(Updated Again) Despite Signing with Wings, Nabokov Claimed by Islanders


(UPDATE Again) The Islanders have since suspended Nabokov for not reporting to the team. There have been reports of the goalie actually hanging up on GM Garth Snow having mistook him for a media outliet before having his agent return his call for him. Owner Charles Wang has also attempted to reach the netminder to no avail. So as this stalemate stands the Islanders can appeal to have Nabokov suspended through next season so stay tuned to the newest debacle on Long Island.
(UPDATE): Just a few hours after being claimed by the Islanders, word got around that Nabokov would not report to the Islanders. This could determine any future Nabby plans on having in the NHL if he doesn’t change his mind. New York is not obligated to do anything and this could just be a stalemate for both parties. It’s clear they intended for having him with the team but it appears Nabokov envisioned playing for a contender when he left the KHL last month.
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Evgeni Nabokov Leaves KHL’s SKA St.Petersburg, Where Will He Land?


(courtesy of ALEXANDER DEMIANCHUK/REUTERS)

It appears Evgeni Nabokov’s stint back in the motherland is over as the four-year $24 million contract has been terminated by SKA St.Petersburg earlier today. Nabokov signed the contract with the intent of finishing up his career back in his adopted home country after being cut loose by the San Jose Sharks due to cap limitations. The 35-year-old netminder was the backbone to the only team he knew in the NHL and holds every major record for goalies in team history.
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Maxim Afinogenov joins SKA

While introducing new signings Evgeni Nabokov and Denis Grebeshkov, KHL and SKA St.Petersburg president Alexander Medvedev announced that long-time NHL winger Maxim Afinogenov planned to join his club for the upcoming season. Afinogenov agreed to join the club for the next five years after the Atlanta Thrashers wouldn’t meet his demands.
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SKA St.Petersburg Poach another, nab Grebeshkov

(Courtesy of John Russell/Getty Image)

For the second time in a decade Denis Grebeshkov has left the NHL for the motherland signing a two-year contract with the KHL’s SKA St.Petersburg. While the terms have not been released, it appears it is more than $3.15 million he made last year with the Nashville Predators. You may recall Grebeshkov first left the NHL and the New York Islanders in 2006-2007 opting to play for his hometown Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the now defunct Russian Super League.
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Where will Kovy Land? The FRWG Edition

ilya-kovalchuk-kings-stpetes

As we slowly approach week two of Kovy watch 2010 the most sought after free agent of this summer not named Lebron James has yet to pick a team. As much as VERSUS or the NHL network would probably love to air his decision live, I can’t see that happening. It would mean hockey being recognized as a legit sport in this country by those who can only pay attention once a week to their beloved team but I digress.
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Evgeni Nabokov says Da to SKA

nabby33(Courtesy of The Hockey News)

On Wednesday, former San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov signed a deal with the Kontinental Hockey League’s SKA St.Petersburg for a reported $24 million contract for the next four years. With the hockey world waiting and watching as the Ilya Kovalchuk saga continued to unfold, the league quietly lost one of it’s elite net-minders who opted to go to a team that would meet his demands financially even if it meant playing in the old country.
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Russia Wins Group B With a Great Display of Hart

95657025MW059_Ice_Hockey_Da(Courtesy of Alex Livesey/Getty Images/

Losing in a shootout on Thursday to Slovakia did not sit well with anybody in the Russian locker room.

But despite dropping crucial points, the team remained upbeat even though they knew they had a lot of work to do. So in practice, they worked. They changed up the line combinations, they endlessly worked on the power play, but maybe most important, they quickly became a very motivated bunch.

In nature, their next task was not complicated. Beat the Czech Republic in regulation and the group was theirs. Take anything less than the full three points and they would face the possibility of no first-round bye in the knockout stage.

But actually completing that simple task would take every amount of skill and passion the Sbornaya had.

