Saturday, April 12, 2014

2014 KHL Gagarin Cup Playoff Update

The semifinals round of the Kontinental Hockey League Gagarin Cup playoffs concluded Friday and the Gagarin Cup Finals are now set.

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In the Eastern Conference, #1 seed Metallurg Magnitogorsk, coached by Canadian Mike Keenan, defeated #4 Salavat Yulaev Ufa 4 games to 1. The series began with Metallurg winning a pair of 3-2 games at home, with the second requiring overtime. Game 3 in Ufa saw Salavat forcefully announce their intention to win the series with a dominating 4-0 shutout, but all that accomplished was to sound the alarm and Magnitogorsk did not allow another goal for the rest of the series, winning Game 4 1-0 on a goal by Viktor Antipin and take the series back at home with another 1-0 win with the final goal coming 1:14 into overtime from Yaroslav Khabarov as goaltender Vasily Koshechkin shut out Ufa for over the final 120 minutes of the series.

Here are the highlights of Metallurg and Koshechkin shutting out Salavat despite the valiant effort of Ufa goaltender (#88!) Andrei Vasilevsky, who makes a spectacular glove save on the goal line in an effort to keep his club's hopes alive.

Meanwhile, in the Western Conference, #3 Lev Prague out of the Czech Republic faced the #8 seed and sentimental favorites Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, who had already defeated the #1 seed and defending champions Dynamo Moscow and #2 SKA Saint Petersburg.

Lev took the first two games in Prague 3-0 and 2-1. Back in front of their home fans in Yaroslavl, Lokomotiv won 3-0 to get back in the series thanks to a shutout by former NHLer Curtis Sanford, but then dropped Game 4 by a score of 3-2 in overtime with the winning goal coming with just 19 seconds left in the extra session.

The series then moved back to the Czech Republic where Lev closed out the series, becoming the first team based outside of Russia to make the Gagarin Cup Finals and put an end to the dream story of Lokomotiv winning the championship just two seasons removed from the disaster that claimed the lives of the entire 2011-12 team, forcing the club to start over from scratch.

Here are the highlights of the final game between Lev and Lokomotiv, which includes the wild goal scored by Lokomotiv's Geoff Platt, his second of the game.

The Gagarin Cup Finals begin on Friday, April 18th.

Meanwhile, unlike the NHL, the 12 teams that fail to qualify for the championship playoffs enter a tournament of their own for "the best of the rest", known as Nadezhda Cup (the Cup of Hope), a concept which began last season.

The First Round is a quick two game series, and if each team wins one, a 5 minute overtime followed by a shootout decides the series, something you won't see in the NHL! #11 Slovan Bratislava of Slovakia was ousted by #14 Dinamo Minsk of Belarus 2-0 and #13 Vityaz Chekov advanced when #12 Spartak Moscow was excluded from the playoffs due to their financial situation.

In the East, #11 Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk defeated #14 Amur Khabarovsk from far eastern Russia after a 4-2 win in Game 1 followed by a 1-1 tie in Game 2, another thing North American's aren't used to seeing, a playoff series ending with a tie game!

In the battle of the longest names, #12 Neftkhimik Nizhnekamsk swept a pair of games from #13 Metallurg Novokuznetsk.

For the Quarterfinals, teams ranked 9th and 10th joined the competition to face the winners of the First Round. There, the series are four games with a 20 minute overtime and shootout if the teams are tied 2-2 after the four games. #14 Dinamo Minsk upset #9 Atlant Moscow Oblast in three straight and Minsk advanced to face #10 Severstal Cherepovets, who eliminated #13 Vityaz Chekov 3-1. In the East, #10 Avangard Omsk were 3-1 victors over #11 Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk. The series between #9 Traktor Chelyabinsk and #12 Neftkhimik Nizhnekamsk went to the deciding shootout after a long night of hockey, as Traktor first had to win Game 4 1-0 after 18 minutes of overtime. Then, the two teams played a scoreless 20 minute "series" overtime before Traktor advanced in the series deciding shootout after nearly five full periods of hockey.

The Western Semifinal saw #14 Dinamo Minsk stay hot with a 3-1 series win over #10 Severstal Cherepovets, giving Minsk 8 wins in 9 games. #10 Avangard Omsk advanced with a 3-1 defeat of #9 Traktor Cheylabinsk. In the finals, Avangard put an end to Dinamo's hot streak, shutting them out 2-0 and 4-0 before taking the Nadezhda Cup with a 3-2 win in Game 3.

Highlights of the final game of the Cup of Hope begin at the 1:22 mark.

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