After a somber start, the first 2 weeks of the season have been full of action in the KHL both on and off the ice. We have seen one team dominate its first four games on both ends of the ice, a player with his name on the Stanley Cup decide to sign on to be the captain of a perennial cellar dweller instead of having another go at the NHL, and a player who faces charges for sexual assault and robbery.
After a disappointing second round playoff exit last season SKA Saint Petersburg’s management decided it was time to alter the formula. The team got younger, and much to the objection of the supporters Milos Riha was brought on board to coach the team. Four games into the season the change seems to be for the better. The team is seemingly firing on all cylinders already, especially on defense.
Last season with five minutes remaining in game seven of the aforementioned series against Atlant, SKA goalkeeper Jakub Stepanek made a mental error that cost his team the season. So far this year he has been nearly unbeatable. In their four games SKA have outscored opponents 14-4. For his efforts he was named the KHL goalkeeper of the week for his .958 save percentage and 1.00 goals against average. How long this hot streak will last is anyone’s guess.
One player who found himself without a job with SKA’s restructuring was 37 year old, three-time New Jersey Devils Stanley Cup winner, Sergei Brylin. After three years in Saint Petersburg the forward decided to have another go at the NHL, but after little interest he signed with Metallurg Novokuznetsk and was made their capitan.
After missing the start of the season due to injury he made his debut against Ak Bars on September 24th. It did not take him long to make the home fans happy, 4:19 into the first period he scored his first goal of the season. Before the end of the game there were 6 thousand fans chanting “Jersey” for their new captain as they defeated the team from Kazan 4-3.
There was one player who did not have a chance to compete in that game on Saturday. The criminal investigation is continuing against Ak Bars forward Dmitry Obukov by the Department of Investigation in Tatarstan where he has been charged with rape and robbery.
The assault was reported on July 9th where Obukov was accused of driving a 25 year old woman to a field outside of Kazan, raping her and then taking her phone and leaving her on the scene. On August 7th the investigators announced that the accusations were unfounded.
But after appeals to the media this decision was reversed and on September 22nd Obukov was charged with one count of rape and one count of robbery. Ak Bars has yet to make a descion on what to do with the 28 year old forward. He has logged a total of 149 games for the club since 2008 with a total of 18 goals and 40 assists and was a big part of their two Gagarin Cups.
Other player of the week honors went to:
Best Forward: Mikelas Redlihs, Dynamo Riga (1 goal, 5 assists)
Best Defender: Janne Yalasvaara, Dynamo Moscow (3 goals, 1 assist)
Best Rookie: Andrei Sergeev, CSKA Moscow (+1 rating)