We’re into the second day of the KHL playoffs. After entertaining Western Conference games in day one and with 2nd games being played today, its just about time that the Eastern Conference teams start their playoffs.
Probably the most entertaining match-up of the first round in the east is going to be Barys of Astana vs Jekaterinburg Avtomobilist. Barys have lost five times in the first round, this is the year for them to prove that they are ready to move further in the playoffs. Can they do it is the question? Their opponent Avtomobilist is considered a tough opponent this season. They joined the KHL in 2009 and it might just financial problems that kept following them from VHL (Russian 2nd strongest league) as they clinched their very first playoffs spot in the KHL this year.
Jekatinburgt Avtomobilist is also known as Dinamo Energy and was first created in 1967. They were always playing in Russia’s second strongest league and they didn’t manage to achieve anything, so they decided to join Kontinetal Hockey League, hoping to get their hands on the all-mighty Gagarin Cup.
After joining the KHL they started even worse than expected: no playoffs, always being in last place in the league. This was despite having some great players. They made many coaching changes, until they got some stability this season. Avtomobilist finally got their playoff wish. Having a very strong players alone wasn’t enough previously, but now with showing good teamwork and structure and being backed up with a great goalie they have begun to achieve success. Of course making the playoffs won’t be enough, because they can and want to go even higher.
They seem to have just the right players to do it – Jakub Kovar (their strong Czech goalie) Finnish Defensmen Sami Lepistō (176 games in NHL) Canadian forward Andre Deveaux (31 game in NHL and 522 games in AHL) and Russian foward Igor Yemeleyev (One season in the QMJHL and the rest of his career in Russia).
Barys of Astana are a regular playoff fixture, but have not seen post-season success. The first three seasons they were thrown out of playoffs by two-time Gagarin Cup winners Kazan AK Bars. The last two seasons they fell, losing in seven games to both Magnitagorsk Metallurg and Traktor Chelyabinsk. The club based in Kazakhtsan has been made mostly for national hockey teams needs, as having a team in KHL is sure to help develop the countries national team, just as Dinamo Riga has done for Latvia. Having Alatau Sports Castle for international championships and KHL (it’s one of the biggest arenas in the KHL) is something Barys fans can sure be proud of it. Expected to be a middle of the road team, they led the Eastern conference for almost the whole season, only losing their spot and falling down to second position at the very end of the year. That was still enough to set the clubs personal record for most wins and points since joining KHL.
Barys is stocked with a perfect goaltending team, defensmen that are the best in whole league and offense being led by by former Maple Leaf and Winnipeg Jet Nikolai Antropov. It’s sure that team Barys is a strong playoff opponent, but the question is, can they get past Avtomobilist, the team that is amazed by themselves this season? Ari Ahonen is set to help his team between the pipes with AHL experience (178 games played) and Nik Antropov has quite a lot of NHL experience (731 games in the NHL). The defense is set with Mike Lundin (252 games in NHL) and everyone else around him.
The first round is ready to begin and this should be a great series.
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