Team Russia Olympic Stock Market Report: Proskuryakov Turns Up The Heat
With roughly four months to go before the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, many questions remain unanswered in the form of the starting lineup. The top forwards are nearly set in stone, but who comes after that? Let's take a look.
For the foreseeable future, Sharks netminder Evgeni Nabokov is the No. 1 man unless he suffers an injury or his play drastically falls apart. While the second seems incredibly unlikely, stranger things have happened. He has hardly been terrible, but a 2.88 GAA is a little higher than he'd like it to be.
However, his sidekick Ilya Bryzgalov has been nothing less than a brick wall in net for the Coyotes. He has already recorded two shutouts in five games and leads all starting goaltenders with a minuscule 1.17 GAA. His 95 percent saves mark isn't too bad either. But if he wants the starting job, he'll have to keep that up all through the fall.
The third spot is not so clear.
Semyon Varlamov has been shaky at best in his three appearances and already allowed eight goals.
The only KHL goalie invited to camp, Alexander Eremenko, has hardly been able to replicate his successes from last year. He had a record of 27-6 and a 1.74 GAA in 36 starts for Salavat Yulaev Ufa in 2008-09, but he has already lost three games and hasn't been nearly as sharp.
But a new face that has emerged is 22-year-old Ilya Proskuryakov of Metallurg Magnitogorsk. The wonder kid has been as close to untouchable as you're going to get in a professional league. He's 12-2, has saved 94 percent of his shots faced, and has allowed one or less goals seven times.
While he continues to perform at that kind of level, he might just impress Slava Bykov enough to hand him the third goalkeeper job over Varlamov and Eremenko.
The obvious concern is with Andrei Markov. The veteran defenseman is scheduled to miss 3-4 months due to a tear in his ankle tendon and is questionable for the Olympics. If he is truly unable to play, the Russian blue line becomes even thinner.
The likes of Sergei Gonchar, Sergei Zubov, Anton Volchenkov, and Denis Grebeshkov are as good as locks. Several former NHL players now in the KHL, like Alexei Zhitnik, Oleg Tverdovsky, and Vitali Vishnevsky are also vying for spots.
There might just be an answer for Markov, however.
Denis Kulyash has had a phenomenal season with CSKA Moscow, leading all defensemen with nine points. He's a bit like Nashville's Shea Weber - he has a gigantic slap shot and is a physical presence on defense - but his skills are just not as refined as the All-Star Canadian. He didn't receive an invite to the initial camp, but with Markov out he might just be too good to pass up.
Malkin, Ovechkin, Datsyuk, Kovalchuk, same old same old. Let's move on.
Finding skilled Russian forwards has never been a challenging task. It's finding a productive forward that can also play good two-way hockey.
Sergei Mozyakin was overlooked when the first training camp squad was named, but he has always been a solid player in the World Championships and is once again one of the league leaders in scoring for Atlant Moscow. Currently producing at over a point-per-game ratio, Mozyakin is half the reason why Atlant is having a decent offensive year.
But one major omission from the team has been Alexei Yashin.
The former Islander star is also having a great season for SKA St. Petersburg and has been a master in setting up plays. While the 35-year-old might not be able to give as many minutes as he used to, he is still one of the league leaders in assists despite barely seeing 15 minutes of ice time.
Tune back in next time for more updates on the Big Red Machine!
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