The game began at a rather slow pace, as the teams attempted to figure each other out. Slava Bykov sent out a unit of Evgeni Malkin, Alexander Ovechkin, and Alexander Semin to start. But a few heavy hits and odd man rushes by the Great 8 set the tone and it was immediately noticeable that Russia had came to play.

About half way through the period, Russia got its first chance at redemption on the power play when Ilya Kovalchuk was upended in the neutral zone by Petr Cajanek.

Except instead, the Czechs put on a terrific display of penalty killing, never allowing the Russian power play to get set up. Or really even cross the blue line for that matter, as they capably shut everything down before it even got started. An utter waste of two minutes.

But, not even two minutes later, the Czechs took another penalty.

This time, the Russian power play managed to get set up and it paid quick divends. Sergei Gonchar managed to get a puck through, and the rebound was slammed just wide by Ovechkin. It then took a friendly ricochet to Malkin, who fired it home top-shelf.

1-0 to Russia, and Malkin scores his second power play goal of the tournament.

After the goal, the Czechs began to rebuild some momentum as they managed to get into the offensive zone. But they still were not getting any pucks on the net. Russia was also showing that they were much more committed to taking the body any time possible, always finishing checks.

Disaster struck for Russia late in the period, as they took two penalties in rapid succession, giving the Czechs a five-on-three for 1:47.

With a minute left before the horn, the Czech Republic took advantage of a failed clearance, as Tomas Plekanec scored to tie the game. San Jose Sharks netminder Evgeni Nabokov had came out, being a little too aggressive, and Plekanec found the outside corner.

The beginning of the second period was much more subdued after the thrilling first.

But once again, Russia was carrying the even strength play and hardly allowing anything the other way. They also seemed to build momentum from a killed penalty to Semin, where the Czechs were not allowed to set up much of anything.

Taking matters into his own hands, Alexander Radulov drove down the center, distracting two defenders before shuffling it off for Viktor Kozlov. With one quick swirling motion, the big man from Togliatti beat Tomas Vokoun far post to regain the lead for Russia.

After killing another penalty, the worst possible two-on-one situation occured.

Sergei Zinoviev was streaking in alongside Radulov but instead of shooting when he took the pass, Radulov instead tried to return it to Zinoviev, which failed dismally thanks to the rough ice. But chasing the puck into a corner, Radulov leveled a Czech defender, essentially throwing him onto Zinoviev.

Zinoviev would leave the ice gingerly and the Czechs headed to a power play.

However, no damage was done and the teams headed peacefully to the lockers.

Starting off the third period, Russia killed the remainder of Radulov’s penalty, but the turning moment in the game came soon after that. Ovechkin absolutely demolished Jaromir Jagr at center ice, allowing his teammate Semin to break in uncontested. Soaring down the left wall, Semin made a terrific pass across to Malkin, who clinically fired it past Vokoun. The man from the Magnetic Mountain had his third goal in as many games.

In a matter of seven seconds, the entire course of Group B changed. Ovechkin’s hit angered Roman Polak, who left his assignment on Malkin to retaliate on Alex the Great.

Just like that, Russia had a two goal lead and the Czech bench was floored.

The Czechs then had to alter their strategy, as the defense started taking a few more chances. They were getting a few more opportunites up front, but they also gave up breakaways to Kovalchuk and Radulov. Each time, Vokoun was up to the task, as he almost always is.

With five minutes left, Milan Michalek injected life into the Czechs, scoring easily from a few feet in front of Nabokov. Nothing he was going to do about that.

3-2 Russia.

The crowd could sense a terrific end in store. Whatever kitchen sink the Czechs had, they were about to throw it at Nabokov in an effort to tie the game. But Nabokov stood tall, making several huge saves.

With the game on the line and an empty net for the Czechs, Russia showed it’s true Hart.

Ovechkin first delivered another big hit along the boards to free the puck. He quickly moved it out for Malkin in front of the bench. Instead of just dumping the puck deep, Malkin had his head up and found Pavel Datsyuk arriving late.

