With a three-game road trip next on the slate for the Philadelphia Flyers, Olle Lycksell…
Honest: I didn’t wake up today with the expectation that I was going to write about Matvei Michkov again. I was well aware that he played today, but I figured that the opening day of the training camp of the NHL roster took precedence over a prospect in Russia—no matter how absurdly talented.
Of course, if I was going to write about day 1 of the Flyers’ training camp, I’d be forced to relitigate the debate I started about the usefulness of Bag Skate Day in the NHL. I wasn’t looking forward to that. I thought I made my point well enough on Twitter.
Plus, in the words of my girlfriend: “It’s an incredibly stupid thing to argue about.”
She isn’t wrong, but I wondered if I would be forced to bite the bullet and embrace the foolishness for the sake of content. What other choice did I have?
Enter: Matvei Michkov.
Scoring his first goal in the KHL of the season? For any other prospect, that’d be worth an article. Michkov, however, is expected to score goals nowadays. Even in the KHL as a boy who is still only 18.
To score that first goal in the third period when your team is down by 1 and tie the game? To break through when your team couldn’t get anything clicking on offense? That’s more like it. Still, even that is kind of expected from the Russian wunderkind.
So, no, that wouldn’t have really justified an article.
Coming out the very next shift like a man possessed?
That was fun. It was a joy to watch, and I could practically see the narrative forming: Michkov’s first goal would unleash the floodgates, and this next shift where he came out buzzing was the proof.
Again, to my girl’s credit, she was the one who pointed out what an incredible relief that the first goal must have been.
After all of the nonsense he endured with SKA and all of the near misses he suffered with Sochi, it must have been an incredible weight off his shoulders to score that goal.
We were getting somewhere fast, but no, I couldn’t justify another Michkov article based on one goal.
Fortunately, Michkov was not done with simply one goal. As it turns out, the floodgates truly had opened.
From a hockey perspective, this is somehow business as usual for Michkov. To catch a puck at the offensive blue line and have the awareness to delay at the line.
He waited for his teammate to drive straight through, not because he’d be able to crash the net. But because he’d collide with the defender and set a pick on that defenseman.
He curled into the path of the tangled-up teammate and opposing defenseman, knowing that the two men would serve as a layered screen.
Then, he nailed the top left corner with his shot.
All of that is the kind of stuff I’ve written about ad nauseam. It’s the kind of awareness and tactical brilliance that makes him such an elite prospect.
But the thing that sold me here, the thing that necessitated this entire article, was the situation in which this shot was taken.
It is extremely impressive to conceive of that sequence and then execute it in a live KHL game. But Michkov did it with 50 seconds left in a tie game.
He had the opportunity to win the game on his stick. It would have been so easy to fly right down the wing and shoot as hard as he could to try and beat the goalie with raw shooting talent. Adrenaline has forced men into worse decisions than that.
In the heat of the moment, he turned a simple touch at the offensive blueline into a concrete opportunity to score. There was no hope that the goalie would misplay. If Michkov executed on his plan properly, the goalie would have no chance.
If he hit his shot, his team would—barring catastrophe—win the game when they had spent the majority of it sluggish and ineffective.
And he didn’t miss.
He snatched victory from the jaws of defeat for Sochi and ensured that the team advanced to 4-0 since his loan there.
There’s been a lot of talk about how much a player like Matvei Michkov contributes to winning since the day of the draft.
How’s that for contributing to winning? It’s at least as effective as any hard hit into the boards or stick lift in the slot. At least, or maybe more effective.
SKA threw around phrases like “needing to earn his ice time.”
I argued vociferously that he already had, but it’s a moot point. Because here he is: doing it again. How’s that, Roman, for earning his ice time?
Does the player of the KHL game deserve to play on KHL ice?
Matvei Michkov is a special talent, and for at least one more day: he earns my vote as the most interesting figure in Flyers Land.
Mandatory Credit: HC Sochi