SHL in English

The purpose of this blog is to give our international visitors a helping hand in and around the Swedish Hockey League. Therefore the blog is entirely written in English and aimed towards an international audience. If you wish to contact the staff, use!

2015-03-03 15:00:00 | Okategoriserat

Playoff picture takes shape

It has been a a very revealing week that has told the fortune of many clubs, the future looks glum for some but has glistened for others as the playoff picture in the crystal ball begins to come clear.

Facing many serious question marks at the beginning of the season, after the mass-departure of key players, reigning champions Skellefteå AIK answered those questions with exclamations all year round. It has been another machinelike performance that has won the men from the north another SHL regular season title for the third year running, after their 6-2 victory against Leksand assure that they will finish the season with the best record in the league.

It is impossible to breakdown and pinpoint any one specific aspect of Skellefteå's game that has once again marked them as the hot favorite for SM-Gold, and there are not enough fingers or toes to count how many ways they impress above the rest in the competition. It has been once again their all-round ability to make every cog turn in cohesion all season long that is based around a winning culture driven at the helm by the coaches and leaders of the club.

The success of GM Lars Johansson's off-season signings replaced all that was lost from the club after their title defence in 2014, while coaches Hans Wallson, Bert Robertsson and Stefan Klockare maintained and managed the standard of the on-ice performance like there was never a reshuffle of personnel within the team.

The mid-season signing of Janne Pesonen has proven to be vital to the end of season success for the SHL Champions. The Finn has been in scintillating goal scoring form since settling in to the club, adding 3 goals to his tally this week, making it 15 goals in just 18 games, just one goal behind team-topper Andrew Calof, who has played 51 games.

Leksand and MODO to Direct Qualification

From one end of the table to the other, Leksand IF and MODO Hockey are guaranteed to be fighting for an 2015-16 SHL contract in the reformatted Direct Qualifying Series (DirektKval). Both clubs showed moments of brilliance throughout the year, but they were only just moments, as consistency proved to be the biggest challenge and an unachievable task. Although the format is different in 2015, it is a familiar challenge for Leksand to be fighting for a place in Sweden's top league, finding themselves in a qualifying series for the eleventh time in the last twelve seasons. For MODO it will be the first time since 2011 they will need to save the pride of Örnsköldsvik from elimination from top-flight hockey and only the second time in the club's history. 

Securing their places above the direct qualification line, assuring their spot in the SHL next season, was Brynäs and Djurgården. Both teams flirted with danger in spurts this season but now live to fight another day (or year) in the SHL and even get a shot at the playoffs through the play-in series. Luleå HF will also join in in the play-in fun but the final place is the only position not assured in the playoff picture for 2015. Färjestad look the most likely candidate, needing a small miracle to take the final direct playoff spots from the grasp of HV71 and Örebro HK.

Point king down to wire

The race for the individual honor of 'Point King' brings plenty of excitement to the final two rounds of the regular season with late-season bloomer Derek Ryan taking over the top rung on the table this week from fellow North American Jeff Taffe. Taffe has lead the league in point proficiency for what seems like the entire season, but now risks being pipped at the post by compatriot Ryan. Örebro's Ryan leads the league with 43 assists and with his 1g+1a against Skellefteå on Saturday, now has a one point lead heading into the final week of the season.

By Thursday night all will become crystal clear and the process of expansion to a 14 team league will begin, not to mention a thrilling post-season.

Jeremy Darke
English Blog

2015-02-24 12:40:00 | Weekly reviews

Momentum building towards playoffs

There are just five rounds of hockey before the play-in and playoffs are upon the league and it is evident that all teams are jostling for vital position, thrusting themselves as high up in the pecking order as they can before the regular season concludes.

If it wasn't apparent earlier in the year, it is as clear as day now, that the Växjö Lakers have their eyes set on SM Gold in 2015. There is no hotter team at the moment in Sweden than the men from Småland, who are riding a wave that is gaining in stature with each and every drop of the puck. It has been over 11 games since Växjö walked away from an ice-rink point-less, losing only once in that timeframe in overtime. It has been a phenomenal 28 point stretch that has taken the Lakers to second in the standings which now puts them in an ideal position for an all important home final. 

