G, Lokomotiv, 4 G, 4 W, 2 SO, 97.52%, 0.70 GAA
The Canadian netminder is having an incredible season with Lokomotiv, and the Yaroslavl fans were happy to see that he is also delivering in the postseason. Pasquale is currently sitting in third place for saves percentage with 97.5% after finishing the regular season in the eighth spot, but with all the netminders in front of him playing fewer games. Last week, Pasquale helped Lokomotiv sweeping Jokerit in the Eastern Conference’s first round, shutting out the Jokers in the first couple of games. After stopping 52 shots in the first two showdowns, Pasquale finally capitulated on a powerful slapshot by Sami Lepisto, then allowed another tally in the third period of game three to Niklas Jensen. However, the 30-years-old netminder stood on his head and played lights out in game four as well, allowing only one goal when Lokomotiv ended the series with a 4-1 win. With the Railwaymen heading into the West semis, the fans will watch a fantastic goalie duel with Pasquale standing against CSKA’s Lars Johansson. Thank his efforts, Pasquale was awarded Best goalie honors for the playoffs’ first round.
F, Salavat Yulaev, 5 G, 7 (3+4) points, +5
Many were expecting Teemu Hartikainen in this nomination, but Markus Granlund simply had the better performance, even if the 515-game veteran had a tremendous series as well. Granlund entered the playoffs as Ufa’s second scorer, but no other Green Jersey produced more points than him for the Bashkortostan franchise. If that’s not enough, the Oulu native showed fantastic composure in the dying minutes of game-5. With Traktor recovering after trailing by two, the Chelyabinsk netminder Ivan Fedotov was caught displacing the goal frame, thus being punished with a shoot-out in Ufa’s favor. Granlund maintained a cool head and won the duel against the Traktor goalie to gift his team the qualification for the East semis against Ak Bars. It will be a thrilling series, and the Finn trio of Granlund, Hartikainen, and Sakari Manninen will be called to a considerable challenge to eventually get Salavat Yulaev to the second Conference Finals qualification in three seasons.
G, CSKA, 4 G, 4 W, 2 SO, 97.89%, GAA 0.48
It was a fantastic first-round series for the Swedish netminder, who only allowed two goals to Spartak and finished the four-game contest with stellar numbers. Johansson shut out the Red-and-Whites in game-1 and game-3, while CSKA was pretty much uncontested throughout the whole series, with Spartak failing to give the Red Army a serious challenge except maybe for the very first match when an OT goal by Maxim Shalunov let the regular-season winners start their playoff wins count. Stopping shot after shot, Johansson ended up being on top of the goalie standings in most of the stats but wasn’t awarded Best netminder honors just because Pasquale faced more shots and a higher pressure from Jokerit. However, Johansson was just as critical for CSKA, and the West semis between the Red Army and the Railwaymen promises to be very exciting between the piping.
D, Dinamo Minsk, 5 G, 7 (1+6) points, −5
After a sensational regular season, Menell was incredible for Minsk in the playoffs as well, scoring more than a point per game and leading the team in scoring in the five-game series against SKA. Unfortunately for the Belarusian fans, Dinamo Minsk lost to the Armymen, but the series was much closer than what the 4-1 final score can suggest. Dinamo lost the last two games in OT and had a memorable 2-1 win over SKA in game-4 in front of one of the rarest sights of these times — that is, a crowd of more than 13,000 that flocked to Minsk Arena. That night, Menell was probably the best on the ice, assisting on both goals for the home side and leading the team in Puck Control Distance. Menell ended his first season in the KHL with impressive numbers and was constantly one of Minsk’s best players throughout the season.
F, Dynamo Moscow, 5 G, 5 (3+2) points, +3
After establishing a record for the most goals by a player representing the Czech Republic in the KHL, Jaskin started the postseason on a positive note scoring a point per game in the hard-fought, first-round series against Severstal. The Omsk native scored points in all the showdowns against Cherepovets and is now on an impressive 11-game scoring streak, with 16 (8+8) points produced for the Blue-and-Whites in this span. Jaskin was Dynamo’s second scorer, tied with Vadim Shipachyov, trailing only D-man Andrei Sergeyev, who potted a hat-trick in game four. The forward will now have a chance to play past the first round for the first time, as last year, the playoffs were cut short due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Dynamo Moscow will face SKA in the West semis, and they hope to revert the trend after three straight defeats at this stage against St. Petersburg from 2015 to 2017.