SKA St. Petersburg has become KHL’s regular-season champions with three games left before the playoffs after beating reigning Gagarin Cup holders Dynamo Moscow, 3-1.
SKA is the first team from the Western Conference to lift the so-called Continental Cup. But the prestigious award hasn’t helped its holders so far, as regular champions have never reached the playoff final in the KHL history – a trend which the league’s richest team will try to reverse this year.
No stranger to the playoffs, Dynamo Moscow and Lokomotiv Yaroslav will try to prevent them from doing it, as well as this year's conference runner-up CSKA Moscow.
With Slovan Bratislava and Severstal Cherepovets also having their playoff tickets booked, there are only two lucky slots remaining in the West.
Settling scores eastwards will be five superpowers: Avangard Omsk, Ak Bars Kazan, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, Salavat Yulaev Ufa and Traktor Chelyabinsk. Joining them are Barys Astana and Sibir Novosibirsk, with the last remaining playoff slot still vacant.
The regular season concludes on February 17, leaving space for a knockout round to be played in a traditional best-of-seven format.