We are about to reach the 30 game mark of the KHL season and turn the season to the hunting part for the playoffs.
As we can see so far when we look at the KHL table, SKA and CSKA in the Western Conference have escaped from the other teams and they had done so already in the early stages of the season.
Perhaps it would be a bit of bantering by me to say that both teams were set for the playoffs after ten games, on the other hand, it is more or less true as well that they were.
For SKA it has been a big, big change from the last season when they struggled a long time to get on the right side of the table, the upper part of it.
This season, the team has been like a formula 1 car with an ultra-power engine and the other teams haven’t seen a sight of them since the start, except CSKA Moscow.
Kvartalnov and his crew haven’t so far suffered at all from the Radulov and Zaitsev move to the NHL, which implies that he has more space to create a team than he had in previous seasons.
And, that’s nothing to underestimate at all, as we know that they have been very close to the title in recent years but fell at the last hurdle.
However, CSKA Moscow will remain as a strong part of the title race as they won’t let it go without trying to achieve the Gagarin Cup, over and over again until they get it.
This season is certainly not an exception to that.
If we take a look at the bottom of the Western Conference, there have been a lot of disappointments. Teams like Slovan Bratislava, Medveṧčak Zagreb, and Jokerit Helsinki have a huge struggle to reach the playoff line.
Jokerit is closer, at the moment than the other mentioned teams but they are standing in a very fragile position.
In the East, we cannot find that much bigger a surprise at the top as we find AK Bars Kazan, Avangard Omsk, the defending champions Magnitogorsk skulking behind in third place followed by Salavat Yulayev.
I tossed out some questions to two of the most initiated experts on the KHL and Russian hockey, Patrick Conway from the well-known site Conway’s Russian Hockey and Juha Santaharju from the biggest hockey site in Finland, Jatkoaika.com
I asked why it looks like this and what has been the most positive and negative surprise as well.
Let us start with Patrick Conway, this is what he says about the top:
-I think CSKA, SKA, etc. simply have better players (and of course, more money) than many other teams. A short answer, maybe, but I think it is the right one!
About the biggest positive and negative surprises he told this:
-My biggest surprise so far must be Kunlun Red Star. I thought they would be ok, thanks mostly to their goalies and defense, but I did not think they would be in a playoff spot. It will be very interesting to see how they finish! Vityaz, too, is a bit of surprise, although they have started well in the last two seasons (and Aaltonen is very good).
-Jokerit would be one, sad to say. I do not know what is wrong there — this is not a bad team in any way, but the wins do not seem to be coming like last year and the year before. The loss of Kozun (and Moses before him) does not help, but they should be doing better. I am also very disappointed with Sibir’s season, although the answer there is quite simple — injuries. I hope they have enough time to turn it around, as their fans deserve it.
Which teams are going to win the west and east conferences?
-And finally, before the season I picked SKA and Avangard to win West and East respectively, and I think I will stick with that. However, do not be startled if it is Ak Bars in the final from the East! As for Metallurg Magnitogorsk, I think they are very good, and I love Mozyakin, but I do not know if they have enough quality outside of their very best players. We shall see. Nobody, I think, will catch SKA in the West — simply too good.
And this is what Juha Santaharju from Jatkoaika.com told me about the top:
-SKA have played on their own level because the material is simply superior. The best of all time in the KHL. Perhaps the most significant are that they hired Oleg Znarok as head coach for the team. Also, maybe the amount of so-called lost games are surprisingly small, but on the other hand, Znarok’s team’s in the KHL have become known for their high standards of morale and evenness. CSKA Moscow is totally Dimitry Kvartalnov’s team. Alexander Radulov, Nikita Zaitsev and Roman Ljubimov left big holes, but CSKA drafted competent players to fill up the gaps despite that the peak of the team has become a bit weaker. The team have also a huge morale and the squad is big. We’ll surely find CSKA among the top 3 when the regular season is over.
About Jokerit, Slovan and Medveṧčak for example?
