G, SKA St. Petersburg
4 G, 4W, 2 SO, 97.30%, GAA 0.74
The Swedish goalie was nothing short of phenomenal for St. Petersburg in the second round. After that Alexander Samonov allowed four goals to Dynamo Moscow in game-1, Valery Bragin decided to give Hellberg a chance, and he didn’t waste it. The towering netminder won four unanswered games with two shutouts, offering no opportunities to the Blue-and-Whites despite the presence of two offensive stars like Vadim Shipachyov and Dmitrij Jaskin.
Hellberg, 29, only played 21 regular-season games with SKA this season. The St. Petersburg coaches preferred to run Samonov when he was in great shape at the end of February and give a chance to the young Yaroslav Askarov. However, Hellberg showed to be ready at the most critical moment, when Dynamo’s attack seemed too much to handle for SKA. At his third season on Neva’s shores, Hellberg will now have a fantastic chance to be a starter for the Armymen, with CSKA and SKA battling in the Western Conference’s finals for the fifth time since 2014.
G, Avangard Omsk
4 G, 4 W, 2 SO, 96.61%, GAA 1.23
The Czech netminder’s path was similar to the Hellberg one as Avangard first started Igor Bobkov in the first round. However, Hrubec showed excellent goaltending as Avangard faced Metallurg, shutting out the Foxes twice and wrapping up the Hawks’ victory with a 42-save performance in game-6. In the latest two clashes of the series, Hrubec saved 80 out of 81 shots — incredible numbers even for a goalie that proved to be in excellent shape.
Next, Avangard will face Ak Bars. It will be a tight battle for Bob Hartley’s men who managed to control Metallurg’s top lines, but that will have a more difficult challenge when facing the team led by Dmitry Kvartalnov. Kazan is a well-oiled machine, and they will be eager to return to the Gagarin Cup finals. Just as the Hawks, therefore, a long series can be awaited by the fans.
D, Avangard Omsk
6 G, 2 (0+2) points, +4
The Finnish defenseman showed his typical hockey, with few points, but with a giant-like performance in the back zone. Pokka led the Hawks with 44 blocked shots in the playoffs, with 28 coming in the six-game series against the Steelers. Twice in this year’s playoffs Pokka played more than thirty minutes, including game-2 against Metallurg, when he also was on the ice for Damir Sharipzyanov’s opening goal.
The Finnish D-man, 26, trails only Sharipzyanov in average time on ice for the Hawks and has another solid season in his third year with Avangard. Pokka’s defensive skills will be critical in the upcoming series against Ak Bars.
F, Avangard Omsk
6 G, 6 (3+3) points, +3
In his debut year in the KHL, Boucher is building on his excellent regular season and is proving to be an elite offensive player in the league. Boucher is now leading the Hawks’ forwards in the postseason with a plus-3 rating and is trailing only Corban Knight in average time on ice.
Boucher was particularly useful for Bob Hartley’s side in game-5.
After Metallurg’s 7-1 triumph in the fourth clash, Boucher posted a helper and a plus-3 rating when the Hawks shut out the Steelers winning the game with a 4-0 score. Boucher also posted three goals in the series — including a shorthanded tally during the last match in Magnitogorsk. It won’t be easy for Ak Bars to contain the American forward, and Hartley is certainly expecting a solid production from Boucher.
7 G, 3 W, 2 SO, 93.21%, GAA 1.58
It has been an incredible season for Pasquale, who, despite the loss against CSKA, managed to shut out the Red Army twice. The Ontario native played lights out in the series against the Muscovites and went only one game to the Western Conference finals. The series started with a sensational Lokomotiv victory in Moscow, with Pasquale posting a 25-save shutout.
Beating Pasquale was hard for CSKA’s forwards throughout the whole series, including the decisive seventh game, when he only allowed two goals to the opposition. Despite the loss, Pasquale was excellent for the Railwaymen and one of the best players in the series. The Canadian netminder is under contract in Yaroslavl for another year, and it will be exciting to see his motivation in 2021-2022 as the Railwaymen will try and challenge CSKA and SKA once again.