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European prospects update: watch Nikita Zaitsev be fabulous

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Playoffs are roaring along, and there's video from Russia and Finland to feast your eyes on.

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Andreas Johnson

Game five of Frölunda's semifinal against Luleå was played on Sunday, and it was another trip to overtime for Andreas Johnson and his team where Joey Crabb was the unlikely hero giving Frölunda the win. They led the series 3-2 after this one.

Johnson's line with Johan Sundström were excellent in a game where Frölunda dramatically outshot their opponents. Sundström had 9 shots on goal and Johnson 3, leading all the offensive lines in production, but they were held off the score sheet again.

It was the last game for Kristian Vesalainen who has been released to represent Finland at the U18 championships in the USA in a few days. It was remarkable to see a player so young hold his own in the playoffs, but experienced forwards returning from injury made that stopgap unnecessary.

Game six was Frölunda's chance to win it on the road, and they looked like they meant business from the beginning. They finished the first period up 1-0, the second 4-1 and the game 8-2.

Johnson and his line were not in on any of the scoring, and their offensive attempts were not superb; it was not their best game. The action was closer than the score indicates, but their shot output was very low.

It's on to the finals for Johnson and Frölunda—for the first time in ten years—where they face the winner of Wednesday's match between top-ranked Skellefteå and Växjö.

Nikita Zaitsev

Game two of the Gagarin Cup final went on Saturday, and the first hints that CSKA Moscow might be human were revealed in their 2-1 loss to Metallurg Magnitogorsk.

Zaitsev opened the scoring with a beautiful goal in the first period.

Magnitka answered back with one in the second, and won it on a third period goal. Zaitsev did a lot of shooting in this game, a trend that's shown up late in CSKA's playoff run.

Game three went on Monday, and this game was an exciting and tense affair that went to overtime where CSKA took it on a goal by Stephane Da Costa.

Magnitka took the lead in the second with the only goal of the game through two.

Zaitsev was very busy in third, he set up Da Costa's goal from the red line with a nice outlet pass to tie the game, and then he scored another beauty on the power play to take the lead with eight minutes left in the game.

With a minute left in the game, he should have been tying up his man (Alexander Semin) on the boards, but he failed at that, and the result was last-minute life for Magnitka.

Good players get the chance to make up for their mistakes, and in OT, he hands the puck off to Da Costa for the winning goal on a power play.

CSKA is up 2-1 in the series and Zaitsev is leading all defenceman on his team in ice time, and has 4 goals (2 on the power play) and 9 assists in 16 playoff games, second for defencemen.

Oh, and while were talking playoff stats: Alexander Semin is fifth in scoring for forwards, tied with Alexander Radulov in points.

Russian media is reporting today that CSKA boss Sergei Fedorov knew before the season began that Zaitsev would be leaving for the Leafs. He was responding to reports that the term of Zaitsev's contract will be three years.

[via Google translate] Early in the season we Zaitsev talked all possible - said Fedorov - And we understood that the extension of the contract would not be against CSKA, taking it as a working moment. Now we concentrate on the final, knowing that after Nikita season try their hand overseas. We are pleased with the professionalism that Zaitsev showed all season and shows so far.

Jesse Puljujärvi and Patrik Laine

Game six of the Liiga semifinal was played on Monday. Kärpät, Puljujärvi's team went out to a 2 goal lead in the second and held the lead until Tappara answered back with 2 of their own. Patrik Laine had the tying goal.

The game went to OT, where Puljujärvi set up the game winner and tied the series to force a game seven.

Game seven went the next day, and this time Tappara took two opening goals in the second. Kärpät had no answer, and that was the final score, sending Laine to the finals against Helsingin IFK, and Puljujärvi to one more game in the Liiga this year. The two losing semifinal teams play for the bronze medal on Friday. Both prospects were kept off the scoreboard for a change.