Top 10 events so far this NHL regular season
Varlamov, his girlfriend, and the bicycle
Semyon Varlamov was probably the main NHL newsmaker in the late autumn and early winter of 2013. The incident with his girlfriend, the Russian model Eugenia Vavrinyuk, will not be easily forgotten.
Vavrinuk, 24, filed a domestic violence complaint against Varlamov with the Denver police. She claimed that the Colorado Avalanche goaltender regularly got drunk and beat her; on one occasion he even hit her with a bicycle.
Varlamov spent the night in a police cell, but was released on bail the following morning. On December 20 the court threw away all charges against Varlamov, who is now at the peak of his career.
Ilya Kovalchuk speculates that the Russian player’s ex-girlfriend was merely using Varlamov. “She has very nearly got what she wanted – she is about to be given a Green Card," Kovy said.
Nichushkin’s breathtaking rise
Valeri Nichushkin’s fans were confident that the 18-year-old Russian player would make an excellent start with the Dallas Stars; reality has exceeded even their optimistic expectations.
After taking merely a couple of weeks to get into the NHL rhythm, Nichushkin proceeded to score one magnificent goal after another. He has now scored 19 goals (7 plus 12) in 35 games.
What is more, he continues to play in the United States with the same elegant ease with which he scored in the junior team. If he keeps playing like that, and if Dallas gets a chance in the playoffs, Nichushkin could well claim the best new player’s prize.
Sergei Bobrovsky’s fans pinned great hopes on this season, but it opened to a very difficult start. The Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender has spent the last month recovering from a groin injury received during the game against Tampa Bay on December 2.
The episode has got everyone in Russia worrying as to whether the Russian NHL stars will make it in good shape to the Sochi Olympics.
Ilya Bryzgalov and Alexander Semin were also injured. Fortunately, all three players are now back in the game, but their shape, with only one month left before the Olympics, is still a cause for concern.
Saving private Bryzgalov
Ilya Bryzgalov has managed to jump on the NHL bandwagon just as it was about to depart. The outspoken goalie was left without a contract after leaving the Philadelphia Flyers, and for a long time he just could not seem to find a new team.
At one point Bryz was reduced to choosing between ending his career or continuing to play in the Arizona desert (it turns out they play hockey as well as Black Jack in Las Vegas).
In the end, however, his agents reached an agreement with the Edmonton Oilers. Nevertheless, Bryzgalov’s future remains uncertain. Only two years ago he was regarded as the best Russian goaltender.
Now, however, he is unlikely even to be picked for the national team. The tickets to Sochi will go to Bobrovsky, Varlamov, and Aleksander Yeremenko (HC Dynamo Moscow).
Malkin in Crosby’s shadow
Evgeny Malkin is not at the top of his game at the moment. Everyone expects him to do miracles in every single game. Geno, however, is doing a good but not stellar job.
Meanwhile, Sidney Crosby continues to score. Since the end of the lockout, he has scored twice as many goals as Malkin. Crosby and Malkin are the greatest hockey players of our time, so comparisons and rivalry between them are inevitable.
The next round of their rivalry will take place at the Sochi Olympics, where the Russian and Canadian national teams are almost certain to face each other in the playoffs.
Datsyuk and the Red Wings at risk of missing playoffs
Strange things are happening to the Detroit Red Wings. The team has always been famous for its unbending will and result-oriented pragmatism.
Now, however, they have contrived to lose six shutouts in a row! Also, the Red Wings have always been incredibly lucky. These days, however, even Pavel Datsyuk has not scored any bullets.
At the end of the regular season Detroit will have to work hard to secure a place in the playoffs. They will probably scrape through - but games such as the 3-0 loss to the Islanders suggest that something is not right with the team.
Goal by Anisimov: the quintessence of the Columbus game
The Blue Jackets are now at the center of Russian fans’ attention. So far, the team that includes Bobrovsky, Artem Anisimov, Fedor Tyutin and Nikita Nikitin is showing a very uneven performance.
Artem Anisimov scores a bizarre goal. Source: YouTube
After five losses in a row in November, the guys have had some stunning victories as well as hopeless defeats. On top of that, Anisimov has scored what is arguably the most freakish goal of the season.
No country for old men: twilight of Nabby’s and Bulin Wall’s careers
It seems that only recently Evgeny Nabokov was basking in glory after moving to the KHL following excellent seasons with the San Jose Sharks.
Now, however, the 38-year-old goaltender has lost his former ability to save entire games, especially since the New York Islanders' defense is one of the worst in the league.
As for Nikolai Khabibulin, he turns 41 in January and has been struggling with injuries. Both goalies’ contracts run out at the end of the season.
Nabby is unlikely to be thinking of finishing his career. He could productively spend another couple of years as a substitute at any NHL team. But Khabibulin will either move to the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) after Chicago, or call it a day.