It has been a magnificent offensive display over the last seven weeks by Växjö, lead by 2011/12 leading point scorer Robert Rosén, who has posted some prolific numbers in his team's charge, reminding the fans just how good he really is, after a some-what quite 2012-13 campaign. Rosén has scored 10 goals and 3 assists in the 11 game run, highlighting his flourishing connection with Canadian Nick Johnson which has blossomed all season long. Johnson contribution has also been significant (6 goals + 5 assists) along with fellow North American Cory Murphy (9 goals + 1 assist) throughout the point streak, illuminating the current depth that is within their squad. Also adding more American firepower to the lineup since January has been Josh Hennessy. The playmaking center has fit into the Växjö system with ease, finding his feet with 4 goals and 6 assists in just 15 games.

Örebro continue to gain respect

This season's surprise packet has undoubtably been Örebro HK, and after turning some heads during the course of the year, are now making a remarkable push as a true contender for the Le Mat Trophy. Last seasons newcomers have been on a run of their own in recent times, winning 8 of their last 10, and look set to make their first playoff birth in the club's fairy-tale history. It has been Örebro's first-liners, Derek Ryan (4G, 15P), Martin Johansson (4G, 11P) and most recently, Finn Marko Antilla (6G, 7P), who has taken the place of inured Daniel Viksten, that have lead from the front during the past 10 games. With the first line producing, as a scoring line should, it has been an all-round team effort that has taken the scalps of all of the other current top-six teams, excluding league leaders Skellefteå, during their most recent meetings, creating a real sense of hope in castle town.

Foto: Johan Bernström / BILDBYRÅN /

It has not only been Örebro's on-ice performance that has gained the respect of the hockey community this week, but their public display of support for Sweden's Pride Festival. The club left their usual red and black jerseys in the change room, when they took on Frölunda on Saturday, in exchange for a symbolic multi-colored strip that represents the gay community, on their day of celebration. But that was not all, after the win the Huda-Show took center stage again, led by fearless leader Julius Hudacek, a six man contingent performed a rendition of 'YMCA' for the home fans.

Deep in the mid-table battle, Linköping, went undefeated this past week, building their confidence heading into the pointy end of the year with a four-game winning streak. With Jeff Taffe leading the point scorers this season and tallying 9 assists in his last 8 games, and current highest goal scorer Broc Little scoring 7 goals in just as many games, it is no surprise that Linköping are making their claim as one to watch out for heading into SM-Slutpel 2015. 

Favorites falter 

Adding to the excitement and uncertainty of the lead up to the playoffs was the uncharacteristic performances of both pre-season favourites Skellefteå and Frölunda. Sitting first and second to begin the week, both top of the table teams hit a stumbling block, losing 2-of-3 games this week, proving that they are not immortal and can beat. Although, Skellefteå did bounce back in their third match of the week against Djurgården to be the first team to reach the coveted 100 point mark with a 5-2 victory. 

And on a positive note for Frölunda, late-season signing Ryan Lasch continued his astonishing return to the SHL with the Indians. It has been a dream two week induction for the fast-flying American, who has already won the hearts of his new fans in Göteborg. Lasch had the crowd cheering his name after being on the ice in Scandinavium for just 30 minutes, wasting no time scoring his first goal for the club. He has then gone from strength to strength since that moment, scoring 3 goals and 6 assists in his 7 games for Frölunda after making the move from Finland. Although it was a rocky week, it would be a bold move to count out Lasch and his Frölunda teammates in the final spurt towards the playoffs.

Jeremy Darke
English blog

2015-02-11 12:05:00 | Weekly reviews

Big announcements in SHL

CHL Champions
CHL Champions Luleå Hockey. Photo: Carl Sandin / Bildbyrån

It has been a quiet week on the ice with almost all teams getting a week off for a little rest and recovery during an international competition break. It also gave them a chance to watch the Champions Hockey League final which saw Frölunda HC take on Luleå HF in the inaugural competition, and it was the men from the north that became champions with an amazing third period comeback victory, beating their SHL counterparts 4-2.

