Power plays, penalty kills and the rise of Kunlun’s special teams
Source: Club Press-Office
KUNLUN RED STAR 2 AK BARS KAZAN 3
Every coach loves to talk about the importance of dealing with penalties – whether it’s taking advantage when the opposition is short-handed or keeping your own net intact when one of your guys is cooling his heels. No matter how disciplined a team, penalties are a huge part of the sport, and often go a long way toward determining the outcome of any given game.
So the big news for Kunlun in its meeting with Eastern Conference high flyer Ak Bars was our success when the teams deployed unequal forces on the ice. Even at the height of a crazy second period, when it seemed that penalties were called on every third play, our penalty kill impressed. In that 20-minute span, Red Star gave up eight of the 12 penalties, but kept the goal intact thanks to disciplined work and inspired goaltending. And, despite our numerical disadvantage, we even managed to find the only goal of the stanza when Anssi Salmela scored during a passage of 4-on-3 play.
That tied the game after Ak Bars took the opening period 2-1. Tomas Marcinko got our opening goal, also on a power play, while Jiri Sekac and Fyodor Malykhin responded for the visitor. In total, we scored on two out of six power plays, while killing eight penalties out of nine. It’s an impressive and effective measure of our special teams and the progress they have made since the start of the season.
If our game on power play and penalty kill was effective, sadly our performance at equal strength fell a little bit short. Malykhin’s goal came with both teams at full strength, and in the third period Ak Bars got the game winner during a passage of 5-on-5 play. Truth be told, it was a blow that Kunlun could have avoided. Andrei Chibisov launched a solo raid on our net and somehow managed to get a shot on goal despite pressure from the defense. Andrei Makarov, who once again performed well between the piping, blocked the first effort but was powerless to stop Chibisov on the rebound. A disappointing conclusion to another hugely encouraging performance.
Despite a narrow defeat against one of the toughest teams in Russian hockey, there were still plenty of positives. Marcinko became the 11th player to score for Kunlun in the KHL, our PK – such a problem earlier in the season – is improving rapidly, and our PP is becoming ever more dangerous. There is still plenty to work on, but this game represented a real step up in class compared with the opposition we had faced so far … and Red Star showed that it was ready to compete with the biggest teams in the competition.
That kind of spirit will be needed again as our team heads back to the West for three road games, including visits to SKA St. Petersburg and CSKA Moscow, two of the most fearsome and successful teams in the game. Life in the big league presents exciting new challenges at every turn as Kunlun’s hockey adventure picks up pace.