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Yesterday was the first day in the KHL for a few NHL players, and as you might imagine, things over there are a little different.
For one thing, they all speak this weird language I can’t seem to understand. Don’t know what that’s about. More importantly, though, the way in which the sport is played is way, way different. Part of that is by virtue of the fact that they play on the larger, Olympic-sized rink over there, which changes almost all parts of the game. Angles are different, the speed is different, the approach is different.
But the other thing to keep in mind about the KHL is man oh man are the players in it ever bad. Like, really, truly not very good players. This is the example to which I always point when the subject of the KHL’s relative quality comes up, but man, Kevin Dallman is the best defenseman in that league by any standard year-in and year-out.
And as a consequence of the league’s players being not very good by comparison with those in the NHL or, now, the AHL too, the hockey is one hell of a lot more dangerous.
For more, let’s take a mind-journey to scenic Magnitogorsk, located just several hours’ drive from beautiful and glorious Kazakhstan, where NHL superstar and best-player-on-the-planet-last-year Evgeni Malkin played before a SOLD-OUT CROWD (of 7,500) in his first KHL game since that time he literally had to run away from his team overnight to join the Penguins.
The below video, which I got from Puck Daddy but was posted by the official KHL YouTube account, is entitled “Zubarev meets Malkin / Zubarev’s huge hit on Evgeni Geno Malkin.” The descript read, “Andrei Zubarev welcomes Evgeni Malkin in the CHL great power moves.”
I’ll put this in terms you can understand, Kontinental Hockey League: That hit ain’t huge or great, it’s низко. Or, for you English-only readers: Low. It was super-duper low. Dangerous as hell. The point of contact was Malkin’s knee. Imagine if, in his first game in the KHL, some crummy defenseman with four career NHL games to his name (and those in ATLANTA!) had blown out Evgeni friggin’ Malkin’s left knee? Fortunately, that’s not the one that’s had all the surgeries, because otherwise holy christ.
And just so we’re clear, the subtext of that KHL description (of a hit that, in the NHL, would be worthy of supplementary discipline), is that Malkin — again, the best player in the world this past year — was unprepared for the KHL. “WELCOME TO THE LEAGUE, GENO. Not just anyone can make it here, as evidenced by Brandon Bochenski having 104 career points in 89 games.” It’s all hubris, and certainly guys like Zubarev are looking to make a name for themselves by blowing up Malkin at every available opportunity.
What are the odds Sid Crosby saw that hit and decided maybe he’ll just stay the hell home? His first game against Vityaz Chekhov and they’d be taking him out of the rink on a stretcher.
But, okay, let’s give Zubarev the benefit of the doubt here. Maybe he didn’t want to try to low-bridge a countryman and international hockey superstar. Maybe he’s just too awful to have not done so.
In either case, let this be a lesson to all you NHL players out there: Some nobody is very likely to either try to end your career or do so inadvertently. Best to stay home and play pickup games with the boys.
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