Ready to rumble

15 April 2010, 08:52

Championship series of the Gagarin Cup playoffs start on Thursday, April, 15. Western Conference champions HC MVD will face Eastern Conference champions and the reigning Cup holders Ak Bars in Balashikha for a deciding best-of-seven battle.

It's the first ever Cup finals appearance for the sensational Cinderella team of the KHL 2009/10 season, HC MVD. In fact, it's the club's only fifth season in the Russian major leagues and its fourth playoff appearance. Until this season HC MVD have never won a playoff series – three times they have been eliminated in the first round and have won only one game losing 9 in the process. This time HC MVD finished 2nd in the Western Conference with 31 wins and 25 losses for 102 points and their best ever regular season has been accomplished. HC MVD have confidently beaten CSKA (3 games to 0) and Dinamo Riga (4 games to 1) on their road to the Conference finals where last season playoff runners-up Lokomotiv Yaroslavl faced them. Despite having a higher seed and having won 3 of 4 regular season games against Lokomotiv, HC MVD were definite underdogs of this series. Nonetheless after losing games 4 and 5 with a total score 1-10 and trailing the series 2 games to 3 HC MVD regained their composure and won games 6 and 7 (the latter – with only 5 healthy defensemen for most of the game) gaining the Western Conference Cup and celebrating their victory with pride and sharing it sincerely with their diehard fans.

Reigning Gagarin Cup champions Ak Bars Kazan have been far from spectacular during the regular season but still finished 3rd in the Eastern Conference with s and 23 losses for 96 points. Kazan squad have won both regular season games against HC MVD (1-0 in overtime and 3-2 after shootout). So far in the Gagarin Cup playoffs Ak Bars have beaten Barys (3 games to 0) and Magnitogorsk Metallurg (4 games to 2) before facing the talent-stacked Salavat Yulaev in the Eastern Conference finals. Tight defense and stellar performance from the finnish goalie Petri Vehanen helped Kazan beat the powerful opponent 4 games to 2.

On a side note – in two of the team's three previous playoff appearances HC MVD have faced Ak Bars, lost both series with one win and 6 losses in total. These are not the only factors that make Ak Bars heavy favorites of the final series. HC MVD have been plagued by injuries and have only six healthy defensemen. Ak Bars have no problems on the D but suffer from the absense of one of their top wingers Danis Zaripov. Kazan is a much deeper team and on a long run will have an opportunity to replace the injured and fatigued players effectively – a luxury HC MVD cannot afford. Nonetheless HC MVD squad has already proven skeptics to be wrong – it seemed the team plays better when facing extreme conditions. The series against Yaroslavl have proven just that.

Team comparison – 2010 playoffs


Ak Bars










7 W – 2 L

home record

5 W – 3 L

4 W – 2 L

road record

6 W – 1 L

3 W – 1 L

overtime record

4 W – 0 L

43 - 35


39 - 26


minutes played


12 for 86 (.140)


13 for 79 (.165)

76 for 85 (.894)

penalty killing

61 for 68 (.897)


PIM avg


Michael Garnett
11 W – 4 L
2.12 GAA
.906 SVS%

starting goaltender

Petri Vehanen
11 W – 4 L
1.54 GAA
.944 SVS%

Alexei Tsvetkov - 14

top scorer, points

Niko Kapanen, Alexei Morozov, Jarkko Immonen – tied with 11

Alexei Ugarov - 7

top scorer, goals

Niko Kapanen, Alexei Morozov, Hannes Hyvonen – tied with 5

Alexei Tsvetkov - 9

top scorer, assists

Jarkko Immonen - 9

Martin Strbak - 10

top scoring defenseman, points

Ilya Nikulin - 6

Yuri Babenko - 26

top PIM

Evgeni Medvedev - 32

Alexei Tsvetkov – “+7”

best “+/-”

Jarkko Immonen – “+6”

Martin Strbak, Maksim Velikov, Yuri Babenko, Ruslan Zainullin, Vladimir Gorbunov – tied with “-3”

worst “+/-”

Stepan Zakharchuk, Alexander Stepanov – tied with “-1”

D Maksim Soloviev
D Andrei Skopintsev
LW Pavel Vorobiev

players injured

D Igor Schadilov
LW Danis Zaripov

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