Wednesday was a 2-1 win over tough Traktor. Artym Anisimov tallied his 10th 13:31 into the first stanza and added an assist on Sergei Plotnikov's 10th at 16:46 of the 2nd. Anisimov would also make the scoresheet in the next game for a ten-game scoring streak that's so far netted him 8 of his goals and 8 assists as well. Evgeny Kutnetsov would cut it to 2-1 just 53 ticks into the third (and would go on to net 2 and add a shootout goal in his next game!), but Curtis Sanford held the team from Chelyabinsk off the scoreboard the rest of the way.
That same day, I had to ask Laurie if top-ranked Dynamo Moscow would fire their coach today. Once again they had a road meltdown. Facing Sibir, they built up 2-0 and 3-1 leads on goals by NHL lockouts Alex Ovechkin and Nikolas Backstrom- but Sibir tied it and sent it to the shootout, where Ovechkin and Backstrom both got stoned before Arturs Kulda scored to give Sibir the 4-3 win. In the meantime, fellow lockout Evegeny Malkin got a hat trick in a Magnitogrsk 5-3 win over Atlant.
Friday, our boys played struggling Avtomobilst (5-23-8). Their Stanislav Zhmakin scored first, but less than 2 minutes later, Anisimov scored unassisted to knot things at 1. Maxim Trunyov tallied his 4th halfway through the game to make it 2-1 good guys, and Plotnikov and Dmitry Maltsev added third period scores to give us a 4-1 final. The win puts us at 18-9-8, trailing Dynamo (21-6-8) by seven, SKA by three, Ak Bars by 2 and Avangard by 1. But, it gives us an 8 point lead in our division over Red Army (16-11-7) and thus the second seed in the east.
We are close to the halfway point of the season. Each conference has four teams that look like they will certainly be in the playoffs. In the west, that would be Dynamo, St Petersburg SKA, Red Army, and us. Following these four are a group of six teams just 10 points apart fighting for the other four spots- Slovan, Severstal, Lev, Donbass, Torpedo, and Dinamo Minsk. After that are the teams that would seem to be in the also ran category- Atlant (9-18-8), Vityaz (6-15-13), Dinamo Riga (9-21-6), and Spartak (7-20-8).
The situation is much the same in the east. Ak Bars, Avangard, Magnitogorsk, and Traktor look to be in. The middle group is a little more defined, with Salavat Yulaev, Barys, Neftekhimik, and Sibir within 5 of each other, and Yugra and Nizhnekamsk trailing at a distance. Finally the east has two dead-in-the-water teams- Amur (9-23-3) and Avtomobilst.
The All-star balloting is over, and the big winners were the locked-out NHLers. Our Semyon Varlemov beat out Pekka Rinne of Minsk for west goalie by a slim 26,344-26,204 margin! Malkin rolled up 40,569 votes for the overall lead, 6,838 more than SKA's Pavel Datsyuk. Ovechkin got third. The game and its festivities are set for January 12-13.