Vasily Podkolzin is doing more to keep SKA alive than all the rude boys in the world.
The Vancouver Canucks’ top prospect is currently in the KHL playoffs with SKA St. Petersburg. They’re on the brink of elimination after losing the first three games of their series against rival CSKA Moscow and needed a win on Thursday to stay alive.
Despite getting just 12:32 in ice time, Podkolzin had a major impact in Game 4, tallying a goal and two assists in a 3-1 win over CSKA. The power forward was all over the highlight reel, creating chances and hitting the crossbar to go with his three points.
The future Canuck had help from two former Canucks to keep SKA alive, as Linden Vey and Oscar Fantenberg were also involved in the team’s first two scoring plays.
Podkolzin’s first assist came five minutes into the game while on the ice with Vey and Malte Strömwall. The latter won the puck on the forecheck and sent a centring pass to Vey that was a bit behind him. Instead of trying to force an awkward shot, Vey alertly tapped the puck back to Podkolzin while falling to the ice.
Podkolzin’s shot was turned aside by CSKA goaltender Lars Johnasson, but as is his wont, Podkolzin pursued the rebound, won the puck back along the boards, and made a nifty backhand pass between his legs to Strömwall while taking a hit.
It was a great play by Podkolzin topped off by a nice backdoor feed from Strömwall to Vey for the goal.
Podkolzin’s second assist again came off some great work along the boards. He fished a puck out of a battle in the corner and found Fanteberg open at the far point from one knee.
Strömwell darted into the slot and Fantenberg gave him a perfect pass to tip just inside the post to make it 2-0 SKA.
Podkolzin had a couple of chances to make it 3-0, forcing a blocker save on one rush, then hitting the crossbar on another rush after a quick up by goaltender Magnus Hellberg. The puck wound up in the crease but Johansson dove back to cover the puck with his glove a moment before Podkolzin could punch it in.
Podkolzin did eventually get a goal, though it came after Maxim Shalunov pulled CSKA within one midway through the third period.
While Podkolzin’s ice time in the playoffs has suggested he doesn’t fully have the trust of his KHL coach, he certainly did in this game, as he was on the ice in the final minute to defend the 2-1 lead. He alertly picked up a strange bounce off the glass and sent the puck tumbling into the empty net from his own zone.
Podkolzin finished the game with three shots on goal to go with his three points, giving him 9 points in 14 KHL playoff games while averaging just 13:11 in ice time. No other player in the top-30 in playoff scoring plays so little.
Inexplicably, in SKA’s previous game, Podkolzin had just 3:17 in ice time. SKA lost that game 5-2.
In an interesting note, the KHL tracks player speed as well. In Game 4, Podkolzin hit a top speed of 34.95 km/h, third-fastest on his team.