There has been plenty of important housekeeping going on around the SHL this week with the announcement of the official SHL Awards 2015 that will be held on the 27th of April 2015. The awards will be broadcast live on C More and will showcase all of the high-profile personalities of the league and will award all of the year's top performers and stars.

The winners will be chosen by a jury of the league's twelve head-coaches and captains as well as twenty-four carefully selected ice-hockey profiles and journalists from both national and local media.

– It is time to recognize the amazing achievements as a player and leader for an official award of the SHL. We have now found a good format and the opportunity to do it together with C More, something I'm excited about, says SHL's CEO Jörgen Lindgren.

SHL Awards 2015

The evening will be highlighted by the following awards:

  • Best goalkeeper
  • Best defenseman
  • Best forward
  • Best coach
  • Best rookie
  • Most Valuable Player

To qualify for the year's best rookie a new criteria will now have to be met compared to previous years.

- To qualify a player cannot turn any older than 25-years-old the year in which the season begins.

- The player cannot have played more than 30 games in any top-tier professional league.

- Players can only be nominated as rookie of the year once.

- Winner's junior development club receives 50 000kr.

The presentation will also congratulate the year's:

  • Regular season winner
  • Swedish champion
  • Highest point scorer
  • Highest goal scorer
  • Best save-percentage goaltender
  • C More's Fan favorite
  • Best Referee (voted by the SHL players)
  • Best Goal
  • Best Save

It is a jam-packed agenda for the SHL Awards 2015 and it is set to be an unforgettable evening to cap off what has been a fantastic season so far.

It was also announced early last week that the schedule for the 2015/16 season will be reduced from 55 to 52 games in the regular season, containing 14 teams. The season will also entail the spectacle of back-to-back games, where two clubs will play at each other's home arena in two consecutive days.

Jeremy Darke
English blog

2015-02-05 13:53:00 | Weekly reviews

New faces and two long awaited wins

Ryan Lasch
Ryan Lasch, returning to SHL. Photo: Bildbyrån

It has been a frantic week in the office as the trade deadline was reached with many teams dipping their stick in the trade circle to bolster their chances in the playoffs, or utilizing a last-minute opportunity to bring in reinforcements and give a glimmer of hope for surviving in the SHL next season.

There were no less than ten players who made a move into the league or into new colors in the final week before the trade deadline, many of the new recruits making a move over the Baltic Sea from Finnish league SM-Liiga. Club HC TPS released three of their stars to the SHL, centre Tero Koskiranta will bolster the resurgence in Färjestad, while Djurgården picked up Canadian offensive-defenseman Simon Gysbers.

The headline move from TPS was most certainly the return of former Växjö Lakers winger Ryan Lasch to the SHL, although this time the speedy, 28-year-old, will suite up for Frölunda. Lasch had stepped up his scoring prowess in Finland this season, matching last season's points tally of 36 (12+24) already this year, and will no doubt bring more fire-power to Frölunda's forward-line in their push for SM-Gold.

Also returning to the SHL after 3 years in North America playing for the Nashville Predators organization is Patrick Cehlin. The 23-year-old Swede has faced the grueling task of coming back from a hip operation earlier this season and has returned to help in the fight to keep Leksand in the SHL in 2016. Cehlin spent the last 2 seasons playing for AHL club the Milwaukee Admirals, but was unable to make his mark and earn an NHL debut.

On the ice it has been Växjö who have begun to push their way into title contention talks, going 9-wins-from-11 in an impressive run that has turned heads around the league. There were high expectations on the Smålanders heading into this season and now they have begun to prove their worth and move into second place in the standings with a hard-fought 3-2 win of league leaders Skellefteå, and also a 6-1 dubbing of Leksand this week.

With 11 games left in the regular season the Lakers are proving that they now have the perfect balance within their squad, and have cohesion that gives them a well-rounded offense that does not rely on any one individual with the likes of Rosén, Johnson, Murphy and Reddox all pitching in resulting in an unpredictable attack.

MODO and Brynäs break drought

In an unexpected move by new coach Per-Erik Johnsson, tough-guy Donald Brashear spent this last week on MODO Hockey's second line, after getting no more than a few shifts in his previous ten games for the club. The move has paid dividends in Örnsköldsvik, with the team taking their first 3 point win since the 29th of November.

