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European Report: Shaking the rust off

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It’s beach weather. Somewhere. But there were games to be played in Europe this past week.

foto: Kristina Gillerstedt

Yegor Korshkov

Korshkov gets to go first since he played two meaningful games this week. He was also really not ready for prime time in the first one. Not his fault alone — the rest of his team was a little iffy too.

Lokomotiv opened the season against CSKA, and they combined for a very dull game decided in a shootout. There were two goals in regulation — one scored on a penalty shot and the other an easy play after a failed clearing attempt by the goalie.

Korshkov, Pavel Kraskovsky and Alexander Polunin, second line in name to go with the ice time, were ineffective in the offensive zone, missing passes, losing control at the blueline, etc. Defensively they looked a little better, but when CSKA started to up the pace, it was really the Lokomotiv goalie who staved off a disaster.

Overtime had one brief appearance by Korshkov’s group. I think it was Polunin who sat for a defender. The KHL is new to the three-on-three system, they only started it late last year, and they haven’t stopped assuming high speed to split the defenders is the way to go. Only the experienced NHLers on the ice knew what they were doing. And CSKA, who have a lot of them right now, looked good. Korshkov and friends did not.

For reasons known only to the Lokomotiv coach, he put Staffan Kronwall out third in the shootout, and he looked like a defenceman confused as to why he was there. Game to CSKA.

The second game of the week was against Slovan Bratislava and Lokomotiv tuned them up for a 5-1 win. Korshkov got one of the later goals. I’m not sure it’s insurance or just beating the dead horse at that point:

Slovan has signed Simon Després to a contract, and whatever is going on with him that he meekly consented to a buyout after being on LTIR for a year, he might be a help to their defence corps. Slovan was far too easy to score on. The blowout sure helped Lokomotiv blow off the rust.

Sorry for the terrible GIF, by the way, the KHL has started geoblocking their highlight videos. You wouldn’t want to build up a fanbase heading into an NHL lockout in a few years, obviously guarding your goal videos from prying eyes is good business. The Russians used to be the least stupid about this sort of things, but alas, no more.

Carl Grundström

SHL pre-season is moving along, and part of pre-season is the Champions Hockey League. They waited until an hour before their games started on Thursday to tell everyone they were now streaming free on Youtube in HD. I guess the PR departments are a bit rusty too right now.

Hey, everyone, free high-quality hockey broadcasts! You might find a few draft-eligible prospects on those teams beyond just Frölunda’s Rasmus Dahlin.

Go to the game you want, click on it and you can watch on that page or open a youtube page. Everything not carried on TSN should be available in Canada; all games will be there in America. TSN will likely only carry the final in the spring.

Frölunda played two CHL games this week. In the first, they managed a tie with ZSC of the Swiss league that they converted to an OT win. They should have won that one outright, but there was rust on everyone. Grundström gave the puck away right in front of his own net allowing ZSC to open the scoring.

He got better, dug in and played hard, as he does. Against a lesser team, he looked capable all over the ice, barring that early incident. ZSC took penalties which you just can’t do against Frölunda’s power play, and that’s how the lackluster Swedish side kept piling up goals enough to keep it close.

ZSC tied it up on a goal that should never have counted, late in the third, but ultimately Frölunda took it in overtime. The officiating will get better with time too.

Grundström did not play very well offensively, didn’t shoot much, but after his opening gaffe, he did dig in and do the hard grinding he’s known for.

Game two was against the Austrian team KAC Klagenfurt, and they should have been easy pickings. Klagenfurt had goalie Tomas Duba in net. He’s a cautionary tale about taking a hot WJC performance too seriously, but in the EBEL, he’s aces.

Duba single-handedly killed off half of a five-on-three and looked like a star. For a minute, at least. Joel Lundqvist converted from his knees to make it 1-0 after one period. (Can Henrik do that? I don’t think so.)

With Rangers prospect Lias Andersson on the roster, Frölunda tried a baby power play unit with him, Grundström and Dahlin all on the ice together. It’s obvious that Dahlin is the class of the group in raw skill, but Grundström shows more maturity in his decision making. Sometimes with Dahlin, it’s like he doesn’t even know there are percentages, far less how to play them.

Frölunda shook some of their own rust off, upped the pace, and kept KAC from ever getting any effective offence going.

Grundström was better, but he looked out of sync with his linemates, Andersson and Detroit prospect Christoffer Ehn. He drove the net fine, but passes weren’t connecting, and it seemed like they weren’t where he expected them to be. If this kid line sticks for the team, they will get it together, since all three are excellent players with a nice mix of skills. But if you’ve ever longed for a fourth line of prospects, you should watch these guys and see the bad that comes with the good.

ZSC and Frölunda should advance easily from their group. Frölunda’s next CHL game is August 31.

Vladislav Kara

Kara showed up, unexpectedly, on the roster for Russia at a U20 four nations event in Finland. He’s not played any national team games since he was eligible for the U17, so perhaps being drafted caught someone’s attention. He scored one goal in the first game.

Russia won all three of their games, and Kara added an assist in a wild 6-5 win over the Czechs on the last day.

The advertised livestream was cancelled for these games, so only the fans and scouts in Finland know how it really happened.

Persons of Interest

We have one of these already!

Igor Ozhiganov: The Leafs confirmed that Mike Babcock and Lou Lamoriello met with Ozhiganov in Moscow. He is under contract until the end of this season, and he plays for CSKA in the KHL.

He played his first game of the season in CSKA’s third outing against the rebuilding Dynamo Moscow. CSKA tore them apart for a score of 6-1. Ozhiganov played third pair minutes and got on the score sheet for a hooking penalty in the first period.

Last year, with Nikita Zaitsev gone, he played second pairing minutes and put up some impressive point numbers. However, 75 per cent of his goals came on the power play. Without knowing how his assists were shared out, we can only wonder if he’s one of those good at slow motion hockey types with deceptive looking points totals.

This year, he’s been unable to crack a lineup that features Alexey Marchenko in his path. CSKA could be giving Marchenko a shot to show what he’s got, since they didn’t have him for training camp, but it still seems a bit unpromising so far.

He played a full season with Zaitsev, so the Leafs have had benefit of that opinion to judge from as well as their own scouting. We’ll wait and see how Ozhiganov does this year, but I’ve got a long list of not quite NHL defenders playing in the KHL I can give you to temper your enthusiasm.


The European report may return next Sunday if the CHL games are good or if Korshkov does something exciting.