Salavat Yulaev powered to the biggest victory in the KHL so far this season on Sunday, thrashing Dinamo Minsk 9-1. Two goals each from Nikita Soshnikov and Alexander Kadeikin paced the scoring, Linus Omark had a goal and two assists. Kadeikin rated the team’s pace as the key factor in the big win. “Our success today was down to our skating,” he said. “We started moving well in the first minutes and we kept up that tempo throughout the game. It felt like Dinamo just couldn’t keep up with us, for each of our goals, someone got free of his marker.” Minsk head coach Craig Woodcroft, whose team also equalled a club record of 11 successive losses, was frustrated with the performance: “At the start of the game we tried to match their speed but then we realized that we couldn’t catch them and we were second to everything. At times we just stopped and watched the hockey that our opponent was producing.”
It’s taken a while, but Pavel Datsyuk has his first KHL goals for his hometown team. The hockey legend moved to Avtomobilist in the summer, eager to conclude a stellar career back where it all began in Yekaterinburg, but not everything went to plan for the Triple Gold Club member. Injury trouble disrupted his pre-season and when he finally reached full fitness his arrival on the team coincided with an alarming slump in form for Andrei Martemyanov’s team. So it was a big relief for all concerned when the Magic Man rediscovered his scoring touch with markers in back-to-back games at Barys and Traktor. Avto won them both, climbing off the foot of the Eastern Conference and moving back towards the playoff places.
Speaking of Avtomobilist, the Motormen achieved an odd and unwelcome distinction. In the space of barely a month, from late September to late October, the team dropped all the way from top spot in the East to propping up the table. The sudden slide, which followed an eight-game winning streak at the start of the season, highlights just how tight the KHL is this season: as of Sunday evening, just six points separate third-placed Sibir from Avtomobilist in 10th.
One of the reasons the East is so tight is that two teams have put together club record winning streaks. Kunlun Red Star compiled a five-game sequence prior to its 0-2 reverse at HC Sochi on Sunday to record its best ever run in the Chinese club’s short history. And conference rival Neftekhimik is currently on an eight-game streak that has lifted it from the foot of the table to the playoff spots.
Vitaly Kravtsov is one of the most exciting prospects in the KHL. The 19-year-old already has a rookie-of-the-year award to his credit and went over to North America in the summer to have a look at life with the New York Rangers, who drafted him at #9 in 2018. After going through camp, he was assigned to the AHL and opted instead to return home to Traktor Chelyabinsk to continue his development at the highest possible level. It’s a move that has suited other players in the past – remember Eeli Tolvanen’s break-out season for Jokerit taking him to Olympic and World Championship action? – and there are already signs that it might pay off for Kravtsov. He’s only played two games for Traktor so far but potted his first goal of the season in the 3-5 loss to Avtomobilist.
CSKA forward Kirill Kaprizov played his 300th KHL game – and celebrated with a goal in a 3-0 victory over Barys. The 22-year-old has compiled 213 points in that time and his empty-net effort in Nur-Sultan was the 102nd of his career so far. This season, Kaprizov has 23 (13+10) points from 21 games, pushing him through the point-per-game barrier for the first time in his career.
HC Sochi appointed Alexander Andrievsky as head coach and immediately reaped the benefits. The Belarusian steered the Black Sea team to victory in his first three games in charge, seeing off Salavat Yulaev, Dinamo Riga and Kunlun Red Star. Andrievsky replaces interim head coach Leonids Beresnevs, who was put in position after the dismissal of Sergei Zubov earlier this month.
Nikita Shcherbak, one of the most enigmatic talents to emerge from Russia in recent seasons, is looking for a new club once again. The 23-year-old returned to his homeland this summer to join Avangard after six seasons in North America that saw him struggle to secure a role in the NHL with Montreal or Los Angeles. Working with Bob Hartley, Shcherbak struggled to show his best form in the KHL as well, contributing 6 (2+4) points in 16 games. That was some way short of the return Avangard wanted from a player earmarked to be a top-6 forward on the team and president Maxim Sushinsky and head coach Hartley opted to free the youngster to go elsewhere and seek a much-needed reset in his career.