Datsyuk then manuevered into the Czech zone and deposited the puck into the wide open net.

In a group-winning play, all three Hart Trophy finalists from 2008 teamed up to produce the goal that saw Russia earn the important first-round bye.

Two goals for Malkin, two assists for Ovechkin, and a goal/assist for Datsyuk. Seven points in all between the three.

Russia is victorious, 4-2.

What did Russia do well?

Effort

First and foremost, the total team effort given by this team doubled both of the previous two games put together. It was a must-win game and they treated it like such.

From sacrificing the body to playing through pain, this team came together in a big way and did more than just redeem themselves from a poor performance against Slovakia. When they play as inspired as they did here, they proved to everyone they are indeed a Gold medal contender.

Penalty Killing

Once again, the penalty killing unit was elite. Although they did allow a 5-on-3 goal at the end of the first period, the group improved throughout the game. Datsyuk was incredibly solid here, as several times he was able to defend against two players at once on the point.

His play made the Czech point men force the play more than they would have liked. Anton Volchenkov also had a great game down low, getting in the way of more than a couple shots on the PK. The success with the man disadvantage has been a very pleasant surprise, as the area was not expected to be incredibly strong.

Simplicity

For the vast majority of the afternoon, they kept it simple. Never over-passing like they had done in the previous two games, never trying to do too much.

Consistently, they were getting to high scoring areas, putting themselves in a position to make something happen. The power play might have only scored one goal, but it looked deadly each time out and it was more a tribute to the fine play of Vokoun in net that the Sbornaya did not have more on the power play.

What needs to improve before the quarterfinals?

Discipline

Russia took a few too many penalties and that could come back to haunt them in the later rounds. While some of the penalties were unavoidable, there were some that need to be eliminated.

Offensive-zone penalties like the one Radulov took after a missed 2-on-1 are not good. Shooting the puck out of the rink while on defense isn’t good either.

Faceoffs

Nearly every defensive-zone faceoff or faceoffs on the penalty kill, the Czechs won it. Russia was thoroughly dominated in the circle and the only reason it wasn’t more pronouced was because they were winning battles against the wall and outplaying the Czechs at even strength.

But the faceoff percentage needs to improve or find a way to get the best faceoff men on the ice in key situations.

Clearances

While the penalty killing was great, one aspect of it was not at all. At least five different occasions, Russian players had the opportunity to clear the puck out of the zone after winning possession, but just couldn’t do it.

They would clear it back to the points, try to lob defensemen only to have it fail, or give the puck right back because they were looking for the deep pass.

It’s not a major problem, but just needs to be worked out in practice.

Grades (out of 10)

Black Line (Ovechkin, Semin, Malkin, Gonchar, Tyutin): 9. From the second the puck was dropped, this newly formed group was utterly dominant and brought excitement every time they got to the offensive zone. Ovechkin and Malkin showed exactly why they are two of the best players in the world.

Red Line (Datsyuk, Kovalchuk, Afinogenov, Grebeshkov, Korneev): 7. Showed some decent chemistry. Datsyuk had a phenomenal game and Kovalchuk had his moments but Afinogenov never made an impact.

Blue Line (Zinoviev, Zaripov, Morozov, Markov, Nikulin): 6.5. Not a particularly strong game from any one player, but they played decently. Morozov and Zaripov both had their chances on the power play and did next to nothing. Markov passed up on a wide open shot from four feet away.

White Line (Fedorov, Kozlov, Radulov, Volchenkov, Kalinin): 8. A very strong performance. Fedorov once again had a nice defensive game, Kozlov scored on a pass from Radulov and Volchenkov was the penalty kill leader. Were currectly awarded with bonus playing time.

Notes

Russia, with seven points from three games, clinches the bye into the quarterfinals.

Nabokov will most likely get every start from here on.

Below is Ovechkin’s hit on Jagr and the ensuing Malkin goal.