-Jokerit’s slight downhill can first of all be blamed on the draft failure of players. The Joker’s pack who has won twice against a top team as CSKA has played irregularly, which has been obvious. The peak of the team has not been good as it has the previous seasons. However, I believe that Jokerit ends up between the places 5-7. Avoiding CSKA or/and SKA would be a great thing. Slovan and Medveṧčak’s level are simply at the level that they should end up below the playoffs. Slovan has though strengthened a bit after the International break, which increases their chances. For Medveṧčak, their dreams to reach the playoffs will just be a dream.
The biggest surprise? Kunlun Red Star!
– The material is not bad at all, and after the first period of playing in another venue front of empty seats (editor’s note: Shanghai), the team has played tight and close-knit, which has made a great impact. Kunlun has all the resources to reach the playoffs.
Negative Surprise: Sibir Novosibirsk!
– Sibir who has become known for their enormous flexibility and excellent teamwork have won only one of ten games the latest. The cause of the downhill could be blamed on injuries, as after the Salak’s injury and absence. When a vital lock as him disappeared from the back lines, the way downwards began. The season’s first half has gone against all expectations.
Santaharju added also Neftekhimik as a personal disappointment, with which one only can agree totally. Furthermore, he mentioned their peculiar and swift changes of coaches as a valid reason for their lack of success.
To the last Santaharju told who is going to win the west respectively the east:
-The winner of the Western Conference will obviously be SKA St. Petersburg with a new record of the KHL. Not a single team will be even close to them. About the victory of the Eastern Conference it will be a tight story but the reigning champions Magnitka a.k.a Magnitogorsk will leave from a hot spot into the playoffs.
Both Patrick and Juha gave an excellent view on the situation in the KHL at the moment and it will surely be a very interesting part when the season now turns – as I said at the beginning – into the hunting part for the spots in the knockout stages.
Every game and point from now are more crucial than ever. We can all expect tough and intriguing games among those who are close to the playoff line from behind and from those who are just above standing in a very fragile position.
It will be a time when it is important to keep the heads cool and focus on what is most important on the ice.
We’ll see which teams will succeed with that and which will fail.
Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer.
25th Annual Muhammad Ali Celebrity Fight Night, A Charity Knockout Event
The stars came out last night to give, show support, perform, and to continue to raise money and awareness in hopes of one day find a cure to knockout Parkinson’s disease.
Going back to year number 1, The first ever event was held at the Ritz-Carlton operated on a much smaller scale than today, which is now held at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa.
At the very first Celebrity Fight Night With the help of Phoenix Suns Charles Barkley, Dan Majerle, and the valley of the sun’s very own Louie Espinoza, Tony Baltazar, and boxing champion Michael Carbajal who by the way fought in the ring with over sized boxing gloves.
The ”Puttin on the Fists at The Ritz” first Celebrity Fight Night scored a knockout win and is STILL punching on through today for the Greatest Of All Time, The late great Muhammad Ali.
Last night I was honored to attend and speak to a few of the stars, one was NFL legendary kicker Nick Lowery, Mr. Lowery now spends most of his time at charitable endeavors and advocating for alternative medicine research and is also a spokesman for Kannalife, Inc to raise awareness for CTE and players safety in hopes of one day having intercellular “helmets,” like Kannalife’s CBD and KLS-13019, is so important to potentially treat the brain.
I asked Lowery what is his favorite Ali memory, and Lowery’s response: ” Taking Ali to the NBA All-Star game one year as we sat behind Jay-Z and Beyonce and watching Beyonce wave to Ali, Beyonce spoke to us, she is the sweetest person. Also taking Ali to the locker rooms and watching Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, and all the other all stars turn into children at the sight of seeing their hero the greatest of all time Muhammad Ali walk through the doors, what an experience that was.”
In asking the very same question to R&B Singer Brian McKnight, ”I have so many Ali memories but my favorite was watching Ali knockout George Foreman at home with my dad. The odds were against Ali and Ali being the great fighter that he was he beat the odds and stopped a much younger powerful puncher in Foreman. You know, I am still a big boxing fan today, I enjoy watching Tyson Fury out of the current heavyweights.”
And what did legendary former champion boxer, Micheal Carbajal have to say? ”It’s truly an honor to attend this great event, at the very first one proceeds went to my 9th street boxing gym and now 24 years later it’s still going strong, a great charity”. Mr. Carbajal went on to talk some boxing with me,
Carbajal- ” You see Spence/Garcia?”
