This season Ak Bars and Torpedo surprise above all in the KHL, and New Jersey in the NHL. “Devils” rolled today “Winnipeg” – 4:2 and rose to third place in the entire NHL with 79 points. They haven’t scored that much since 2018, when they last made the playoffs. But before the end of the overseas championship, the Devils have 26 more games! It is quite possible that a hundred will be removed, which has not been possible for more than ten years.
What unites the leader of the KHL East and the sensational club of the NHL? Both are led by old-school coaches: 67-year-old Zinetula Bilyaletdinov and 63-year-old Canadian Lindy Ruff. 62-year-old Igor Larionov, of course, can be attributed to the triumphs of this season. From a modest “Torpedo”, interesting only to the local public, in a matter of months, the Professor formed the Russian analogue of “New Jersey” Raff, breaking all the canons of the league.
Well, to delve into the topic of those who do not spoil the groove, let’s remember when the legendary Canadian coach Scotty Bowman, whose teams flew in the decisive matches of Tikhonov’s Red Car 0:6 in the 1979 Challenge Cup and 1:8 in the 1981 Canada Cup, he won his last Stanley Cup. In 2002 with three of the biggest Russian centers: Igor Larionov, Sergei Fedorov and Pavel Datsyuk. Bowman was then 70 years old and always called Anatoly Tarasov his guru. The ball hockey gloves given to him by Scotty were used in Montreal training until they were torn to pieces.
So now we’re running five wagons. What do they all have in common? Emphasis on coherence in all manifestations, creativity and full confidence in young people.
New Jersey’s median age is now 26.1 years. Above Boston they have 29, Carolina has 28.8, defending champions Colorado have 27.2 and previous Stanley Cup winners Tampa have 29.4. With Larionov’s “Torpedo” from the nameless, everything is clear without statistics. Since the Dynamo days, Bilyaletdinov, together with Vladimir Yurzinov, has shown that even in the post-Soviet era, a quality reserve can be mass-produced. Well, in terms of the education of outstanding hockey players, only Viktor Tikhonov can be put on a par with Tarasov.
Consistency. I will take the simplest and most obvious component – the formation of shock links. Tarasov presented the country and the world with the trio of Almetov and Firsov, Petrov and Moiseev. Tikhonov generally created the all-time mega-five, led by Larionov and Fetisov. He then added Bykov’s link to them and prepared for many years the junior trio Bure-Fedorov-Mogilny, which, alas, was not destined to take place in his homeland.
But in the NHL, Bowman continued the work of Tarasov / Tikhonov – he made the first five Russians in NHL history from ex-servicemen! In the annals of the league under this name Russian Five he entered forever.
By the way, you should not assume that overseas stable ligaments were not treated as zealously as we are. Now no one argues with this. In all NHL clubs there are mock combinations. But something similar was observed in the last century! Canada sent the best amateur club to the world championships until the mid-’60s. Why were the Maples regularly taking gold at the same time? Not only because of the little development of the puck in Europe, but precisely because of the teamwork of the squad. Unlike real old world teams.
How not to remember the 1972 Super Series! The only link that played all eight games with the same lineup: Ellis – Clark – Henderson. His original task was to contain Kharlamov. But in Moscow, it was they who decided the outcome of the series in favor of Canada. Clark knocked out Kharlamov and Henderson scored the winning goals in the last three games.
But didn’t Bill introduce a new super five at Ak Bars in the mid-2000s? Morozov, Zinoviev tried his hand at the NHL. Zaripov, Nikulin, Proshkin developed at home. Everyone remembers Kovalchuk’s goal in extra time at the 2008 World Cup in Quebec, but Ilya did not score anything before the final! Who pulled the national team at the World Championships in Canada, as well as at the previous tournament in Moscow, until Morozov broke up? Bilyaletdinov’s chicks! And the captain of Kazan Alexei Morozov became a two-time world champion in this role in the national team (2008, 2009). In 2012, at the gold World Cup in Sweden / Finland, Ilya Nikulin replaced him, and in 2014 in Belarus, another former Dynamo player, Alexander Ovechkin, was the first to raise the championship cup over his head. The Great Eight has always called Bilyaletdinov his master. Ovi replaced as captain when he was injured in Minsk, again, the “leopard” Danis Zaripov.
Fast forward to present day. Dry statistics of Ak Bars’ achievements in this championship with three different coaches.
OLEG ZNAROK (September 3 – December 2)
In 36 games – 16 wins, 6 losses in overtime and penalties, 14 losses in regulation time.
He scored 38 points or 52.8 percent.
YURI BABENKO (4 – 25 December)
In 7 games: 5 wins, 1 loss in shooting, 1 loss in regulation time.
He scored 11 points or 78.6 percent.
ZINETULA BILYALETDINOV (since December 28)
In 23 games – 19 wins, 2 losses in overtime and penalties, 2 losses in regulation time.
He scored 40 points or 87 percent.
As you can see, the situation began to improve immediately after Znark’s resignation. With the advent of Bill, the Kazans generally reached the cosmic level. Suffice it to say that on December 28, when Ak Bars was led by a new old coach, Avtomobilist led in the East with 61 points, and in the West – SKA with 73. Feel the difference: after that, Yekaterinburg scored 20 points. , St. Petersburg – 28, and Bill’s “leopards” – 40?
And again about the triplets and the distribution of roles. It seems that even Konstantin Beskov spoke of such a great coach: all his art is in picking up players and placing them correctly.
This is exactly what they did in Kazan. For starters, they stopped rushing the nominal leaders. The captain’s patch was handed out without alternative to the most venerable and brightest player of not only Ak Bars, but the entire KHL – Alexander Radulov. Then Bill, as world chess champion, placed all the pieces at his disposal on the board. Yes, so that his potential does not add up, but multiplies.
As a result, Tatarstan and Russia received the super trio Radulov – Voronkov – Safonov. Kagarlitsky returned to his former partner Shipachev, who was assigned to the native “leopard” Petrov. The other two three-pointers are also classics for Bilyaletdinov – Steppenwolves will kill anyone on defense, but they themselves are always ready to achieve a result. Special mention deserves the ex-captain Lukoyanov. With Znark, sometimes he didn’t even get on base, he just forgot about the goals and assists. Now what? Four goals have already been scored, and how much hard work has gone into…
In short, who said Bill’s hockey is boring? This is excluded with elite masters in the composition. And Khaidyarovich always had such. Who can compare in the KHL right now with Radulov’s trio? We’ll find out soon. For that playoff, where everything is in Hamburg’s account, they came up with it. The 2023 Gagarin Cup promises to be the most intriguing in the 15 years of the KHL.