Donald Brashear
Donald Brashear in action. Photo: Jonas Forsberg / Bildbyrån

Brashear surprisingly played 9.38 minutes in Modo's 0-1 loss to Örebro on Thursday, then backed it up with 7.46 minutes in their 5-3 win against Linköping on Saturday. The increased involvement of the enforcer may or may not be the catalyst to an improved performances of MODO, but it has assured his fans that after much speculation and criticism it appears that he is here to stay.

This week also marked the first win for new head coach Thomas "Bulan" Berglund in Brynäs, the Gävle team scored late to take a 4-2 win against Frölunda and give their coach his first win of his new reign.

Bulan had been under some severe pressure from his critics after only taking one point in his first 4 games in-charge and dropping below the qualification series line. But now After getting the monkey off his back Berglund can only look forward in hope of holding the 2012 Swedish Champions in the SHL next season by avoiding the expanded qualification series.

Jeremy Darke
English blog

2015-01-28 15:17:00 | Okategoriserat

Regulations, remarkable streak and relief

Foto: Johan Bernström / BILDBYRÅN

The SHL and Swedish Ice-Hockey Federation agreed on Friday what requirements will be needed for a club to participate in Sweden's highest league, the SHL. The Swedish Ice-Hockey Federation along with the SHL have spent many hours working together to devise a plan and a standard that will lift the level of hockey in Sweden both on and off the ice. Both parties have agreed that it is vital that specific needs have to be met if a club wants and is allowed to compete in Swedish Hockey League.

The first requirement is that a club's economy must be in order,which will be regulated by a minimum entry of 4 million crowns worth of equity within the club. If a club cannot visibly show that they have 4 million crowns of visible equity by their inclusion into the 2015/16 season they will enter a so-called control-year. A control-year will allow them until the the beginning of the 2016/17 season to visibly show they have the required amount of equity to satisfy the needs of the league.

Secondly, any club that participates in the Swedish Hockey League must have an arena that has a minimum capacity of 5000, in which at least 3500 are seated places. This is to ensure that all teams have a modern arena that can create sufficient revenue for the club.

- The agreement between SHL and SIF will allow SHL to continue the development of the league and with the Federation take responsibility for strengthening Swedish ice-hockey, which is enormously gratifying, said Jörgen Lindgren, CEO of SHL.

On the ice, the talking point around the league after their 3-2 win over second place Frölunda has been Växjö, but more specifically the clinical, offensive danger of their box-play. During their win on Saturday, Växjö did not take advantage of  any of their 3 powerplay opportunities, but had a goal scoring success rate of 30 percent whilst short-handed, scoring 2 goals. That box-play double took their season total of short-handed goals to 12, just one short of the most short-handed goals in a season this millennium. If it is put into perspective for a moment, that is just 3 goals less than both MODO Hockey and Luleå HF have scored on the powerplay all season, and is also just one goal shy of the the rest of the league's 4-man tally combined.

Johansson makes history

Örebro HK's Martin Johansson set an impressive goalstreak, scoring a goal in 8 consecutive games. The 27-year-old has developed into a goal scoring asset since his move from Brynäs to Örebro two years ago and has found a home along side Daniel Viksten and Derek Ryan.

- The bounce is with me right now and it does that when you play with such good players like I do, said Johansson to C More.

The trio have clearly been the stand-out for Örebro this season, with all three line-mates at the top of the club's internal points standings. While, Johansson sits second in the entire league for goal scoring, just one goal behind Linköping's Broc Little, American Derek Ryan has ridden his line's recent success to make him the number one chaser to Jeff Taffe in the SHL's point standings. It is on the back of this chemistry that Örebro are beginning to cement their place in Sweden's top league and look set to make their first playoff birth in the club's history.

Kahnberg's wait is over

It has been assured that the Champions Hockey League will have an all Swedish final in its inaugural  season, making another clear statement in Europe about the strength of the SHL, as Frölunda and Luleå will face off on 3 February to be crowd the champions of Europe. It just so happened that the two clubs were scheduled to meet each other in their first game back in the SHL after progressing to the CHL final, where Frölunda stamped their authority in a confidence building 4-1 win. The win was highlighted by the return to the goal scorers list for Frölunda great Magnus Kahnberg, who broke his season duck with the final goal of the game at the end of the second period. Kahnberg has been troubled this season with injury and has been unable to find his usually reliable touch to hit the back of the net this season, but was now more ecstatic than ever to notch his first goal in 21 games. A long wait for Frölunda's 2013/14 highest goal scorer.

