As the KHL playoffs approach their mid-point, LWOS KHL writers Cirno Avery and Aivis Kalnins present you with their Gagarin Cup predictions. Each writer will pick one team they think has the best chance of winning this year and give their explanation why.
Aivis’ Prediction – HC Dynamo Moscow
My pick this year is the team that already has two cups, back-to-back in 2012-2013, and a triumph this year would turn them into the first-ever dynasty in KHL history.
The team has kept their leaders while tinkering with the support players on the roster and have started strong in the playoffs. Over the last four season Dynamo Moscow’s biggest strength has been their depth, with all four of their lines working together as one, a balanced roster, great defense and sneaky goaltending that is not elite, but certainly very good.
The Russian team is not known to be the richest team around, but coaching has always played a huge role in the club’s success. Olegs Znarok was the head coach when Dynamo merged with Balashika MVD, and now the position is held by Harijs Vitolins, a long time assistant who is one of the main reasons why teams coached by Znaroks have been successful. He is a strategist, the brains of the team, while Znarok has always worked as a motivator. Vitolins was announced as Dynamo Moscow’s head coach last year when Znarok was hired as head coach of the Russian national team.
Alexei Tsvetkov and Kaspars Daugavins are two forwards to watch for. Both can score and are incredible playmakers; and they have been the best forwards on the team this whole season. On the back end, defenseman Matt Robinson has 2 goals and 3 assists in 8 playoff games so far. He missed a huge part of the regular season, but when he played he was rocketing from one side of the ice to the other. Filip Novak and Janne Jalosvaara can also seal the deal when on the ice, but aren’t as dangerous as Robinson. Alexander Lazushin has been the cornerstone in net. He has shown the ability to steal games during the regular season, and is looking to do the same in the playoffs.