First we have SKA St. Petersburg vs Dinamo Riga. SKA ("sports klub of the army") Finished 40-16 for 122 points. Their big name (i.e. Name that NHL fans know) is Alexy Yashin, and Canadian goalie Robert Esche led the league with 29 wins. Riga is basically the Latvian olympic team plus Czech forward Marcel Hossa, brother of Chicago Blackhawk Marian Hossa, and the league's goal leader with 35. The 8th seed in the east, they went 27-31 for 84 pts this year.
The second set features HC MVD Balashikha and CSKA, the former Red Army team. Both of these are basically Moscow teams in a league top heavy with Moscow area clubs. MVD was 31-25 for 102 pts, and CSKA, who finished 30-26, boasts one of six Americans in the KHL. His name is Nikos Dimitrakos and he scored 12 goals this year. CSKA are the Yankees of the KHL, having won 32 championships in the various Russian premier leagues, the last in 1989.
Third set features Atlant Mystischi and my favorites, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. Atlant, the "Atlases", are yet another Moscow suburb team and boast league scoring leader Sergei Mozyakin who tallied 66 points. They had a 37-19 mark for 101 pts this season. Lokomotiv, last year's playoff runners-up, claim Slovak olympian Richard Zednik as their big name and former Carolina Hurricane Josef Vasicek as their big gun. Lokomotiv have won 3 Russian titles and went 31-26 this year for 96 pts.
The last of the east matchups is an old Moscow rivalry, Dynamo vs Spartak. Dynamo, a 9-time champion, went 33-23 this year for 101 pts and include Alexi Seminov and Finn Jiri Hudler. Spartak, who played the Komets and beat them 7-4 many years ago, are 4-time champs and went 32-24 for 92 pts.
The west kicks off with top seed Salavat Yulaev from the city of Ufa against Avtomobilist Ekaterinburg. Salavat won a second straight regular season title (they lost in the first round to Avangard Omsk) with 44-12 for 129, and have one one Russian championship. Viktor Kozlov, late of the Red Wings, is their most recognizable name. Avtomobilist replaced Khimik in the league this year and made it in on the season's last day, going a dismal but not suprising 22-34 for 64 pts.
Next up is Metallurg Magnitogorsk, a 3-time champ, vs Traktor Chelyabinsk. Magnitogorsk is lead by Detroit Hall of famer Sergei Federov and their goalie Vasily Koshechkin had a league-leading 8 shutouts. They came in at 40-16 for 115, third-best in the league behind SKA and Salavat Yulaev; Traktor limped home with a 21-35, tying Ekaterinburg with 64 pts.
The next matchup is two teams of snow leopards. AkBars of Kazan are last year's Gagarin cup champions, one of three Russian titles. They posted a 33-23 mark for 96 pts. Barys of Astana are one of the 3 non-Russian teams in the league(Dinamo Riga, Latvia and Dinamo Minsk, Belarus, are the others) are based in the capital of Kazakhstan. They struggled to a 26-30 mark this year, 79 pts, led by Josef Stumpel.
Finally KC's team, the Neftekhimik ("petrochemists") of Nizhnekamsk face the
team led by Jaromir Jagr, Avangard Omsk. Neftekhimik boasts the second of 2 Americans in the playoffs, defenseman Deron Quint. They went 31-25 for 93 pts this season. Avangard, in addition to Jagr, are known for being one of the teams in the brawl in Chekov where the two had three bench-clearing melees and over 700 minutes in penalties before 4 minutes were gone in the game. (Both teams were given 5-0 forfeit losses and several million rubles in fines as too many players were ejected to continue play.) They broke even at 28-28 for 90 pts.
Playoffs start this week.