SKA – Torpedo. Introducing the opponents
WESTERN CONFERENCE STANDINGS
1. SKA: 40 regulation wins, 6 overtime wins, 4 penalty shootout wins, 13 regulation defeats, 3 overtime defeats, 2 penalty shootout defeats, goal difference 243-150, 105 points;
4. Torpedo: 31 regulation wins, 7 overtime wins, 4 penalty shootout wins, 20 regulation defeats, 4 overtime defeats, 2 penalty shootout defeats, goal difference 204-172, 90 points.
SPECIAL TEAMS DURING FIRST PLAYOFF ROUND
11. SKA: 28 powerplays, 5 powerplay goals, 17.9% conversion rate;
10. Torpedo: 24 powerplays, 5 powerplay goals, 20.8% conversion rate.
5. SKA: 25 penalty kills, 4 conceded goals shorthanded, 84.0% success rate;
11. Torpedo: 20 penalty kills, 5 conceded goals shorthanded, 75.0% success rate.
REGULAR SEASON MEETINGS
26.09.2022: SKA – Torpedo – 3:0 (Jaskin, Zykov, Volkov);
26.11.2022: Torpedo – SKA – 2:6 (Kovalenko, Sato – Jaskin, Pedan, Gusev 2, Polyakov, Khusnutdinov);
21.01.2023: Torpedo – SKA – 2:6 (Firstov, Fedotov – Jaskin, Altybarmakyan, Vorobyov, Gusev, Galimov. Kamalov);
30.01.2023: SKA – Torpedo – 1:2 SO (Jaskin – Letunov, Mikheev PS).
This blockbuster match-up possesses the potential to become one of the most memorable KHL playoff series in history. With both teams sharing a similar attack-minded, entertaining approach, we can expect there to be plenty of goals during what promises to be a series full of dramatic twists and turns.
Torpedo have certainly been the season’s surprise package. In truth, many specialists expected Torpedo’s all-out attack manner to come horribly unstuck in the playoffs, but the youthful Nizhny Novgorod-based outfit proved their worth with a well-deserved 4-2 series triumph over defensively-organised Dynamo Moscow in the first round. Interestingly, three of their four wins were earned in overtime.
The legendary Igor Larionov has earned a huge number of plaudits with his refreshing philosophy. Ever since he became the team’s head coach last summer, the 62-year-old has completely transformed the way Torpedo operate, giving his players freedom on the ice and allowing them to display their attacking talents without carrying any tension on their shoulders whatsoever. Throughout the campaign, Larionov has regularly reiterated his belief that ice hockey should be played in an exciting style which will consequently result in arenas being packed to the rafters. Larionov has also expressed his desire for the KHL regular season to consist of more games and for the notoriously gruelling Russian summer training camps to be scrapped.
Nevertheless, don’t be fooled into thinking that Torpedo can’t defend. Considering that Andrei Kozyrev, Mikhail Vasiliev and Nikolai Khabibulin are working as Larionov’s assistants, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to know that Torpedo are capable of playing with excellent tactical awareness when required. Their impressive success against Dynamo in the first round of the playoffs displayed that Torpedo have enough maturity and intelligence to emerge victorious in tense games which depend on the finest of details – and that’s without having any big names on their books.
25-year-old American forward Denis Yan was practically unstoppable against Dynamo, scoring four vital goals for Torpedo including two overtime-winners. Their first line consisting of forwards Nikolai Kovalenko, Alexei Kruchinin and Sergei Goncharuk also constantly causes problems for opposing defences.
At the other end, solid goaltender Ivan Kulbakov made his fair share of crucial saves against Dynamo. Forwards Igor Larionov Junior and Kirill Urakov are the only players currently on Torpedo’s injury list.
SKA got the job done in the Last 16 against Dinamo Minsk with a hard-fought 4-2 series victory, but a much-improved performance level is required in this series. Taking into account that the compact Nagorny Arena always provides an intimidating atmosphere in Nizhny Novgorod, it’s especially important that SKA make full use of home advantage and immediately take the initiative in this series in Saint Petersburg. Vasily Glotov stood out against Minsk with his superb haul of four goals.
Dmitry Nikolaev: 6 matches, 4 wins, 2 defeats, save percentage 90.7%, goals against average 2.40, 1 shutout.
Igor Ozhiganov: 5 (1+4) points, +4;
Andrei Pedan: 3 (2+1) points, +2;
Alexander Nikishin: 3 (1+2) points, +2.
Nikita Gusev: 9 (3+6) points, +2;
Vasily Glotov: 6 (4+2) points, +6;
Marat Khairullin: 6 (3+3) points, +1.
Ivan Kulbakov: 6 matches, 4 wins, 2 defeats, save percentage 91.4%, goals against average 2.34.
Maxim Fedotov: 5 (2+3) points, +1;
Daniil Bokun: 4 (1+3) points, +4;
Bogdan Konyushkov: 2 (0+2) points, -3.
Denis Yan: 5 (4+1) points, +1;
Nikolai Kovalenko: 5 (2+3) points, -2;
Sergei Goncharuk: 3 (2+1) points, 0.
March 16, 18: Saint Petersburg;
March 20, 22: Nizhny Novgorod;
March 24: Saint Petersburg*;
March 26: Nizhny Novgorod*;
March 28: Saint Petersburg*.
Four wins are required to qualify for the next phase of the competition.
WHERE TO WATCH
Live broadcasts will be provided online at khl.ru. Text updates will be available on our official Twitter account.