Me- ” Yes, it was brutal, what did you think?”
Carbajal- ” Not good for Mikey Garcia at all, but he is still my favorite current boxer, and he beats everybody at 135 pounds if he can make the weight there. Mikey would knockout Lomachenko in 4 rounds at 135.”
Me- ”Wow, you really think that? Both are great technical boxers but I can’t see a 4 round fight between them, so you really think it would only take Mikey 4 rounds to stop Lomachenko?”
Carbajal- ” I KNOW so!”
Special honorees for the evening include fabled American music producer and 27-time Grammy Award-winner Quincy Jones, Arizona State University President Dr. Michael Crow and Dr. Abraham Lieberman, the medical director of the Movement Disorders Clinic at Barrow Neurological Institute and Renee Parsons of the Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation.
“For 25 years, we’ve treated Celebrity Fight Night audiences to the world’s greatest entertainers and this year will be no different as we welcome Barry Manilow,” said Jimmy Walker, Founder of Celebrity Fight Night. “With the help of our celebrity friends and incredibly generous donors, we are once again excited to raise millions of dollars and make a difference in the lives of those who need our support.”
About Celebrity Fight Night
Celebrity Fight Night has gifted more than $86 million over the past 24 years benefiting the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, as well as several other worthy charities.
The black-tie event features a cocktail reception, silent auction, elegant dinner, and an exciting live auction including one-of-a-kind luxury items and experiences. Celebrity Fight Night Foundation is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1994 by Jimmy Walker and supports the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, as well as numerous other charities. For more information, visitwww.celebrityfightnight.org.
Olympic Cyclist Kelly Catlin Dead at 23
Olympic track cyclist Kelly Catlin, who competed in the 2016 Rio Janeiro Games, was found dead in her California home this past Friday due to an apparent suicide, according to an announcement from her father, according to Reuters.
“There isn’t a minute that goes by that we don’t think of her and think of the wonderful life she could have lived,” her father, Mark Catlin said, according to VeloNews. “There isn’t a second in which we wouldn’t freely give our lives in exchange for hers. The hurt is unbelievable.”
Catlin, 23, took the silver medal in Rio and was part of the teams who took home the gold in 2016, 2017, and 2018 World Championships.
Catlin had reportedly struggled with mental health in the past and her sister, Christine Catlin, said that Catlin was “a really special person – kind, funny, empathetic, and talented at literally everything she did, per the Washington Post. She just felt like she couldn’t say no to everything that was asked of her and this was her only escape.”
Tom Brady And Pats Play Record 8th AFC Championship Game, Seek 6th Superbowl
It’s Championship Sunday and one of the NFL staples remain atop the league. The New England Patriots are appearing in their record 8th AFC title game in hopes of competing for a sixth title.
A season that most organizations would be happy with, was one of challenge for the Patriots. Usually a top tier team, they suffered bad losses to the Jaguars, Titans and Dolphins. However, in Patriot fashion along a weak AFC East, the Patriots finished 11-5, won a 10th straight conference title and secured a first round bye.
Kansas City will host New England in the AFC Championship game in what is a rematch from week six. That game featured an offensive clinic , As reported by CBS Boston, Brady went 24-35 passing for 340 yards and touchdown in that game; Mahomes went 23-36 passing for 352 yards and four touchdowns. The AFC Championship could very well play out the same way.
The Chiefs will be a tough out, They won their first home playoff game in 25 years last week against the Colts and are riding one of the most prolific offenses in history behind quarterback whisperer Andy Reid and phenome Patrick Mahomes who is arguably the NFLs best young QB.
In what is a David and Goliath matchup, Brady seems to imply they are the underdog. As he told CBS’s Tracy Wolfson, “I know everyone thinks we suck and, you know, cant win games,”. Will the dynasty continue? Or will Reid and Mahomes hoist the Lombardi?
I’m leaning towards the game plan of Bill Belichick and veteran experience of Tom Brady in this one. I think a Patriot/Saints matchup is in order. Either way, it will undoubtedly be one for the ages.
Game Time: Sunday January 20th at 6:40ET/5:40CT on CBS.
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