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Author: Alessandro Seren Rosso (RussianProspects.com Exclusive)Date: 02/25/2008
Round 52 Ė Ak Bars vs Metallurg (10 prospects scouted): Clash of the Champions Review

2008 Super League

52th Round: Metallurg vs Ak Bars

Russianprospects.com has taken a look to the last (regular season) clash between Metallurg and Ak Bars. The situation so far the score 1-1 between the two teams (with RP.com covering all the challenges so far) as Metallurg won the first contest after the penalty shooting relay, while Ak Bars won at home with a 2-1 score. Both teams appear to be in good shape lately and thus the game will be interesting. Both trainers decided to go with second-string goaltenders and the creases will be defended by Andrei Mezin for Metallurg and Mika Noronen for Ak Bars, a club that also has to play without Sergei Zinoviev, replaced in his line by Denis Arkhipov and in the lineup by Mikhail Zhukov (Edmonton Oilers). Metallurg instead has to deal with the injuries got by Czech stars Jan Marek, out with a hand injury, and Kudrna, with a knee injury. Both players wonít be back in the lineup until at least the start of March.

FIRST PERIOD

It showed since the start that this wasnít going to be a nice game for Metallurg as only after ninety one seconds the guests score as Ravil Gusmanov canít contain Nikita Alekseev on the right. The former Tampa Bay player gets in the third and shoots from the circle, putting the puck after Andrei Mezinís right arm for the 0-1 mark.

Metallurg tries to react and attacks head down. Nikolai Kulemin (Toronto Maple Leafs) gives a nice puck back to Varlamov, whose shoot it just wide. A few seconds later Evgeny Fedorov (Los Angeles Kings) outskate opponentís defense, but Noronen gloves nicely his shot. Metallurg insists. Sevostyanov tries to beat the goalie without fortune, then itís Fedorov again who challenges Noronen, who again wins the clash. Ak Bars clears the zone and the story starts over again, but itís again the guests to score when, at the seventh minute, Alexei Morozov (Pittsburgh Penguins) plays the puck back to the blue line. It hits Denis Platonov on the stick, heading towards Giroux. The Canadian defenseman gets the loose puck and after a couple of strides shoots from seven meters, in frontal position, beating Andrie Mezin high on the glove side. For the Belarusian goalie is enough and so heís replaced by young Proskuryakov.

At the eleventh the home team could reopen the game: Alexei Kaigorodov (Phoenix Coyotes) works the puck on the flank and serves Nikolai Kulemin (Toronto Maple Leafs), but the promising wingerís shot is shoulder-saved by Noronen. Metallurg doesnít surrender and keeps attacking, but they have to deal with a Noronen in superb shape, as demonstrated by the save on Ravil Gusmanovís backhander at the 13th. One minute later the game sees its first penalty, whistled against Dmitri Kazionov (Tampa Bay Lightning) for hooking, but Metallurg canít spoil this chance, too many errors on their side. Two minutes later itís Ak Bars to get near to the third goal, but Proskuryakov slams the door on Nikita Alekseevís close range conclusion twice. The game could heat up when Medvedev is sent to the penalty box, but once again Metallurgís powerplay is silent and so the game remains in Ak Barsí hands when the horn sounds to declare the end of the first period.

SECOND PERIOD

In the locker room Posnikov musg gave a scolding to his team as Metallurg pushes desperately trying to score a goal. Panin is sent off and the home team has a 4-on-3 powerplay opportunity. Noronen denies the chance to Vitaly Atyushov and Varlamov, but Metallurgís pressure keeps being on goalkeeperís shoulder, even if they havenít much precision. At the third minute of play Gusmanov has a great chance, but his beautiful backhander from the right side is nicely stopped by the Finn goaltender Noronen.

Metallurg doesnít attack in vain though, and at the fifth minute they manage to cut down opponentsí lead. Vitaly Atyushov serves Alexei Kaigorodov (Phoenix Coyotes) in frontal position, just inside the offensive zone. The NHL prospect shoots powerfully, Noronen gets a piece of it, but the puck slides behind his pads. Evgeny Gladskikh (Vancouver Canucks) is just behind him and puts in easily in the empty bet. Ak Barsí Finn goalkeeper was unlucky in this situation, but also too outside of the blue area.

