As the final is played over the next two weeks, the Russian national team is preparing for some upcoming games.
They run two teams all the time. The A team, with a varying roster, is the team that plays in the world championships and events like the Euro Hockey Tour. The last stage of that event, the Czech Hockey Games, is at the end of April and serves as a tuneup and selection camp for the World Championships which begins on May 5. The roster for the Czech tournament is yet to be announced, but it will depend on who exits the Gagarin Cup Finals in one piece. Most of the top Russian players are still playing KHL hockey.
Meanwhile there is a set of friendly games against France beginning on April 13, and for that event the Russians are sending their B team, sometimes called the Olympic team. Lately they’ve been using that B team as a U25 team to get a better handle on the state of their young players. A lot of those top Russian players in the KHL final are in their thirties or close to it.
The second game brought the best news: the return from injury of Johan Sundstrm, Grundstrm’s usual centre and last year’s playoff MVP. The more balanced lineup brought success, but it came from Casey Wellman who had a hat trick and an assist from a team leading six shots on goal.
Frlunda dominated the possession in this game, and Grundstrm had some scoring chances and caused his usual amount of trouble getting in tight to the net and digging for pucks. The score was 6 1 at the end, and Bryns had met the real Frlunda offence.
The next game was more Wellman as he had an astonishing 11 shot attempts to lead the team to another dominating performance. He’s hot, so the team are getting him the puck. He had two goals and one assist in a 6 3 win.
Grundstrm, hitting his stride with Sundstrm back, had the second highest shot rate, and it really seems like only a matter of time before his more physical line starts to score.
Game four of the series was Saturday and it started out good. Wellman was still hot, and he tied the game up after an opening Bryns goal.
Sundstrm followed up with first, a great chance while Grundstrm was screening the goalie, and then a goal while Grundstrm was still driving the net. They are back on form.
Bryns dominated utterly in the second and tied the game. They were nearly as strong in the third, and got the go ahead goal. Frlunda tied it up at three, but it was Bryns with the drive and the luck, and they took it with a goal in the last minute of play after surviving a power play against.
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even more promising news, they have hired Hans Srkijrvi as their new head coach. This is equivalent to the Florida Panthers adding Ken Hitchcock as soon as the season is over. This shows the team is very serious about capitalizing on there good junior players, building for the future, and getting back in the SHL where they feel they belong.
For , that says he’s not stuck on a bad team, like Grundstrm felt (rightly) he was last year with the club, but that he’s in on the ground floor of a rebuilding team.
That’s all for this week, next week we’ll know the fate of Carl Grundstrm, will have played a few games of his final, and we will be very close to the end of the European season with only the World Championships to look forward to to cap it off.