by PuckStopsHere on 10/15/12 at 05:41 PM ET
In my search to find hockey I have looked at the KHL for the last couple of days. This is the league where the highest level of hockey is played when the NHL is locked out. Yesterday I took a look at its scoring race and today I will look at its first place team.
With a three point lead over their nearest opposition Dynamo Moscow leads the KHL. They have a 13-3 record in their 16 games played. In the Russian system you get three points for a regulation win, 2 for one in overtime or a shootout and one for a loss in overtime or a shootout. This is far more sensible than the NHL point system. Dynamo Moscow has nine of their wins in regulation and four of them in shootouts. None of their losses went beyond regulation. This gives them 35 points. They are three points up on Lokomotiv Yaroslavl who hold down second place - and remarkably are a retooled version of the team that was killed in a plane crash in 2011. The three point lead represents one regulation win, so it is far from a big lead.
The main strength of Dynamo Moscow has been its defence. They have the second best goals against average in the league with only 31 goals allowed (less than two per game). A large part of this success comes from a strong defence. Filip Novak was once a New York Ranger second round draft pick. He played 17 NHL games for Ottawa and Columbus without scoring a point before returning to Europe in 2007. In the KHL he has become a star defenceman. Dominik Granak is a smaller Slovak player (5'11" 163 lbs) who has spent his entire career to date in Europe and has been in Russia since 2010. Janne Jalasvaara is a Finn who has been in Russia since 2010 as well. Maxim Soloviev is a Russian defenceman who at 5'10" 187 pounds is thought to be too small for the NHL. These four have been a dominant bunch so far this year playing the majority of the defensive minutes in Moscow.
In goal is Alexander Eremenko who had been used as a Russian goaltender in international play for several of the last few years (2005 to 2010). That run ended when he has a poor year in 2010/11. He seems to have bounced back well and is having an all star year behind strong defence so far this season.
Moscow has had few scoring stars so far this season. Denis Kokarek is their top forward who has been in the line-up all season and he only has nine points in 16 games. However there is help as long as the NHL lockout continues. Alexander Ovechkin is playing here. He has ten points in his ten games and is the team's top scorer. Nevertheless those offensive totals are a bit disappointing for him.
It is unlikely that Dynamo Moscow will lead the league all season long. They do not have the offence for it - although a full year of Ovechkin may change that significantly. One sign that their run so far is a bit of a fluke is their shootout record of 4-0. An average run of 2-2 would put this team only one point up on their nearest competitor. It is hard to bet against a first place team featuring Alexander Ovechkin in the KHL but I don't think they have enough talent to hold onto first all season.
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