Russia Annihilates Latvia 8-2, But Still Has Room to Improve

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A very light mood surrounded the Russian men’s hockey team before their opening game with Latvia. Smiles, jokes, and grins all around from the moment they got together, Head Coach Slava Bykov held a 45-minute practice session during the morning that accomplished very little.

The giddy mood could not be removed.

After watching the U.S. and Canadian teams put up victories earlier in the day, the ice surface would not be ideal after seeing so much action. But as great players, they weren’t going to have Latvia or the poor ice surface slow them down.

It didn’t take long for the tone of the game to be determined. Only 19 seconds in, the Latvians took the first of many penalties to come, sending out the Russian power play.

Although the power play eventually failed, they maintained zone time and built up momentum, getting the opening goal a few seconds after the penalty had expired off a tap-in from KHL MVP Danis Zaripov. The 28-year-old who plies his trade for Ak Bars Kazan may be an unknown commodity in North America, but he’s a crafty player that certainly knows how to find the high scoring areas.

The game continued with Russia completely dominating the first seven minutes of play, as Latvia only touched the puck one or two times in that time. But Latvian goaltender Edgars Masalskis held his own and made a couple fine saves.

His first slight error however, cost his team another goal. An innocent looking shot from Sergei Fedorov drifting across the middle could not be controlled by Masalskis, and the rebound was poked home by a diving Alexander Radulov.

radulov

2-0 for Russia, two assists for Fedorov.

It was a dream start for Russia, but the Latvians did not look comfortable at all and didn’t seem to do well with the pressure.

They started to build a little momentum after the halfway mark, as Russia took a penalty for too man men on the ice. Oddly enough, the Latvian power play came on looking twice as dangerous as its’ Russian counterpart, but San Jose Sharks netminder Evgeni Nabokov stood tall to make several stellar saves.

As the period was coming to a close, Masalskis got a taste of Alex the Great. A steal by Alexander Semin down low, he then picked out Ovechkin flying down the middle for a booming slapshot that we’ve seen so often. No chance for Masalskis, Ovechkin will miss zero percent of those shots.

Just like that, it’s 3-0 Russia heading into the first intermission.

The second period began as a bit of a chess match and a penalty-killing exhibition. Both teams had two power plays each in the first 12 minutes of action, all of them getting killed off rather easily. But even strength or man advantage, Latvia had a new-found composure and it paid off, as they were getting to the offensive zone with much more frequency.

But, after a hooking call on former Tampa Bay Lightning winger Martins Karsums, Russia’s power play finally slammed one home. Superb passing once again, Sergei Gonchar found Ilya Kovalchuk on the left circle wide open for a heavy slapshot.

He didn’t score from that position, but it created a juicy rebound and Evgeni Malkin took no time to deposit it into the empty net from a few feet out. Make it four for Russia.

For however defensive-minded the 2nd period was, that all changed in a hurry to start the final stanza. Three goals were scored in 57 seconds.

First was Herberts Vasiljevs beating Nabokov from nearly the same place Ovechkin had scored from earlier to give Latvia it’s first goal of the Olympics. Second was the forementioned Ovechkin, who was interfered with at center ice, but got right back up and flicked a wrister home from the left wall.

ovechkin

Third and final came from Zaripov once again. A slapshot from the right circle that appeared to be saved at first managed to roll through the pads of Masalskis. Just like that, it was 6-1 for Russia.

That was hardly the end of the scoring, however. The Sbornaya were not happy at all about allowing a goal. Forechecking with a new-found intensity, Malkin and Kovalchuk combined for another quick goal. Setting up shop behind the Latvian goal, Malkin picked out the newest  New Jersey Devil for a quick release that found it’s way in.

Not even 30 seconds later, Latvia scored again, thanks to a tremendous slapshot from Girts Ankipans that beat Nabokov top shelf. In total, five goals scored in two minutes.

As time was melting away, Russian captain Aleksei Morozov added a final goal to tie Canada’s eight, another rebound that got away from Masalskis after Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov was allowed to waltz right on in.

