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European report: We are the champions!

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Gothenburg Sweden saw a lot of hockey action this week. Champions were crowned.

Frolunda Gothenburg v Sparta Prague - Champions Hockey League Final 2017
Champion!
Photo by Anders Ylander/Ombrello/Getty Images

Carl Grundström

Frölunda started off the week last Sunday with a loss to Färjestad that saw them start well and finish badly. As of now, they are solidly in second place in the league, and look to stay there unless they really pour it on in the few remaining games. Playoffs await.

Grundström played his usual game—he has become totally predictable—with a high shot rate, mid-range minutes and totally snake-bitten on goals.

The SHL went on their break for the week, but Frölunda stayed put because on Tuesday, they hosted the Champions Hockey League final.

So that went well. Sparta Prague gave them the toughest game of the entire tournament, and it went to overtime in front of the home crowd before Niklas Lasu won the game on a sweet goal. Frölunda has now won this tournament three straight years.

Grundström played a very chippy role in the game—Sparta are a tough crew—and his line seemed to be near the net less than usual. This wasn’t his first playoff-like game. He played in MODO’s relegation games last season, and had playoffs as a junior in league play and the WJC, but this is the first victory in front of a home crowd, screaming and cheering. I’m sure it was fun, and he’ll want to try it again in a few weeks.

This behind the scenes video is an enjoyable look at how serious a friendly tournament like this gets once you are in it and also gives a bit of a feel for what European hockey crowds are like.

Pierre Engvall and Jesper Lindgren

Mora IK played twice, won them both—one of them 6-0. They are really on a roll at the end of the season. Pierre Engvall is not. He has slipped down to the third unit and had one secondary assist in the two games combined.

MODO split their games—one a 6-3 win, the other an OT loss. They have moved from a desperately bad team to one that can win in the Allsvenskan about half the time. Jasper Lindgren had one assist in the two games. He stayed on the top unit, but was playing with a new partner, 18-year-old David Deutsch, a call-up from the junior team.

Engvall is 12th in points, with three teammates ahead of him on the list. Lindgren is 13th for defenders and is tops on his team for defenders as well.

Nikolai Chebykin

Did not play. His last game was February 3 for the junior team, and their next game is February 13.

Russia uses their “Olympic” team as their U25 B team for in-season tournaments, and they played in the Slovakia Cup this week. Chebykin did not make the long list for the team. He did make the long list for some pre-WJC junior tournaments, but never made a team. His national team coaches don’t see him as a realistic prospect right now, even for a youth or junior team.

It will be very interesting to see if ends up back in the MHL for the rest of the season, and if he does, he can’t count this year as a success.

Persons of Interest

This is going to be all Vladimir Tkachyov this week.

During the break in KHL action, the Euro Hockey Tour got going again. With less than ten games in the KHL regular season, it will not surprise that many top Russian players took the break to rest.

This left the Russian National team with an opportunity to put some hot young stars on the top team and send them to play in a men’s tournament. For the top unit they chose WJC star Kirill Kaprizov, 19 and a draft pick of the Minnesota Wild, and Anatoly Golyshev, a 21-year-old taken in the fourth round last year by the New York Islanders. Golyshev has been having a rough year, so it was a sign of confidence in him when he needed it.

To play centre for these two very fast, very skilled forwards, they chose Tkachyov. At 23, he was the veteran babysitting the youngsters in their first try at national team play.

The first game for Russia was in St. Petersburg against Finland which they won 2-1 on a beautiful goal by Golyshev. The full highlights, from a very Russian point of view, are below: Tkatchyov is 70, Kaprizov is 7, and Golyshev is 15.

One very interesting play for me was the disaster that gave the Finns their only goal. A failed breakaway for the Russians led to a turnover and it was Tkachyov who made up a lot of ground on his own defencemen and nearly averted the Finnish goal.

The second game of the series was in Gothenburg against a Swedish team captained by the Frölunda captain, Joel Lundqvist. To say the crowd was against them is an understatement.

The game was chippy at first, and the teams traded goals through two periods taking the score to 3-2 for Russia. The Tkachyov line were in on everything in the first part of the game. He plays the power play, is front and centre on a penalty kill that looks exactly like what the Leafs put on the ice, and with his young wingers, he chose to win the faceoff, drive the net or dig out the puck for them, and hand it off. He got to hug them after a lot of goals with that strategy.

Their line drew a penalty in the third while on the power play unit and scored like it was inevitable.

They took the crowd out of the game, the Swedes never responded with a serious push. The HD version shows all the action:

In this game Tkachyov seemed like a hybrid of Tyler Bozak and Zach Hyman. He definitely made up for some defensive deficiencies of his young wingers, but they really drove the offence.

In the final game for Russia on Sunday, they beat the Czechs 4-2, for the clean sweep.

Very Zach Hyman, sometimes. He also had a penalty shot that didn’t go in and one other early chance.


Next week, league play starts up again, and we will find out if Yegor Korshkov has any more games in him this season. Next Sunday, I’ll take a longer look at Finnish defender Miro Heiskanen, a draft prospect for this summer.

UPDATED:

He played in an MHL game today.