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Metallurg title and abnormal playoffs: the crazy KHL season is over


Magnitogorsk “Metallurg” became a three-time winner of the Gagarin Cup, Yaroslavl “Lokomotiv” won silver medals, and Ekaterinburg's Avtomobilist took bronze at the Russian Ice Hockey Championship.

The third club to win the third Gagarin Cup
“Metallurg”, having beaten “Lokomotiv” (4-0) in the final series, won the championship in Andrei Razin’s first season as the head coach of the “steelworkers”. The specialist, who previously headed Avtomobilist, Khanty-Mansiysk Ugra, Vladivostok Admiral and Cherepovets Severstal in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), has never made it past the first round of the playoffs.

Together with 50-year-old Razin, Magnitogorsk became the best club in the Eastern Conference in the regular season, and won 16 victories in 23 matches in the Gagarin Cup. The previous time, CSKA reached the gold medal so quickly in one playoff: in the 2021/22 season, the Moscow army team needed 22 games for triumph, including seven in the final series against Metallurg. The league record still belongs to SKA: the St. Petersburg team played in 18 matches in the 2016/17 season.

This was the fifth final of the Gagarin Cup for Magnitogorsk. After defeats in 2017 and 2022, the Steelworkers can once again be called the best club in the KHL. “Metallurg” won the main league trophy for the third time in its history, which is a repeat of the record. Previously, Ak Bars Kazan (2008, 2009 and 2018) and CSKA (2019, 2022, 2023) each won three KHL championships.


Razin repeated Nikitin's record
“Metallurg” won a playoff series in four games for the third time in its history in the KHL. Previously, Magnitogorsk managed to achieve this in the second rounds of the 2013/14 and 2016/17 seasons, respectively. Having defeated Lokomotiv in four games of the final series, Magnitogorsk repeated this achievement. At the same time, the Magnitogorsk club became only the second in the history of the league to complete such a series in the final.

Previously, only CSKA managed to win the Gagarin Cup final with a score of 4-0 in the 2018/19 season. The “red-blues” won that championship under the leadership of Igor Nikitin, the current head coach of Lokomotiv. The railway men's mentor lost in the series for the second time in his career with a score of 0-4.

New heroes
Hockey players and coaches of KHL clubs often say that the playoffs are a completely different tournament compared to the regular season. The current Gagarin Cup demonstrated this through the prism of personalities. If in the regular season those who are usually called the stars of the league showed high results, then in the playoffs new heroes came to the fore.

For example, few people knew about Dmitry Silantiev less than a year ago, but today he is one of the best players in the Gagarin Cup and the main scorers of the champion Metallurg. The same goes for Ilya Nabokov: the 21-year-old goalkeeper, thanks to his reliable play and four shutouts in 23 playoff matches, was recognized as the most valuable player of the tournament.


Players from other clubs also loudly declared themselves: Anatoly Golyshev from Avtomobilist, Maxim Berezkin from Lokomotiv, Denis Zernov from Metallurg, Charles Robinson with Zach Fucale from “Tractors” and many others.

The coaches also became heroes. If Nikitin, even with the lost final, lived up to expectations with his work and achievements, then, for example, few people expected to see cousins ​​Alexei and Nikolai Zavarukhin with their Avtomobilist and Traktor, respectively, in the semi-finals of the Gagarin Cup. And the residents of Yekaterinburg and Chelyabinsk created a sensation. Finally, Razin, whom many consider one of the most talented specialists, developed his potential and reached the very top.

br>Anomalous playoffs
The structure of the current Gagarin Cup is fundamentally different from previous tournaments. The cross playoffs allowed teams from the Eastern and Western conferences to meet much earlier than the finals – already at the stage of the second round. This format gave the league several new couples at once, and at the same time the level of interest in the tournament increased.

“We liked it, we get feedback and collect feedback from the players, from the fans. Most liked this format, talked with the Spartak players, they said that it’s a completely different feeling when you come to a city where you’ve only been once during the season. The fans greet us differently, there is excitement in the stands. We saw a confrontation between the West and the East in the second round; three teams from the East reached the semifinals. This adds intrigue and interest to the fans in such matches. I think we will continue to develop this direction. playoff matches give rise to new fundamental confrontations between clubs, derbies, which will be interesting in the next regular season,” the league’s press service quotes KHL President Alexei Morozov.

With the new format, several sensations happened at once. A number of the main favorites of the Gagarin Cup ended their journey already in the initial stages: CSKA resigned as champions in the first round, Moscow Dynamo, Omsk Avangard and St. Petersburg SKA dropped out of the competition in the second. Moreover, not every team failure was logical. More like anomalous. For example, Dynamo had a game advantage in each match against Chelyabinsk Traktor, but lost the series with a score of 0-4. SKA, which has perhaps the most powerful squad in the entire league, could not oppose Avtomobilist. The capital's Spartak was also surprised – the most productive team of the KHL regular season did not score a single goal in three of the six matches against Metallurg.


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