Two goals for the NHL’s MVP, two goals for the KHL’s MVP.

A convincing 8-2 opening night triumph for the Red Machine. “Yeah, you know, it’s always nice when you get some good moments and a good start. We were ready for it, but it’s just a start and we have to continue how we play,” said Ovechkin after the game. The scoreline was dominant, but not half as dominant as it could have been.

Full game highlights can be seen here, thanks to NBC.

russia salut

What did Russia do well?

Puck Movement

The puck movement all night long was terrific. No matter who was on the ice, it seemed like they were always able to find the open man and hit him with a pass.

It allowed the Sbornaya to wear down the Latvian defenders as the game wore on, because they were chasing or playing defense for nearly three quarters of the game. Teams can also get easily frustrated, spending that much time pinned in their own end. But to the Latvians credit, they stayed composed for the most part.

A more offensively-gifted squad may not be so enthusiastic about playing defense.

The puck movement on the power play was so good it was almost too unselfish. Defensemen and forwards alike were able to pick apart the defense easily with precision passing.

Penalty Killing

If there was one Achilles’ heel for this team, defense was supposed to be it. Latvia had five power play chances and none of them amounted to much of anything. In fact, one of the best scoring chances didn’t come from Latvia, but instead a steal by Pavel Datsyuk in the neutral zone that nearly led to a breakaway goal.

Ilya Nikulin of Ak Bars had one of the strongest game defensively of any of the Russian defensemen. Nabokov was also superb on the penalty kill. He didn’t have to make a ton of saves, but he made the important ones when he had to.

Capitalizing

Sure, Russia launched 45 shots at Masalskis. But it wasn’t the quantity, it was the quality. That number could have been much higher, but instead it was patience being shown by the snipers, waiting for the best scoring chances.

Every mistake made by the Latvian goaltender resulted in a goal for Russia. Every scoring chance where you would say “that puck should be in the net” ended in a goal. It was opportunistic scoring and capitalizing on the chances that should be converted.

Ovechkin scored a big goal with 30 seconds remaining in the first period and also responded immediately after Latvia scored their first goal in the third.

 

What could be improved before the game with Slovakia?

Power Play

Not exactly what you would expect to see here, but Russia went 1-for-8 on the man advantage. Part of that can be contributed to the very solid play of Masalskis. More of the fault will fall on the shooters however.

The passing, as outlined before, couldn’t have been better. But players would pass up shots in order to make the perfect play and need to do a better job getting pucks through on goal. Oddly enough, this wasn’t the power play that everyone thought they would see.

Slava Bykov uses groupings, with each group consisting of five-man units. Those same units that were meant for even strength play were also used on the man advantage. We saw Malkin and Kovalchuk up front, but with Konstantin Korneev or Ilya Nikulin on the point. Only in the final power play of the game did Bykov send out a unit of Ovechkin, Semin, Datsyuk, Gonchar, and Markov.

Five-on-Five Chances Allowed

While the penalty killing was great, Latvia had just a few too many decent scoring opportunities at even strength for comfort. Nabokov bailed defensemen out on quite a few times, allowing chances that a better team surely would have finished.

There were also a few times during the game where the Latvians were able to pin a group in the Russian end for more than a minute at a time, aided by turnovers or failed clearing attempts. Every game, you’ll give up some scoring opportunities but not being able to get the puck out of the zone when possible needs to be done.

Penalties

Just a few too many penalties on the whole. There’s always going to be a penalty or two a game that you have to take, but getting called for things like too many men on the ice or an undisciplined interference are very preventable.

Slava Bykov will have to clean that up before Thursday.

 

Grades (out of 10)

Black Line (Ovechkin, Semin, Datsyuk, Grebeshkov, Korneev): 7.5. Semin and Ovechkin worked together flawlessly, as expected. Datsyuk fit right in centering the two, while Korneev and Grebeshkov were responsible defensively. However, the unit did allow Latvia’s second goal due to a turnover in the neutral zone.

