(Friend of Spittin' Chiclets, son of The Capital District, and 17-year pro Matt Murley will be sharing occassional blogs in addition to his picks.)
The Gagarin Cup is given each year to the winner of the KHL Playoffs and is the equivalent to the Stanley Cup. The Cup was named after Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space and was meant to be played on April 12th which is the anniversary of the flight. This is the biggest sporting event in Russia and all eyes will be on the series. Putin is a well-documented hockey fan and player who hosts a game every year against pros and old pros where he is averaging 9 goals a game.
Team Facts you must know:
CSKA Moscow: The best team every year in the KHL with the largest payroll in the league. Based in the capital Moscow with Sergei Fedorov as the GM. In 2019, the Red Army swept Omsk to win the Cup. The team plane and fringe benefits are parallel to an NHL team. The team originally was the Russian Army team of 1980 that lost to the USA at Lake Placid.
Avangard Omsk: Playing all their games in Moscow after the home rink mysteriously collapsed. Omsk has been a more present powerhouse in the KHL with big signings like Jaromir Jagr and Bob Hartley from Atlanta Thrashers fame. The style of play is closer to a North American style than most teams in Russia. Also, the team became legendary with a brawl for the ages when they played against Chiclets guest Josh Gratton.
Players to watch:
CSKA Moscow: Mat Robinson – best import, puck-moving defenseman plays all scenarios, played for the Canada Olympic team, shockingly not on a NHL roster.
Maxim Mamin – 26-year-old Russian, high-flying scorer will be the key for goals, tried the NHL but is better suited for the big ice and free gas between periods.
Avangard Omsk: Ilya Kovalchuck – still has an absolute cannon on the PP, doesn’t log the ice time but can take over games when he wants, wild card of the series.
Reid Boucher – Leading scorer, sick of the being sent up and down in the NHL, great forward for the style Omsk plays.
Predictions from former KHL players:
Murls: CSKA beats Omsk 4-1: too strong in all areas, Putin gives the team his credit card for a night at the Toy club in Moscow plus free Abercrombie for the Russians.
The Whitdog: CSKA beats Omsk 4-3: No one loves a Game 7 more than Putin and CSKA is not allowed to lose.
Tim Stapleton: CSKA beats Omsk 4-0: Anyone who knows the KHL knows the CSKA gas is the best quality. Bring out the brooms for the sweep!
And one podcaster/blogger:
RA: CSKA beats Omsk 4-0. What Putin wants, Putin gets.
Game 1 is at 11AM ET Sunday; bets will be featured in a later blog.