Hard work from Red Star, clinical finishing from CSKA

Source: Club Press-Office



The visit of CSKA provided another stern examination of Kunlun’s playoff credentials – and once again our team showed plenty of competitive spirit against a powerful opponent. However, as has been the case in many games this season, sustaining that effort for a full 60 minutes proved too much and – not for the first time – the middle stanza proved to be our downfall.

For 20 minutes, CSKA produced a scintillating display of top-class hockey, carving out chances at will and dominating the key stats. Tomi Karhunen, continuing in goal after his first KHL shut-out on Saturday, faced 21 shots in the second period alone, 50% more than in the two other sessions combined. Our Finnish goalie has been impressive when given the chance this season, but it would take a miracle-worker to come unscathed through a fusillade of such intensity. Since Christmas is still three weeks away, the time for miracles has not quite arrived: CSKA took two of those chances as Andrei Kuzmenko and Vyacheslav Osnovin gave the visitor a 2-0 lead either side of the midway point.

Our struggles to deal with CSKA’s strength in that second period were all the more frustrating, considering that Red Star held its own in the opening session. The shot count read 12-10 in our favor, while Karhunen made some good saves to deny the menacing Greg Scott, the Army Men’s most eye-catching player in the opening stanza. The final period was similar as CSKA sought to hold its lead and our guys outshot the visitor 9-4 without managing to seriously trouble Viktor Fasth in the away net.

And that, perhaps, was the story of the day. In terms of overall play there was less to choose between the teams than the bare statistics might suggest but CSKA, as befits a team riding high in the KHL table for the third season running, displayed a more ruthless cutting edge. While too many Kunlun attacks floundered as long-range shots were blocked before testing Fasth, CSKA did a better job of really getting inside the defense and working the goalie. That clinical edge, coupled with the obvious advantage of dressing four full lines for the game, proved decisive for the Moscow team.

Despite two defeats in this three-game home series, all is far from lost. Not every opponent can bring the kind of quality that SKA and CSKA offer, and the confident dispatch of Severstal was a welcome reminder of Kunlun’s own qualities. Moreover, Sibir’s surprise loss at home to Metallurg Novokuznetsk preserves our three-point cushion ahead of ninth place. Sibir has also played two games more.

It’s back on the road for Kunlun after this one. Ufa is the destination on Thursday for a meeting with Salavat Yulaev, before Saturday brings a game at defending champion Metallurg Magnitogorsk. Then the end of the year gives us a five-game home stand against a series of teams currently below us in the Eastern Conference – a vital run of games that will go a long way to determining our playoff prospects in 2017.