Wednesday, October 17, 2007

FIRM: Yashin gets beat by Belov (YouTube Video)

Things atop of the RSL standings remain consistent: Salavat Yulaev did even more to prove that an offseason shopping spree can indeed do a team good by posting 2 commanding wins over Spartak and Sibir to cement their grasp on the leading position in the standings. SKA are surprisingly 2nd with CSKA and Metallurg Mg deadlocked for the 3rd spot, the former proving last season's success wasn't a fluke and the latter looking to regain the success they lacked in the unstable regular season of the 2006-07 campaign, which still ended in a championship. Both teams have been putting up good results with CSKA picking up points in 7 games in a row, the latest one a spectacular overtime loss to Lokomotiv. The game was marked by a misconduct served to Alexei Yashin in the 3rd period for participating in a fight which was instigated by CSKA defenseman Anton Belov after Yashin checked him from behind. Lokomotiv's new helmsman Kari Heikkil? might give a little more thought to protecting Yashin, one of the team leaders with 10 points in 13 games, from getting provoked and lost for an entire game with a misconduct or even a suspension.

"I still have to figure out who's who on this team – commented Heikkil? to Russian sports news website, - yet it's clear we're going to get hooked more and we'll have to designate a 'tough guy' within our team to be able to retaliate."

Notwithstanding Belov's witty attack on Yashin which knocked the former NHLer out of the game when it was still tied 1:1 and goalie Tom Lawson's heroics who made a few point blank saves on Yaroslav's forwards CSKA still lost due to unnecessary penalties which left the team 5 on 3 in overtime which led to Randy Robitaille's game winner.

The situation in the bottom half of the table is just as thrilling if not more. Apart from the clumsy Avangard, still trying to climb up from the 12th place, there's also Ak Bars which so far has been the biggest sensation of the championship. Zinetula Bilyaletdinov's team is not just not looking like the champion it was not so long ago, but it's not even giving the impression of a contender. Kazan had been on a 5 game losing streak at the start of the week and added two more with a 3:0 sweep from Severstal and a 2:3 home loss to Dynamo. The shutout in Cherepovets was marked by plenty of disciplinary action against Ak Bars which was expressing its frustration in rough play with 7 penalties, one of them a misconduct against just 1 of the hosts. All 3 goals, however, were scored on even strength with starter Vasily Koshechkin finishing the game but getting pulled out of the next one after Dynamo hammered him with 3 goals in two periods. Goaltending is not the only apparent problem in Kazan. Ak Bars, once able to convert almost a third of its powerplays, is only 15th in the league with a 10.7% conversion ratio. Coach Bill is now looking at a world of problems with his team already out of the playoff pool and facing tough opponents next week in HC MVD and Avangard in Omsk. Will they break the disastrous 7 game losing streak and get back on track or are we looking at another possible coaching change?

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