The KHL playoffs opened today, and I thought perhaps I could make this easier to follow by colloquializing some of these tongue-twisting names, since I am bound and determined to keep boring you with the results.
Half of the league openned today, so let me set up the ones that did not first.
Russian Snow Leopards vs. Petrochemists
Our first pairing is Ak Bars Kazan vs Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk. Kazan is the city for team one- a city so important financially that it is referred to as "Russia's third capital". The "Ak Bars" name means "snow leopards"- one of two teams that have the cat as its symbol. So we'll call them "the Russian snow leopards". Nizhnykamsk is the second city, an oil-processing area that led to the nickname Neftekhimik, or "Petrochemists". So series one will be the Russian snow leopards vs the petrochemists. See, easy!
Vanguard vs. Siberia
Series two matches Avangard Omsk vs Sibir Novosibirsk. Omsk used to be much easier when Jaromir Jagr played here. We just called it Jagr's team. But he's back in the NHL with Dallas, so that's out. The name means "vanguard" so I guess that's what we'll call them now. Sibir is easy to figure out too- it's the largest city in Siberia, and third biggest in Russia. So we'll call this vanguard vs Siberia.
Meteor Guys vs. Kazakh Snow Leopards
Series three has Traktor Cheyabinsk vs Barys Astana. Chelyabinsk became much easier when that meteor decided to blow up all over them. Astana has had about a million names in its history- Akmolinsk, Tselinograd, Akmola, and now Astana, which is kind of a generic name and most people expect (or at least one person expects) it will someday be called Nursultan after Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev (the parliament tried it just recently, but Nazarbayev "turned it down" for now). Now the "Barys" part is Kazakhi for "snow leopards" so this matchup will be the meteor guys vs the Kazakh snow leopards.
Metallurgists vs. SYU
The final of the eastern conference matches pits Metullurg Magnitogorsk against Salavat Yulaev Ufa. Since the other Metallurg team (Novokuznetsk) is making early golf plans, we can just stick with Metallurg for these guys. Salawat Yulaev was a national hero of Bashkiristan who fought in Pugachev's rebellion and for his trouble was captured, whipped in every major battle site, had his nostrils "pulled out", forehead and face branded, and then took a ten-city tour before being put in a prison in present-day Estonia, where he and his father finished their lives more or less. Hmm, let's just call them SYU.
St. Pete vs. Polar Bears
That brings us to the series that started today. First let's look at SKA St. Petersburg vs Atlant Mystichi. SKA means "sports club of the Army," and thus they are like CSKA's little brothers. But that wouldn't be a good name for the odds-on favorites, so let's just call them St. Pete. Atlant, based in the Moscow suburb of Mystichi, has a polar bear for their symbol, so we'll call them the polar bears. Today, they battled through a scoreless 63 1/2 minutes before Patrick Thoreson (the star of the team once again now that the lockouts are back home) put one in for a 1-0 OT win. Atlant only managed 16 shots against Ilya Ezhov, none in the extra period.
Red Army vs. Lions
Series 2 features CSKA and Lev Prague. CSKA is Moscow's Red Army team. Lev is another of the six non-Russian teams (we've already met Barys Astana, from Kazakhstan), from Prague in the Czech Republic. Lev means Lions, so this series is Red Army vs Lions. And Red Army and the Lions went 74 1/2 minutes before Yakov Rylov scored to give the soldiers a 3-2 OT win.
Dynamo vs. Sky-Blues
Series three gives us Dynamo Moscow- think the New York Yankees of Russian hockey- vs Slovan Bratislava, hailing from the capital of Slovakia where they are known as the "Sky Blues". Probably not much of a surprise that the Yankees- er, the Dynamo- blew out the Sky-Blues 5-1 behind a pair of goals and an assist by Jakub Petrusalek.
Railroaders vs. Steelers
And that leaves us our heroes, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, vs Severstal Cherepovets. Severstal is the name of the steel company that sponsors them, so we'll call them the Steelers. Well, the Steelers beat the "railroadmen" 2-1 in game one. Denis Kazionov of the Steelers got a 5+20 game misconduct, inside the first half-minute of the game, and Alexander Kalyuzhny scored on the power play to put us on top- but that was all we got, despite two other Steelers getting 10-minute misconducts along the way, and a 39-penalty minute first period.
Everybody plays again tomorrow, and the eastern teams play again on Friday.
In the meantime, Poland has started its playoffs, Italy has moved into the knock out rounds, while Austria still is mucking about in its "winners stage" (basically a re-seeding of the playoff teams- which is what the regular season was for, I thought). I'll update them as the move along.