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European Report: One minute you’re in the playoffs, and then suddenly it’s all over

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The race for the finish line in hockey takes a long, long time, but the end can still come too fast.

Finland v Sweden - 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship
Pontus Holmberg at the WJC.
Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images

Yegor Korshkov

RW - 22 years old - shoots left - fourth full KHL season

In the KHL, they don’t fool around with the playoff schedule. There are no games at funny times, they don’t want to hear how you have a rock concert booked in the arena, and the games are every other day until round one is done. Hockey comes first.

This all means Lokomotiv has already played four games, and they just began on Monday. They split the series so far with Sochi, each team winning their two home games, although the first game in a nearly empty rink in Sochi was won in a tie.

The action moves back to Yaroslavl for the fifth game on Tuesday.

Lokomotiv, who have shown some caution with playing Yegor Korshkov since his return from injury, played him in every other game so far. In the first game, he was hit, and ended up barely playing, but he did play limited shifts in all three periods.

In his next game, the overtime win for the home team in Sochi, he played a regular set of shifts. In that game, he made one play typical for him, where he easily carried the puck through the neutral zone, hit some traffic over the blueline, dumped the puck in the corner, chased it himself, got control, kept everyone off the puck with his reach and size, looked up and... had not one teammate in position to receive a pass. He tried to shoot himself, but it was hopeless. William Nylander feels your pain, Yegor.

With the series tied at two, I think the edge is with Lokomotiv and their superior goaltending.

Korshkov is pointless in two games played in the playoffs so far.

Eemeli Räsänen

D - 19 years old - shoots right - first year in the KHL

Eemeli Räsänen has been dressed but not played in all four games for Jokerit so far. The fact that they’re dressing him and giving him this experience is a signal that they really like him. This isn’t punishment; this is a normal practice in Europe for young players getting their first taste of the playoffs.

That said, Jokerit are struggling mightily against Dynamo Moscow, a team that nearly collapsed not so long ago. Jokerit’s strength is their goalies and their scoring, and both have deserted them in concert. They trail three games to one, and have lost their home ice advantage.

Both of these series will be decided before next Monday.

Jesper Lindgren

D - 21 years old - shoots right - second season in the Liiga

With four more regular season games to play, HPK sits in seventh place — a playoff spot, but not a good one.

They played two games this past week, and won one in a shootout. In the first, a loss, Jesper Lindgren went pointless in his usual 20 minutes of play.

In the shootout win, he had the primary assist on the first goal, and scored himself to make it 2-2. HPK eventually won it 5-4.

Lindgren now has two goals and 15 assists in 41 games played. He sits fourth for U22 defenders in the Liiga in points per game, and is the only foreigner in that category. He’s 25th overall, so he’s taken a nice leap in results this season.

HPK plays three games next week, and then not again until Thursday, March 14, which I’m sure makes sense to someone.

Pontus Holmberg

W/C - 19 years old - shoots left - first SHL season

Växjö has five more games on the schedule, and they sit in fourth spot with a little more separation over the teams chasing them, so they’ve improved their position this week by winning two out of three games. The one loss went in a shootout, so they are very much on a Kris Versteeg-led roll.

In the last few games, Pontus Holmberg has been playing the forth line wing or centre, and he’s stayed in the lineup when the higher draft pick Dominik Bokk has not. This is nicely delicious since the St. Louis Blues took Bokk with the pick the Leafs traded to get two picks for Rasmus Sandin and Semyon Der Arguchintsev.

In the middle game of this week, a 4-2 win over Linköping, Holmberg had two assists on the first two goals of the game.

Holmberg now has three goals and six assists in 42 games played, averaging just over 13 minutes per game. He’s not a goal-scorer, but he sure does know what he’s doing on the ice. It’s very easy to see why coaches like him.

Semyon Kizimov

RW - 19 years old - shoots left - first year in the VHL

The VHL playoffs didn’t get going as quickly, and Lada have only played twice, splitting the wins with Sokol. Semyon Kizimov only played 10 minutes in the first game, the win, and did not play in the second. I do not know if he was hurt, or what the issue is.

Nikolai Chebykin

Winger - 21 years old - shoots left - third VHL season

Nikolai Chebyking has one assist in two games played in the playoffs, both wins. Teammate Vladimir Bobylyov has two assists, so he picked the right time to peak this season after a very slow start.

Vladislav Kara

Winger/C - 20 years old - shoots left - third pro season, first in the KHL/VHL

Vladislav Kara, who just squeaks in for junior eligibility was sent down to the MHL to help Irbis Kazan try to get in the playoffs. They didn’t manage it, but he had two goals and four assists in three games. He’s too good for the VHL, and he’s really, really too good for junior.

But his season is over, nonetheless. None of the Kazan teams are left in action after Ak Bars, the defending KHL champion was swept in the first round.

Yes, I would love to see this guy in Toronto, but he’s under contract to 20/21, so it seems unlikely. But if you’re too good for the VHL, not quite KHL-ready, the AHL really sounds like the place for you.


That’s all for this week, next week, we might have some winners or some losers because hockey is fickle like that.