eason in the Kontinental Hockey League finished on Sunday and the annual Gagarin Cup playoffs – named for Hero of the Soviet Union (and first human being in space) Yuri Gagarin – begins later this week.
Karri Ramo’s Avangard Omsk club made it all the way to the Gagarin Cup Finals last year, losing in seven games to Dynamo Moscow. That becomes important when you realize that Ramo’s KHL contract – the only legal barrier between him and a Flames jersey – is his team getting knocked out of the playoffs.
So hold onto your hats, kids. Avangard Omsk (nick-named the Hawks) are a very good hockey team. They’re the second seed in the KHL’s Eastern Conference and will host the seventh seed, Sibir Novosibirsk (the Siberians) in the first round. While we wait out the last vestiges of Ramo’s Kontinental kareer, why not get into the KHL playoffs?
We’ll have Avangard Omsk’s playoff run covered here at FlamesNation, from A to backwards-R.
Avangard hosts Sibir in the friendly confines of Omsk Arena on Thursday, February 21 and Friday, February 22. After that, the series moves east to Novosibirsk (the third-largest city in Russia) for Game 3 on Monday, February 25 and Game 4 on Tuesday, February 26.
If necessary, Game 5 would be on Friday, March 1 in Omsk, Game 6 would be on Sunday, March 3 in Novosibirsk, and Game 7 would be on Tuesday, March 3 in Omsk.
The Siberians are back-stopped by their excellent goaltender, former Senators draft pick Jeff Glass. Beyond him, they have a two-pronged offense, by which I mean they have two real offensive threats. Those would be Jori Lehtera (47 points) and Jonas Enlund (34 points). Lehtera is a Finn who was drafted by St. Louis in 2008 and spent precisely 7 games in North America. Enlund is another Finn, himself drafted by the Thrashers in 2006. He never came over.
No other Sibir Novosibirsk players are scoring over 0.5 points per game.
Avangard Omsk has a much more balanced attack. Beyond Karri Ramo’s goaltending, they have the offensive skills of Alexander Frolov (39 points), Tomas Zaborsky (37 points), Alexander Popov (28 points), Alexander Perezhogin (28 points), Dmitri Syomin (24 points) and Anton Belov (23 points).
The Hawks and the Siberians faced each other twice during the regular season. On October 1, Avangard beat Sibir 2-1 in overtime. Former Flames pick Andrei Taratukhin scored the OT winner and Ramo made 19 saves for the win.
On January 5, Avangard beat Sibir 3-1. Igor Volkov had two goals and an assist, while Tomas Zaborsky had a goal and two assists. Sibir spoiled Karri Ramo’s shut-out halfway through the third period, but Ramo made 34 saves.
It’s not tremendously likely that Avangard Omsk will wash out of the first round. They have more scorers than their opponents, have slightly better goaltending and a roster that went to the finals last year. Factor in that they beat Sibir twice this season, the second time decisively, and it’s likely that the dreams of Flames fans for Karri Ramo in Calgary will have to wait.
At least until the second round.