CSKA Moscow vs. Avangard Omsk – Game 2, 2021 Gagarin Cup Final

| April 20, 2021 1:58 am PDT

Named after the first human in space, the Gagarin Cup is basically the Russian version of the Stanley Cup. 

Okay, it’s not only Russian; the trophy is given to the winner of the KHL (Kontinental Hockey League), which also features teams from Finland, Latvia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and China.

Still, it’s going to be a Russian team to win the title this year, as CSKA Moscow and Avangard Omsk meet in the final of the KHL Playoffs.

The Final series is already on. Last Sunday, we saw the first of at least four matchups between the reigning champ CSKA and Bob Hartley-led Avangard.

Despite entering the game as a +300 underdog, the team from Omsk got a 4-1 win in the first game. Is CSKA ready to even the score on Tuesday?

Reigning Champion Ready to Fight Back

CSKA Moscow won its first, and so far only, Gagarin Cup in 2019 when they beat Avangard in the finals. Most players who won the trophy for CSKA that year are still on the roster.

The only major exception is goalie Ilya Sorokin, crowned the playoff MVP in 2019, mainly thanks to two shutouts recorded against Avangard in the finals. Sorokin has moved to the New York Islanders since, but CSKA doesn’t seem to miss him.

His replacement between CSKA’s pipes, Lars Johansson, has been nothing short of brilliant this season, averaging 1.00 GAA with a 96.1 SV% before letting four in on Sunday.

Not many expected to see such a scenario play out. CSKA entered the series as a favorite after cruising to the Eastern Conference title. With the help of their fans, CSKA was a -125 favorite to win Sunday’s game. But, the “Army Men” failed.

It’s not that they were playing badly; it’s just that the opponent was better. 10 Avangard players recorded at least a point in that game. CSKA players had the puck in their possession for most of the game, firing 29 shots on Avangard’s goal. Unfortunately for them, only one went in.

The reason for that is that in addition to having some excellent players on the roster, Avangard also has a fantastic coach in Bob Hartley.

Avangard Showed Teeth in Game 1

It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that Avangard is coached by one of the best coaches in the world. The 60-year-old Canadian is a household name among hockey fans, especially among those who remember what he did with the Colorado Avalanche at the turn of the century. He led the Avs from 1998 to 2002, leading the team to win their second Stanley Cup in the club history in 2001.

Can he lead Avangard to the first Gagarin Cup in the team history?

After what we saw in Game 1, it does seem possible. Avangard Omsk won the first match pretty comfortably.

The Siberian side had a lead from early in the game, with an 89.5 mph slapshot by Yegor Chinakhov, a 20-year-old winger currently on loan from the Columbus Blue Jackets.

They entered the final third with a 2-0 lead. CSKA scored once after 1:01 in the 3rd period but was unable to do more. In fact, we saw Avangard scoring two more goals by the end of the game.

The man of the match was Avangard’s Sergey Tolchinsky, who made two assists. There is no surprise, as he has been this team’s top assist-maker this season with 44 assists so far.

When it comes to scoring, Avangard’s leader is Reid Boucher, with 30 goals. The 27-year-old arrived at Omsk at the start of the season from Vancouver Canucks’ AHL affiliate Utica Comets. Since his arrival, he’s been one of the best centermen not only in his team but the entire league.

After finishing the regular season as Avangard’s scoring leader, Boucher continued scoring in the postseason. So far, he’s got six goals to his name in the playoffs. One of those goals happened on Sunday against CSKA. 

Despite not scoring, Sergey Tolchinsky was the best player in that game, recording two assists.  The former CSKA forward is Avangard’s top assist maker with 44 assists in total. He’s also the player with the most points in the playoffs with 18 (5 goals and 13 assists).

CSKA Moscow vs. Avangard Odds, Prediction, and Pick

CSKA Moscow to Win-135
The Draw+275
Avangard Omsk to Win+300

The distance between Moscow and Omsk is 1,390 miles, so it’s pretty safe to say that not many CSKA fans will be traveling to support the team in the two away games. But they will be there on Tuesday!

Due to COVID protocols, CSKA Arena will have a reduced capacity on Tuesday, although not drastically. Instead of allowing 12,100 fans in, the arena will keep the limit to about 7,150.

I’m backing CSKA to get the win and even the series.

  • CSKA to Win

Even if CSKA fails to win at home, it doesn’t mean it’s over. The thing is that Avangard seems not to like to play at home. 

In the seven-game series against AK Bars, they lost each of the games they played in Omsk. However, they won each of the games they played on the road.

Zarko Naric
Zarko Naric

Zarko Naric – the World's Greatest Sportswriter, according to his grandma.

Zarko started writing for GamblingSites.com in 2019, covering sports like soccer, tennis, and basketball,  as well as some more niche sports like cycling, for example.

In addition to writing news, picks, and blog pieces focused on sports, Zarko’s also been covering politics, TV/music contests, and so on.

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