The guests react though, and at the sixth minute Mikhail Zhukov (Edmonton Oilers) searches for Kirill Petrov in the slot, who comes hooked down to penalty. Just a few seconds into the powerplay Hentunen is very dangerous with an outside shot, but Proskuryakov gloves it nicely. The Leopards (Bars translation) keeps attacking, and when the teams are at full strength Proskuryakov has to work again to stop a close range attempt by Dmitri Kazionov (Tampa Bay Lightning). Midway through the game is again Ak Barsí third line to entertain the crowd: Petrov stickhandles around the offensive zone and centers, no one hooks the puck. A few seconds later is Zhukov to miss an easy deflection from a favourable position, after Obukhovís rush. Big time shift by them as they got a third scoring chance when Zhukov presents himself in front of Proskuryakov, whoís nicely positioned and can stop the opponentís way thru the offensive zone. At the twelfth Metallurg gets back in offense with Igor Mirnov (Ottawa Senators), but he canít get it past Noronen. The home team pushes and not much later they could spoil a double man advantage. Gusmanov has the tie on his stick after a nice combination between Martin Shtrbak and Kaigorodov, but his shot isnít irresistible and Noronen can reject with the chest. But putting pressure on the opponents is useless if you canít put it in the net, and two minutes to the end of the second period Grigory Panin serves Obukhov on the right, whose centering pass is exploited by Dmitri Kazionov (Tampa Bay Lightning) who deflects it in nicely, demonstrating how a center should score a goal. The second fraction ends thus with Ak Bars up by two goals.

THIRD PERIOD

After less than two minutes Metallurg could reopen the game as Grigori Panin is sent in the penalty box for an obstruction call. Despite the home teamís man advantage is Ak Barsí the team to score. Ilya Nikulin (Atlanta Thrashers) launches Hentunen with a beautiful opening pass and the Finn forward gets in front of the goalie, piercing him between the legs. The game is over already. The guests can even make debut 16 years old goaltender Emil Garipov, who stays in net for a few seconds without facing shots. In the last few minutes of the game Metallurg tries a shy reaction, but a couple of penalty to its players kill all their hope, and the game is won deservedly by the runners up of the last season.

METALLURG MAGNITOGORSK PROSPECTS

Igor Mirnov (Ottawa Senators)
Grade: C
Improving. The click of his line is getting up, and they are getting in shape for the playoffs. Igor didnít play a good game, but neither did his entire team. Has passed well the puck throughout the whole game.

Nikolai Kulemin (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Grade: D
A casual observer couldnít even notice if he got out of the locker room or not. A day off from the office, will surely return back soon.

Denis Platonov (Nashville Predators)
Grade: C
Denis Platonov (Nashville Predators) has played a kind of okay game, doing nothing bad and nothing great either. He suffered the bad game of the team

Vadim Ermolaev (undrafted)
Grade: C
Ermolaev is a technically sound forward, with good speed. Has interesting tools, but has played only a few shits playing with Mamin, committing a lot, but without being much noticeable.

Maxim Mamin (undrafted)
Grade: C+
Maxim Mamin is a familiar name for the ones who followed the last WJC. In this game he played not much, but quite well especially with Mirnov and Babenko. He served a great puck at the twenty-ninth to Mirnov, who couldnít exploit the chance

AK BARS KAZAN PROSPECTS

Andrei Pervyshin (St. Louis Blues)
Grade: B-
Good game as usual, heís having a very good season. His play has became very strong this year, also in the offensive zone. He had a good chance in the start of the second period.

Vyacheslav Buravchikov (Buffalo Sabres)
Grade: C+
Heís keeping progressing. Playing as usual with undrafted Seleznev, heís starting displaying his goodness after one and half rocky seasons in which he showed little of his game. Good technique and play with the puck.

Alexei Emelin (Montreal Canadiens)
Grade: B-
Again a good game played by the Canadiens prospects. Good physical presence in the defensive zone, as well as a good performance in the ďbuilding offenseĒ side of the game. Heís having a nice season, without making many errors.

Mikhail Zhukov (Edmonton Oilers)
Grade: B-
This guy keeps growing any game I see of him. He had a great shift when his line was on fire around half of the game, plus he was rather consistent for the whole game. Nice match played by him who is really improving, can reach a higher level this year.

Kirill Petrov (2008 eligible)
Grade: C+
Kirill has played as high-commitment game as well as the last matches, getting also a couple of scoring opportunities. Heís gaining some good icetime and is stock is raising towards the next NHL draft.


Related Player Profiles: . D.Arkhipov V.Buravchikov A.Emelin E.Fedorov E.Gladskikh A.Kaigorodov D.Kazionov N.Kulemin M.Mamin I.Mirnov A.Morozov I.Nikulin G.Panin A.Pervyshin K.Petrov D.Platonov M.Zhukov
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