In 2019, Hartley ended Bill’s coaching career. Will Kravets do it?

Four years ago, Avangard Bob Hartley withdrew current Gagarin Cup holder Ak Bars, ridden by Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, from the race. Already in the first round, winning the series with a clean sheet – 4-0. “Hawks” then flew to the finals and smashed their beaks on army armor – the same 0-4. And Bill decided to end his coaching career.

Later this season, after the resignation of Oleg Znark, he was persuaded to take the helm. The 67-year-old coach did what all of Kazan was waiting for – Ak Bars led the Eastern Conference and seriously bet on the main trophy of the championship.

Mikhail Kravets headed Avangard, replacing Dmitry Ryabykin. Many then considered the new coach a temporary figure. And he put things in order in the team and went through the prickly systemic Siberia and rotten Magnitogorsk in the playoffs. Omsk humiliated last year’s cup violators with a 4-0 scoreline. Kravets has never climbed that high in the playoffs. The limit was the first lap with Vityaz. If successful in the next series, it will not only definitely raise his odds, but also completely complete Bilyaletdinov’s career.

Photo source: HC Avangard

True, the Falcons had to pay a high price for the victory over last year’s finalist. At the end of the last match they lost their captain Damir Sharipzyanov. The defense pillar cut his hand on a skate and is still on sick leave. Who, in his absence, will take the pucks on themselves and go out in the majority? Semyon Chistyakov young and fast-growing? Join the Ziyat Paygin team? Request…

Yes, and goalkeeper Vasily Demchenko, who beat the vaunted Canadian Eddie Pasquale, will be added to the job without Sharipzyanov. When the “tanks” surge forward – Ilya Safonov and Dmitry Voronkov, supported by the “energizer” Alexander Radulov.

Photo source: HC Ak Bars

However, Kravets has an experienced Olympian and last year’s Gagarin Cup winner Bogdan Kiselevich, who missed the series with Magnitogorsk due to injury. In December, he was transferred to Avangard from CSKA, where an experienced defender was rolling down an inclined plane, having lost his motivation. Hopefully he still has gas. Like the veteran Anton Belov.

Belov in the first round of the cup in 2009 with Avangard forced the defending champions Ufa to cover the clubs, and with them newcomer Salavat Yulaev Radulov. Recall that in the pilot season of the KHL, the playoffs were held not within the conferences, as they are now, but according to the overall standings. Salavat won the regular season, while Avangard, with Jaromir Jagr, jumped at the last moment to the 16th, bottom, place in the cup.

For Radulov, the next series is the second page of the confrontation with Omsk. He tried to forget the first one like a nightmare.

Opponents are almost evenly matched. Ak Bars goalkeeper Timur Bilyalov is more experienced than Demchenko, but is he better at the moment?

Photo source: HC Ak Bars

Without Sharipzyanov, the advantage of the Avangard defensive line is even. The attack of the “falcons” looks smoother, deeper than Kazan. Corban Knight legionnaires with Reed Boucher and Vladimir Tkachev who joined them are on fire. Like Sergei Tolchinsky and Arseniy Gritsyuk. What can not be said about the well-known leaders of the “leopards” Vadim Shipachyov and Dmitry Kagarlitsky. At the end of the series with the admiral, they put on invisibility helmets.

Rivals can boast of “watchdogs” capable of putting restrictive jerseys on leaders. Kazan has the tireless Nikita Dynyak and Artem Lukoyanov. In Omsk – Pavel Dedunov, Vladimir Zharkov, Ivan Telegin.

His ice advantage is unlikely to come to the fore in this series. Opponents feel safe away.

Eastern Conference Finals

Ak Bar (1) – Avangard (3)

April 1, 3 (both Kazan), 5, 7 (both Omsk), 9* (C), 11* (W), 13* (C)

* If necessary.

Forecast “Soviet Sport”: 4-3


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