- Right now it is the sweetest goal I have ever scored. It's nice to crack the zero, an excited Kahnberg told I've waited a long time for this.

Jeremy Darke
English Blogger

2015-01-22 09:35:00 | Weekly reviews

Trades leaving their mark in final spurt

It has been an interesting week in the SHL this week, but not so much for what happened on the ice, but more so for what has been going on off it. Team managers have certainly began to embrace the league's silly season period with trades occurring left, right and centre, as no one's job can feel safe for those who might be struggling to perform.

There is no better place to start than at the bottom where MODO Hockey has began to make their move in a last ditch effort to rectify there season. On Thursday, against Djurgården, Finnish veteran Juha-Pekka Haataja is set to make his debut for the club. The 32 year old, brings experience to the club that General Manager Per Svartvadet hopes will give a lackluster MODO offense the energy kick they need to lift themselves off the bottom of the table.

- We are in the final stages of the season and hope that newly signed Juha-Pekka Haataja provides an energy boost for the whole team, as he is an experienced player who can can produce in the offensive play, explains Svartvadet to the club's homepage.

Leksand IF have scooped up on the release of Mattias Guter from Djurgården, the Dalarna club finally finding a replacement for Eric Himelfarb, who was released from the club for the second time this season, early this month. Guter will be looking to add to the offensive momentum that Leksand have mustered up this week after they took a much needed 6 points, that bring them now level with Brynäs in the standings, with only point differential keeping them below cut-off line.

Out with the old and in with old in Gävle

Brynäs IF find themselves gasping for air and flirting with danger as their season has begun to sink further and further out of their grasp. In a last ditch effort to save their season, for a team that thrives on results, a coaching change has taken place that ends the involvement of a seven year tenure for Tommy Jonsson at the club. The end of era now brings forth Thomas "Bulan" Berglund who will take over the head coaching position. Bulan was a long serving servant at Luleå HF, where he spent 17 years as a player, 3 season as head coach of the clubs J-20's and also spent 3 seasons as assistant coach of the A-team behind Jonas Rönnkvist.

Berglund will bring with him counter-part Petter Nilsson as his assistant, who has played and coached with Bulan throughout his own career.

On a positive note for the people of Gävle, fan favorite Johan Holmqvist will return to Brynäs to strengthen the goaltending group at the club. Holmqvist was let go at the end of last season but has now been brought back to give support to Bernhard Starkbaum, who has been one of the only shinning lights for the club in what has become a tough season. Starkbaum will remain as the number-one in the net, but be sure, the crowd in Gävle will not have to wait long to see their beloved 'Honken' back in action.

In the foot steps of fellow star junior William Nylander, Swiss born, Kevin Fiala will leave HV71 and the SHL after being assigned to the Milwaukee Admirals by the Nashville Predators for the rest of the 2014-15 season. Fiala, who is just at the bright age of 18, has posted 14 points (5G+9A) in 20 games this season for HV71, and after showing his class in the recent World Junior Championships, Nashville have decided that Fiala's development as an NHL-ready player requires him to make the move and become accustomed to North American Hockey, in a comparison to the way the NHL rookie-of-the-year favorite Filip Forsberg did just a couple of years ago.

League wide-open

With all of the trades this week and many more expected over the next 10 days the league is more wide-open than ever. There are still 18 rounds to play, which leaves 54 points up for grabs for each team, and considering there is only 11 points between 2nd and 9th and a only a further 7 points to the Kvalserien line, anything can happen, and most probably will, in the remainder of an exciting and tense 2014-15 season.

Jeremy Darke
English Blogger

2015-01-15 12:40:00 | Weekly reviews

SHL heads to final third of season

The holiday season has gone by in a flash but the action hasn't stopped in around the league providing us with just as much news to stuff our faces with as Christmas ham and candy.

