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European Report: Carl Grundström and Yegor Korshkov trade goals

You want to be the person scoring the key goal for your team in the playoffs. But you don’t want to be the only one doing it.

NHL: Preseason-Toronto Maple Leafs at Buffalo Sabres Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Carl Grundström

The quarterfinals are underway in the SHL, and Carl Grundström is in the think of it. Frölunda face Malmö in this round, a best of seven series. After three games, the series is 2-1 Frölunda, but not everything is coming up roses for the good guys. They have consistently given up leads, and had to come from behind in game two and game three to win after dropping the first with a score of 2-1.

They have consistently gotten important tying goals from one man. In game two, not quite midway trough a wild third period where Frölunda had dropped back to two goals behind and then made up one, the goal that tied it was scored by Carl Grundström of course. You’ll have to look through the official video for it, and stick around to watch Rasmus Dahlin score the game winner. He sure does like to slap the ice with his stick for the puck. Grundström is #3 in white and Dahlin is #26.

In game thee, Grundström was at it again, tying the game just after one minute of play in the third. Max Friberg, a former Montréal Canadiens player who went back after being stuck on the IceCaps/Rocket for two years without another NHL chance, scored the game winner.

The official video is here if you want a high def look at that.

Game four is today.

Yegor Korshkov

Last week finished with Lokomotiv tied with power house SKA at one game all in their conference semifinal. No one predicted that Lokomotiv would win even that one game they got. SKA is so oversupplied with top players, they can have forwards who never have to leave the offensive zone. They don’t need any help to win.

In game three of the series at home in Yaroslavl, Lokomotiv’s defenceman and offensive driver, Jakub Nakladal scored first early in the game. There was a challenge on the goal, and a long video review ensued. Approximately 20 minutes of the officials looking at their computers (they have actual monitors in Russia) and talking on the phone followed. At the end of all of that, the goal was called back due to the puck having left the playing surface on the play leading up to it. It bounced of either the stanchion beside the SKA bench or off of something just behind that stanchion. The ref never noticed at the time.

That you can review for that is news to me, the Lokomotiv coach, the players, and the entire crowd on hand to watch. But they weren’t surprised when the goal was called back.

This game was played on Monday, the day after the Russian election. The mood in the arena was powerful — a mix of derision and cynical laughter from the fans. The whistling never stopped after. (If you don’t know, many Europeans whistle where we would boo.) Several of the younger Russian players on Lokomotiv looked sick, white-faced, demoralized, hopeless.

The foreign players, like Nakladal and Max Talbot, were angry. There were multiple fights involving those two in the rest of the game, and it looked very much like a brawl on the ice could set the crowd off. The power play time for both teams piled up, but no one scored.

The second period was less tense because of violence bubbling over, but not less tense about the outcome. It seemed to me like Lokomotiv could only win the game if they shutout SKA.

Ilya Kovalchuk of SKA scored on a power play late in the second period, and that was it. Kovalchuk added another in the third, but Lokomotiv had been totally taken out of the game by that goal review. I hesitate to read too much in, but it felt to me as a viewer that Lokomotiv never believed they would be allowed to win.

Game four was the very next day, as the KHL playoff schedule is absurdly compressed. Brandon Kozun had been hit in a dirty boarding play at the end of the previous game, and he never played again. There was a few minutes of hope, however, as this absolute beauty by Yegor Korshkov opened the scoring:

SKA tied it up before the first period was over, and during a second period of non-stop fights, roughing, boarding and misconducts, SKA scored three more times. That was it. For real this time. It was time to just run the clock.

Game five was on Thursday, and after Korshkov made a hash of net-front defensive play on the opening Kovalchuk goal, he set up the only Lokomotiv goal of the game. SKA won the game 3-1, and the funny thing is, while they had a host of power play opportunities in these last two games, they won both with mostly even-strength goals. Series to SKA four games to one.

The mismatch here was extreme; think the Leafs playing, not Boston on their best night, but Team Canada from the World Cup. Lokomotiv is a good team, and they had their nose rubbed in how impossible it is to beat the system.

You can take the measure of a man in a situation like that, I think. Korshkov is tough customer, who takes no guff, but he rarely starts things. He can lose his cool, and took a very bad boarding penalty in the first round, but he sits somewhere in temperament between Talbot, who is a hothead, and Staffan Kronwall, who rarely uses his big body for anything but defence.

I want Korshkov to come play in Toronto now this spring, to play on the Marlies where the refs in the AHL might seem a bit daft at times, but that’s all you have to complain about with officiating. I want him to lose a few games fair and square and remember how that feels. And then I want him to win the Calder Cup.

Will I get what I want? Technically, he is under contract until the end of April, but it is possible to negotiate an early release, as Eeli Tolvanen will do to go play for Nashville soon. The Russian National U25 team likes Korshkov; he gets a lot of attention in games, and is considered a rising star. They might call on him to play in the world championships. Time will tell.

Pierre Engvall and Jesper Lindgren

Pierre Engvall has joined Jesper Lindgren on the Marlies, and they’ve each played in one game.

Nikolai Chebykin

Dynamo St. Petersburg easily won their final game of the quarterfinals. Their semifianls don’t start until Thursday.

Vladimir Bobylyov

Vladimir Bobylyov looks totally done for the season, as there’s no teams left from his club competing. His season was even more frustrating and marked by lack of play than Chebykin’s last year. But then, he’s now playing for a trip to the finals in the VHL now, so anything is possible for Bobylyov. I don’t expect the Leafs to offer him a contract before June 1, and he will drop off the prospect list. He was drafted in the fifth round in 2016 out of the WHL, so his rights are only two years.

Vladislav Kara

Sent back to junior for the playoffs, Vladislav Kara played his last game on Sunday last week. His team was beat out, but he scored a goal, making his playoff total two goals and three assists in five games. His KHL team is cruising in the playoffs, like the top team in the East should. But I don’t see Kara as at the level where he’ll get a callup. He’s all about next year, but this year was very good, and he played at a high level with big minutes in the VHL as a teenager.

Persons of Interest

Igor Ozhiganov: Speaking of cruising, CSKA is rolling along to their fated meeting with SKA in the West final, as they beat out Jokerit on Saturday. Oxhiganov has not played in this round at all, which leaves me with no opinion on his defensive abilities. If the Leafs do sign him, we’ll find out in time what he plays like, but all it costs is an SPC, which are not in short supply anymore.

Next week will bring us to the end of Grundström’s quarterfinal round, no matter what happens. We’ll know if he’s done, or if he’s moving on to the semis.