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Russia takes control in Game 1 of Super Series

Team Russia's Nail Yakupov

Team Russia won their first game of the Subway Super Series in a 6-2 blowout over the QMJHL in Game 1 on Monday night. While it's still way too early in the series, some points can be made about Russia's performance. Here are a few thoughts:

  • After years of butchering Russian national anthem, it was nice to hear a proper version of the song performed by a native speaker and a good singer. It's a rare combo really.
  • Last season Nail Yakupov played on the same line with Alex Khokhlachev and Ivan Telegin at both the Subway Super Series and the world junior championship. Telegin is not eligible anymore, so he was replaced in August at the Canada-Russia Challenge by Anton Zlobin on the left wing. This time around, though, Zlobin was put on the fourth line with other QMJHLers — Mikhail Grigorenko and Valentin Zykov — while Kirill Kapustin was moved to the first line.
  • What do you remember about Nail Yakupov's goal? The shot, right? That's good. Rewind the play, though. Who battles against the boards and eventually forces the defence to make a mistake? Kapustin. Remember that name.
  • There were four checking for behind penalties given including a call on Andrei Sigarev. Every single one of them was followed by a 10-minute misconduct. That really sends a message, doesn't it?
  • Andrei Vasilevski had a very interesting interview right before the tournament where he half-jokingly said he'd make his debut in the KHL when he's 40 and back from the U.S. You wonder how bad the kid wants to play overseas? Just look at his brand new Tampa Bay Lightning mask. Fun-fact: it says 'Vasya' on it. That's Vasilevski's nickname.
  • Despite being a winger Nail Yakupov thinks and plays like a centre and this game proved it again. It was him who sent Alex Khokhlachev on a breakaway early in the first, it was him who wasted a perfect opportunity for a shot on a shorthanded 2-on-1 rush with Anton Shenfeld late in the second. Ironically, he got his assist in the game like a winger — with a shot followed by a rebound.
  • Evgeny Mozer was the only player on Russia who ended the game with two assists. Last year he played in one of the Omsk amateur leagues. He now plays in the KHL and is tied for first in points at the series representing his country for the first time. And it's also overseas. Is there anything more inspiring than that?
  • Leading MHL goal-scorer Vladimir Tkachev took one for the team in the second period. He got slammed by two opponents into the boards but managed to get the puck to Maxim Shalunov to send him on a 1-on-1, which led to a goal. Fun-fact: there are two players named Vladimir Tkachev in the Russian MHL. Not only they share the same name and occupation, they were born on the same day with just a 2-year difference.
  • Blackhawks must have thought Maxim Shalunov was a wasted pick. This game suggest otherwise. Chelyabinsk native keeps improving and showing new skills. In his draft year it would be a impossible to even imagine him throwing hits around. He landed quite a few in this game and showed that he still has offensive skills with a nasty wrister.
  • Under Mikhail Varnakov's command Russia looks very responsible in the neutral zone and doesn't give their opponents a lot of scoring opportunities 5-on-5. Goaltending and offence may be this team's bread and butter, but defence is also present.

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