Red Line (Malkin, Kovalchuk, Afinogenov, Gonchar, Tyutin): 7. Malkin did his best to set up Kovalchuk throughout the game, and he led the Russians in shots with five due to that generosity. Gonchar and Malkin had great chemistry as well and Tyutin didn’t look out of place at all. Gonchar did not play his best game defensively though, and Afinogenov was swapped out later in favor of Radulov.

Blue Line (Morozov, Zinoviev, Zaripov, Markov, Nikulin): 8. Had themselves a very nice game together. The Ak Bars teammates got in behind the Latvian defense multiple times and although Markov was not playing at 100 percent, he was effective nonetheless. Nikulin had a more than solid game, showing off his physical side and his huge shot from the point.

White Line (Fedorov, Kozlov, Radulov, Volchenkov, Kalinin): 7. Fedorov couldn’t have played a better game, and Radulov was also a major force, which earned him a promotion. Volchenkov and Kalinin were not particularly strong defensively and that needs to change.

Goaltender (Nabokov): 8.5. He didn’t have a particularly busy evening, but made nearly all the saves he needed to make. Allowed a goal he would have liked back in the third period but hey, nobody is perfect.  

 

Notes

Bykov has announced Ilya Bryzgalov will be in net against Slovakia instead of Nabokov. The decision was made prior to the victory over Latvia and had absolutely nothing to do with Nabokov’s performance.

Five Russian players finished with multiple points, and only five out of the 20 total did not register a point. 

The puck drops against Slovakia on Thursday at 9 PM PST on CNBC.  All photos are courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)  

Team Russia Announces Olympic Roster

vancouver-olympics-2010-language-test-online

Russia has announced their roster for the men’s national team to compete in the Olympics this winter in Vancouver. 9 of the 23 named were of the KHL with the majority of course from the NHL. Below is the roster coached by Vychaslev Bykov. The roster will re-unite Viktor Kozlov and Sergei Fedorov with former teammates Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin.

Goalkeepers
Ilya Bryzgalov, Phoenix Coyotes, NHL
Evgeni Nabokov, San Jose Sharks, NHL
Semyon Varlamov, Washington Capitals, NHL

Defencemen
Sergei Gonchar, Pittsburgh Penguins, NHL
Denis Grebeshkov, Edmonton Oilers, NHL
Dmitriy Kalinin, Salavat Yulaev, KHL
Konstantin Korneev, CSKA, KHL,
Andrei Markov, Montreal Canadiens, NHL
Ilya Nikulin, Ak Bars, KHL,
Fedor Tyutin, Columbus Blue Jackets, NHL
Anton Volchenkov, Ottawa Senators, NHL

Forwards
Maxim Afinogenov, Atlanta Thrashers, NHL
Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings, NHL
Sergei Fedorov, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, KHL
Ilya Kovalchuk, Atlanta Thrashers, NHL
Viktor Kozlov, Salavat Yulaev, KHL
Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins, NHL
Alexei Morozov, Ak Bars, KHL
Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals, NHL
Alexander Radulov, Salavat Yulaev, KHL
Alexander Semin, Washington Capitals, NHL
Danis Zaripov, Ak Bars, KHL
Sergei Zinoviev, Salavat Yulaev, KHL

Comrade of the night-Semyon Varlamov

90981305RW010_CAPI_CANA(Courtesy of Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

On a night when Alexander Ovechkin returned to the Washington Capitals line-up following his first career suspension, keeper Semyon Varlamov posted his second shutout of the season against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Varly stopped all 26 shots to improve his record to 12-1-2 as the 21-year-old Samara native propelled the Caps over their division rivals for the 12th consecutive time. If he hopes of cracking the Russian Olympic squad in February, Varlamov has some ground to make up to catch Evgeni Nabokov and Ilya Bryzgalov who have 16 and 17 wins respectively.

Congrats to Varly for his first COTN nod this year. Here are his two best saves of the night courtesy as always of the NHL and NHL.com