Slava Kozlov (Dynamo) and Nikita Pivtsakin (Avangard) go at each other during regular season Avangard – Dynamo game (Photo credit: OldWest.su)
These two teams have met 66 times. Dynamo has won 35 of those match-ups, Avangard 23, with eight tie games. The teams have squared off in the playoffs five times– with Dynamo winning in 1995, 2005 and 2008, and Avangard winning in 2003 and 2004. But they have never played each other in the finals. Until now.
The most famous series between the two was the 2004-05 semifinals. After getting eliminated by the Omsk Hawks two straight times, Dynamo (featuring Pavel Datsyuk, Alex Ovechkin and Andrei Markov) tried to stop Avangard (with Jaromir Jagr, Oleg Tverdovsky and one of the greatest lines in modern Russian hockey history: Maxim Sushinsky, Dmitry Zatonsky and Alexander Prokopiev).
The defending champions from Avangard won game one of the best-of-five series in the shootout (yes, shootouts in playoffs). In the second game they were crushed, 11-0. That game featured Alex Ovechkin’s first fight as a pro. During a line brawl, then-young Ovi dropped the gloves against Oleg Tverdovsky.
Games Three was the key, decided by one of the most mysterious moments in Russian hockey. In the middle of the third period of a scoreless game, a shot by Dynamo’s Igor Mirnov went off one post, off another, and out. Referee Rafael Kadyrov pointed to the center ice but went to see the replays. It took him more than eight minutes to watch the goal from all the angles he wanted but he didn’t see any evidence that the puck did not cross the goal line, and therefore it was considered a good goal. The general consensus was that laws of physics couldn’t allow the puck to go in after hitting the first post and before hitting the other, but Kadyrov called it a goal. Dynamo won 1-0. They also won Game Four, 3-1 and moved on to win it all sweeping Alexander Semin (Semin vs Ovechkin!) and Lada Togliatti.
These teams feature two of the best players not currently in the NHL.
Hard-nosed speedy winger Leo Komarov from Finland would fit well in the NHL with his style of play. A fearless agitator, Komarov is really fun to watch. He skates full circles after hitting the ice before every period of play, including in front and behind the opposing net. One of the funniest hockey scenes I’ve ever witnessed was when Leo tucked in his jersey — right in the goal crease — after the whistle. It drove the defensemen off, but that was exactly what he wanted. Komarov’s rights are currently held by the Maple Leafs, and it has been reported that they will make another attempt to lure Leo to the NHL.
Unlike Komarov, Roman Cervenka is more of a finesse player. Defensively sound, big shooter, smooth skater; it’s difficult to find a weakness in Cervenka’s game. He provides offense consistently thanks to a high hockey IQ. Cervenka could be the KHL’s biggest star since Radulov’s departure. He is versatile, playing either center or left wing. He has said that he wants to move to the NHL this summer after having a couple of great seasons in Russia. The biggest problem is that he speaks only Czech. But as long as the team he plays has a couple of Czech-speaking players who can translate for him, that shouldn’t be a big issue. The 26-year-old Cervenka is an undrafted free agent.