About the League
JHC Dynamo Moscow head-coach Yaroslav Lyuzenkov is not scared of Tolpar Ufa.
Dynamo’s run in the 2021 Kharlamov Cup Playoffs seems to have been a smooth sailing. The blue-and-white won all six of their games. Krasnaya Armiya Moscow put up a decent fight but other quarterfinal series were much more intense. Tolpar made the semifinals despite falling 8-2 in one of the games. Irbis Kazan lost Game 1 to Belye Medvedi Chelyabinsk - goaltender Ilya Gorbunov made 52 save for a shutout. Krasnaya Armiya also had some heroics, including a total of 67 blocked shots in the first two games, but Dynamo still prevailed. Yaroslav Lyuzenkov is in his second season with Dynamo and it’s been rather successful. Last season Moscow made the playoffs as the sixth seed and lost to Krasnaya Armiya in the opening round. In 2021 Dynamo climbed on top of the West in the regular season and are yet to lose a game in the playoffs.
Dynamo head-coach shared his thoughts on the Moscow rivalry series and his expectations on the upcoming round against Tolpar.
− Six wins in six games. Judging by the stats, it’s been a walk in the park.
- Actually, it wasn’t. It just that it has been easy for us, since we won every game. It really was easier against Atlant because we were scoring goals and had the reins of the game. But every game in the series against Krasnaya Armiya was intense, it was goal for goal. Game 1 ended in overtime, Game 2 was 1-0 after 40 minutes and we won the last game by a goal as well.
- However, you allowed just five goals in six games. It’s the best result in the league. What does it tell you?
- To be successful in the playoffs you have to be good, for of all, on defense. Everyone has to block shots. Just look at Krasnaya Armiya and how many shots they blocked. They didn’t shy away from that. It’s difficult to crack such defense.
- Have you ever come across an opponent blocking that many shots?
- Probably, not in a JHL regular season. Everyone tries to give ice-time to young players and work towards the future. In the playoffs it’s the more experienced players, those with VHL and KHL games under their belt, that get the nod. It’s more difficult in Kharlamov Cup Playoffs.
- Vadim Zherenko [goaltender with .960 save percentage and 0.98 GAA] plays close to perfect?
- Let’s not single out anybody. We do our best to talk about the team effort. Without blocked shots, without defense none of that would have been possible.
- Your team seemed to focus on defense in the series against Krasnaya Armiya. What’s your take on that?
- Any mistake is punished in the playoffs. It can turn any game around. This is why everyone puts more focus on playing solid defense. We put emphasis on defense in the playoffs. We pay more attention to it. In the regular season our focus was on offense.
- [Krasnaya Armiya head-coach] Rinat Khasanov believes that Dynamo got especially lucky in Game 1. How would you comment on that?
- I would partly agree with that but there’s statistics. You can compare the number of shots that lead to goals. On the other hand, no team can get deep into the playoffs without luck, no matter what league it competes in.
- Dynamo faces Tolpar in the semifinal. What can you say about the opponent?
- Nothing so far. We’re going to take a closer look but we’ve heard it’s an offensive-minded team. I believe both Dynamo and Tolpar play in a similar style. Our players also enjoy playing hockey and passing the puck around. I imagine it’s going to be an exciting series.
- Tolpar was reinforced with Rodion Amirov and Danila Bashkirov. What do you think about that?
- Nothing. We shouldn’t pay attention to that. We also have players with KHL experience. Maybe just not as much as Amirov. But we shouldn’t give it much thought. It’s the team effort that counts, not individual.
- West meets East in the semifinal. You’re going to play against a team you never faced in the regular season. Does it give you extra headache?
- No, what headaches are you talking about? If we’re aiming high, we should be able to play against any opponent.
- Some teams keep the media at bay in the playoff, while you still let in reporters in the locker-room and don’t shy away from interviews.
- It’s simple. If we want to move Russian hockey, and especially Junior Hockey League, forward, we have to show how the players live and what it looks like from the inside. Kids, who attend junior hockey schools, have to be able to see these emotions. So that would see that hockey is awesome.
- Are JHC Dynamo Moscow players fully focused on JHL playoffs or did you get a chance to follow KHL’s team as well?
- Of course. We had our JHL games in the afternoon and in the evening we would cheer for our team in Gagarin Cup playoffs. Obviously, we don’t watch the games as the whole team. Even though we stay at the baza, the boys are resting and getting ready for the upcoming games. They watch hockey from their couches. We have enough team meetings. If we’re going to gather together to watch hockey, it’s going to be too much.
- In March 2020 you were eliminated from the playoffs by Krasnaya Armiya. This season you finished on top of the West in the regular season and beat the ‘army men’ en route to the semifinal round. What changed over the year?
- I wouldn’t say it took a year. We’ve moved in this direction with the boys for two years. It’s easier with the players we have this season. They understand what we demand from them right away and execute it. I believe, they’re happy themselves by the results Dynamo show this year.