Lars Johansson dominating in the KHL

In the International Ice Series, NHL.com/sv features player articles and interesting hockey issues every Sunday. Today: Avesta’s son Lars Johansson plays excellent goalie hockey at SKA St. Petersburg.

Lars Johansson plays the hockey of his life in the Russian KHL league.

– There are no secrets. It’s just playing like I’ve always done, says Lars Johansson, the goalkeeper who, after four seasons at Central Army Club CSKA in Moscow, now belongs to Army Sports Club SKA in St. Petersburg. Petersburg.

SKA (Sportivnyi Klub Armii) is one of the oldest Russian and Soviet hockey clubs, formed in 1946. Then under the name of Kirov Leningrad Officers Club. Today, the club is owned by oil and gas giant Gazprom.

In early October, Johansson was named KHL goalie of the week for the fourth time in his career. The league’s website touted him as “the unbeatable Johansson”. The 34-year-old Avesta-born goalkeeper stopped everything during the span: he saved 21 shots when SKA beat Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 1-0 on October 5 and 25 shots when SKA beat mighty Salavat Yuliav 5-0 on October 10. With the two zeros and the 2-0 win over Neftekhimik on October 3, Johansson extended his held zero time to a superb time of 179 minutes and 58 seconds. In total, after a quick setback against the Finnish Jokerit (defeated by 4-5 after extra time), the result was 180 minutes and 51 seconds.

Now Johansson is on his way to a new sequel where he nails it again: After the overtime goal against Jokerit, Johansson kept his clean sheet against Jokerit on October 19 (2-0) and against Chinese Red Star Kunlun on October 21. (7-). 0). A total of 120 safe minutes and 34 saved shots to continue before the game against difficult Avangard Omsk on October 25.

With his superb goalkeeper play, Johansson led the SKA to first place in the KHL West Division. He has kept his clean sheet seven (!) Times in the 15 games he has played this season. Lars Johansson’s GAA of 1.31 and a save percentage of 94.6 is enough to lead the goalkeeper stats ahead of Salavat Juljajev’s Juha Metsola and Metallurg Magnitogorsk’s Juho Olkinoura.

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Of course, fantastic numbers in a tough league like Russia.

Lars Johansson found himself well settled in the historic city of St. Petersburg, formerly Petrograd and Leningrad. A city that Johansson previously only visited as a player.

– I played here, so I can really say it’s an incredibly beautiful city. I think I will enjoy knowing St. Petersburg. It will be fun to discover the city, Lars Johansson said on the club’s website upon his arrival in St. Petersburg. I like everything new and we adapted pretty quickly. I have been in Russia for a few years now, so many things are still familiar to me.

Lars Johansson was educated in hockey at Avesta and came via hockeyallsvenska Mora and Västerås to Frölunda and SHL 2013. He put in good numbers and during the 2016-17 season Johansson tested games in North America. It was a year with AHL club Rockford Icehogs, the Chicago Blackhawks’ parent team.

After that, Johansson returned to Europe and at CSKA Moscow he made a great effort: Johansson won 71 of 89 games and played two draws in four basic series. He was registered in total over the entire stay at CSKA for a save percentage of 93.7 and a GAA of 1.36.

In the 2018-19 season, Lars Johansson won the Gagarin Cup after the playoffs against Avangard Omsk. The Gagarin Cup is named after Yuri Gagarin, who in 1961 became the world’s first man in space, and is the equivalent of the Stanley Cup in the Russian league. Johansson is also a two-time Russian champion – the KHL is played with teams from six countries, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Finland and China.

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The move from Moscow to St. Petersburg resulted in increased competition for Johansson for the goal. He appreciates that. Johansson loves competition. At CSKA, he had Ilya Sorokin as a competitor, the 26-year-old who made a solid NHL debut for the New York Islanders last season.

SKA has three goalies competing for place in the goal; In addition to Johansson, Alexander Samonov, 26, and Yaroslav Askarov, 19, have started the season well.

– It’s a completely different situation on the goalkeeper side of SKA compared to CSKA, Johansson says on the KHL website. Sharing playing time with two goalies… I like it. I used to compete with Ilya Sorokin, it’s always good to compete with the best because it helps me get the best of myself. And Samonov and Askarov are both fantastic goalies, they make me want to show my best and continue to grow as a player, not relax.

– You only feel good when there is fair competition in a group of goalkeepers; we push each other to make everyone better and I really like that, says Lars Johansson.

Winston Ferguson

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