in this third period as Lada wastes another powerplay opportunity, but at the seventh minute the guests manage to cut down the disadvantage: Petrov wins a battle along the boards on the left and sends it back to Ryazanov. The defender throws the puck deep desperately seeking to make something happen and what he hoped occurs as Krivonozhkin gets it, adjusts it on his blade and backhands it in for the 1-3. But itís too late for Lada because after a mysterious penalty whistled against Cherepanov the home team scores again with an accurate slapshot from the blue line by Denis Denisov (Buffalo Sabres).
Itís the end of the things. Lada played quite well but Avangard was too strong for them. Itís always difficult for a team filled by youngsters to face powerhouses and we can say that Lada players and staff have done a good job.
Alessandroís prospect of the match: Alexei Cherepanov
The Siberian Express has played a very good game with a performance that seen him very active trying to make things happen. He also scored a great goal that showcased all his offensive talent.
Honourable Mention to Denis Bodrov (Philadelphia Flyers)
Alessandroís worse prospect of the match: Mikhail Lyubushin (Los Angeles Kings)
Kingís defensive prospect hasnít played a bad game but he showed almost nothing. Probably it was only a simple game off, but it was really off.
Alexei Cherepanov (New York Rangers) Grade: A-
The lines might change (from Popov to Rosa), but the talent remains. Passing, skating, shooting, technique, Alexei has all the tools in offense and in this game he was committed to play as more pucks as possible. He seems also fully recovered from his old concussion suffered in the Super Series.
Nikita Nikitin (St. Louis Blues) Grade: B-
Nikita was one of the players who struggled more in Avangardís poor start of the season. Now that the season went on Nikitin is finally back to his old shape and in this game he was pleasant especially in the physical play area. He constantly outmuscled Lada forwards that had troubles to get past him also considering their size. When Nikita plays like tonight he is a valuable member of the team but he has to improve his consistence and concentration.
Mikhail Lyubushin (Los Angeles Kings) Grade: C-
Invisible. As said before, Lyubushin has took a day off the office. Itís not a sin to play one bad game and surely he will get his usual shape very soon.
Egor Averin (undrafted) Grade: C
Average game. The undrafted Averin, line mate of Cherepanov in the junior championships played with Russia, has made a couple of good passes to Zhdanov and nothing much more. He displayed some nose for the offensive side of the game but he didnít showcased anything worth telling. He might become a very good player but he is yet to show it at pro level because of his un experience and also lack of physical presence, but when he gets a bit older he will be for a sure factor and he remains in my opinion NHL-draft worthy.
Anton Zhdanov (undrafted) Grade: C+
Young Zhdanov is a 1987 born player without much of experience at senior level. He plays usually on the left wing in Avangardís fourth line with Khatsey and Averin but he is more a call-up player for Svitovís injury. I canít say I was impressed by his performance tonight but he showed that he is not out of place in the Super league and also I think he played a bit better of Averin since he played more pucks.
Denis Bodrov (Philadelphia Flyers) Grade: B+
Twenty years old Denis Bodrov (Philadelphia Flyers) has played an amazing game. He showcased a great puck technique with his elegant skating out of his own zone, puck on the blade and head up. He is good in decision making. On more than one occasion has showed a flawless stickhandling and he is capable of exiting from the defensive zone with the puck on the stick even if the opponent first line is on the ice. In defense he tries to be more of positioning than physique and has to improve a bit. Might be NHL material if he keeps progressing in this way.
Dmitri Vorobiev (Toronto Maple Leafs) Grade: B
Dmitri Vorobiev (Toronto Maple Leafs) has played a very good game despite his teamís loss. At the seventh minute he was providential after Yakutsenyaís deflection. His defensive play was accurate also when playing on the powerplay. Sometimes though he showed that his technique is not perfect because he missed a couple of easy passes and also misplayed the puck on another couple of occasions, but in the last two seasons he has very good offensive numbers as well.† He has sometimes an ugly, but effective, defensive style. †Again talking about his issues, he looks tired after long shifts. Interesting player with high ceiling.
Anton Krysanov (Phoenix Coyotes) (Coyotes) Grade: B-
Krysanov is another of the last brood of Lada school. Drafted by Coyotes, he is definitely an intriguing prospect because of his speed and commitment. In Togliatti he is part of the fourth line with Andronov and Evgeni Bodrov. He likes to work hard along the boards even if he hasnít too much of success because of his not big strength. He also tries to shoot a lot but he has to improve his shot accuracy since in his first three season he scored only five goals. He even played a couple of shifts on the PK doing quite well, sign of his growth. Good promising prospect but he has to work a bit on his consistency throughout each game.
Marat Kalimulin (undrafted) Grade: C
One of the players I was more awaiting prior of this game, Marat Kalimulin has deluded me. He showcased nothing that justified his participation in several tournaments with Russian jersey on and also he showed that probably he is still too young to play in the Superleague in a continuative way. His offensive play in this game was bad as he missed many of his pass attempts and he also made zero convincing offensive rushes. He needs to work a lot if he wants to fulfil his potential.
Evgeni Ketov (undrafted) Grade: B-
Same age as Bodrov, Evgeni Ketov is a player who in his young career has changed several teams on his way to Togliatti. He comes out of a good 06/07 campaign that is going replicated this year even if this season he had a start a tad slower. He played a good game, deserving a B- because of his hard commitment and presence on the ice. Quick and gifted, he can have a presence on the boards because of his strength. He is good when he has space in front of him and he can rush and shoots, by far his favored move.†
Sergei Andronov (undrafted) Grade: C
He knows how to bring the puck but he was the weak point of the youngstersí fourth line that played well in the game. Took a penalty late in the second period and didnít do much more to be outlined. Growing up in Penza, Andronov is a rookie in the Super league and the fact that he is logging good minutes is a sign of his goodness.
Evgeni Bodrov (undrafted) Grade: C+
Younger brother of Denis Bodrov (Philadelphia Flyers), Evgeni has also took place in the September Super Series. He is a good two way center with a knack for playmaking. Interesting prospect, he might get some attention next spring, but he has to improve a bit on the faceoff.