Exploring the Vityaz paradox

19 November 2021

The Dragons are back on the road, albeit for a couple of short trips in and around Moscow. Along the way, we’ll face two of the most feared forward in the KHL – and see more of a Vityaz team that has the league’s leading goalscorer but lies bottom of its conference. Red Star is without suspended captain Brandon Yip for these two games.


Vityaz (Nov. 20)

Last time out: It was a Foo frenzy when the teams met in Mytishchi on October 2. Parker had a hand in all four of our goals, scoring twice and assisting on the others. Big brother Spencer had 1+2 and line-mate Luke Lockhart chipped in with 1+1 in our 4-2 win.

Familiar faces: Goalie Igor Saprykin has spent most of his career with Vityaz. However, he was briefly on our books in the build-up to last season and returned to provide cover between the piping for a short time this season. He appeared on the ice just once, in last month’s 2-4 loss at Spartak, before returning to Podolsk where he is understudy to Ilya Ezhov.

Background: Goals win games but, as they say, defenses win championships. That might go someway to explaining the Vityaz paradox: Niko Ojamaki leads the KHL in goals scored (he has 19, including one from our previous meeting) yet his team is bringing up the rear in the Western Conference. Yury Babenko’s team has enjoyed some memorable days this season – notably a 6-5 shoot-out win over SKA and a 5-2 demolition of Dynamo – but has struggled overall.

As a result, changes are afoot. Misfiring forward Miks Indrasis, a summer signing from Dinamo Riga, has moved on to Admiral – 12 points in 26 games was not the return the Podolsk club had hoped for from the Latvian international who, ironically, played his last game for Vityaz in a shoot-out loss against the Sailors. Defenseman Viktor Antipin is also on the move, traded to Salavat Yulaev with Evgeny Lisovets coming the other way. Antipin’s rating of -10 this season was a career low. Our former forward Slava Leshchenko also left the club recently. Stepan Starkov, 22, is a recent addition – and could make his debut for a third club this season after previously featuring for Sochi and SKA.

Dynamo Moscow (Nov. 22)

Last time out: When Dynamo came to Mytishchi at the end of September, it was leading the KHL standings. But the Dragons gave the Blue-and-Whites a huge battle, leading 2-0 before eventually succumbing to a couple of third-period goals in a 3-5 reverse.

Familiar faces: Goalie Alexander Lazushin spent four seasons at Dynamo. As understudy to Alexander Yeryomenko, he made 48 appearances, including five in the playoffs.

Background: There’s a case to be made for Vadim Shipachyov to be recognized as the KHL’s best player at the moment. The experienced center is blazing a trail this season, leading the league in scoring with 41 (15+26) points in 29 games. Along the way, he brought up his 250th goal in the competition, placing him fourth on the all-time goalscoring charts behind Danis Zaripov, Nigel Dawes and the legendary Sergei Mozyakin. Throw in two Gagarin Cups, a World Championship gold and a small role in Russia’s 2018 Olympic championship team and you’ve got a man with plenty of star quality.

He’s not alone. Defenseman Slava Voynov has been on title-winning teams on both sides of the Atlantic and his 22 points in 26 games put him on top of the defensive scoring for his club and fifth in the KHL. Young Dmitry Rashevsky is enjoying his best season to date, and former Ak Bars man Stanislav Galiyev is beginning to show his best form. After an uneven run in October, Alexei Kudashov’s men are showing signs of getting back to their collective best: the last three games have brought victories over defending champion Avangard, Western Conference leader Jokerit and Moscow rival CSKA.

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