With the KHL post-season approaching and the top three teams from each conference having clinched their playoff spots, the KHL writers at Last Word On Sports decided to collaborate for a playoff preview. Writers Aivis Kalnins and Cirno Avery present:
Metallurg Magnitogorsk – KHL Playoff Preview
Mike Keenan, also known as “Iron Mike”, is the only coach in the hockey world to have both the Stanley and Gagarin Cups, giving him a slight advantage over any coach he is facing. The level of experience he has, and the dominant offensive hockey he forces his team to play, gave him and the team the Gagarin Cup last year. Knowing it is possibly his last season in KHL, Iron Mike wants to leave Russia with two Gagarin Cup titles.
The league’s best offensive trio can win the Cup alone – Sergei Mozyakin, Danis Zaripov and Jan Kovar are together and going strong. Yes, they might have stopped destroying teams this year, but they are still the best in the KHL by far. Making the playoffs and, with the playing style changing, they can only get better. All three guys are playing over 20 minutes per game, but don’t seem to get tired. Be ready to see loads of goals from this trio.
Saying that offense is the best defense is most likely team’s motto. Chris Lee is the most skilled, offensive defenseman in the league. As a defensman, he has to play defense first, but you can see that sometimes he is more frustrated when his team fails to convert than when they allow a goal. Being the only office defenseman on the team is a perfect balance for the rest of the team’s defensive-defense roster.
Metallurg’s goaltending is a one man army. Vasiliy Koshechkin has played 45 games during the regular season and his 1.75 GAA and 93.7% save percentage are outstanding for a goalie who plays the majority of the games. He has allowed only 75 goals against on 1197 shots. On those 1197 shots, he has shut the door in six games, allowing nothing to fall behind him. Impressive for a playoff goalie, we have no doubt he will carry on making saves.
Can they win two in a row? Yes, they can. They are a better team than Dynamo Moscow was when they won their two cups, and are close to being at the same level as first two seasons’ champions, AkBars, which was a fully defensive team.