Two-thirds of the season has now been played and one thing has stayed consistent throughout the 37 games played, that is the class of SAIK. Skellefteå AIK have barely missed a beat during 2014-15, continuously proving why they are the benchmark in the league and have been for the past two years. Even with an injury to Russian scoring machine Kirill Kabanov the defending champions have continued their next-to-flawless run which has seen them sit at the top of the SHL for most of the year.

It doesn't look like there will be any slowing down for the heavy favorites for the Le Mat Trophy as injured, Danish born, Nick Sörensen is set to make his season debut for Skellefteå alongside the return of Kabanov. To make matters worse for their opposition, SAIK have also acquired the services of Finnish left-winger Janne Pesonen from AK Bars Kazan in the KHL. Pesonen has made an instant impact in his first three games for the club scoring 4 goals and 1 assist.

Janne Pesonen
Janne Pesonen, new in Skellefteå AIK. Photo: Ola Westerberg / Bildbyrån

Roster changes ahead as deadline draws near

With the trade-deadline set at the 31st of January, it is not only Skellefteå who have been taking advantage of a mini KHL clean out and snapping up Swedish stars who didn't quite reach their peak in North America in 2014. Two of the more high-profile transfers that have taken place are the return of homegrown hero Mattias Bäckman to Linköping HC, after he failed to make an impact for Detroit Redwings farm team the Grand Rapid Griffins. Also Jeff Tambellini returns to the SHL, although this time the Canadian will test his luck with the Växjö Lakers after a mediocre season with MODO Hockey in 2013-14.

It is no secret that Frölunda HC have had a small slide from grace over the Christmas period after earlier being the only team that has managed to put any pressure on Skellefteå at the top of the table throughout the season. The Gothenburgians have slipped from second to fifth over the last month and have been heavily rumored to be on the look out to snap up some new talent of their own before the trade-deadline closes. A mid-season collapse has struck the club, losing 9-of-their last-11 games.

MODO Hockey to fight for survival

The problems in Gothenburg are incomparable to the turmoil that is taking place on the east coast in Örnsköldsvik. MODO Hockey will spend the rest of their season fighting for survival to stay in Sweden's premier division after falling apart in a big way over recent times, only managing to take a win once since the 22nd of November which has resulted in some dramatic changes at the club.

In early January coach Anders Forsberg, who was sacked as Skellefteå head-coach previously, was stood down from his position in-charge and replaced by Per-Erik Johnsson at the helm of club. Johnsson made the move from Färjestad where he was coaching the club's U16's, although brings 9 years of SHL coaching experience with him.

William Nylander
William Nylander in action. Photo: Peter Skaugvold / Bildbyrån

To put even more pressure on the situation, it was announced this week that superstar William Nylander will not be with the club for the rest of the year after being summoned to Toronto to play for the Maple Leafs farm team the Marlies. Nylander's departure leaves a substantial hole in what was already a struggling MODO offense which leaves the presumption that if the club is any hope of staying in the SHL next season, they too will have eagle eyes on the transfer market over the next two weeks.

Exciting changes to OT

Also to note, as of December 26 2014, the SHL introduced the rule change of 3-on-3 play during the 5 minute overtime period. The rule change was introduced in hope that more matches will be decided during the overtime period without the need of a penalty shoot-out.

– Changes will be evaluated after the current season of SHL and our hope is that more games will be decided in overtime because of the more open space and a greater chance of a scoring opportunity and goal, said SHL Sports Director Johan Hemlin.

Here are the key specifics to the overtime changes:

- The change means that if there is a draw after 60 minutes an overtime period of 5 minutes will be played with three skaters and a goalie on each team.

- If a player is sent off during overtime it will become four against three. When the penalised player comes onto the ice, play will resume as four against four until the next whistle, when it will return to three against three.

- If two players of the same team are penalised, a five against three power play will be enforced.

- If play is five against four, after regular time, the overtime period will begin as four against three.

Jeremy Darke
English blog

2014-11-24 10:16:00 | Weekly reviews

Leksand and Färjestad on verge of breakthrough

Photo: Simon Hastegård / Bildbyrån

If change is as good as a holiday than a holiday must bring forth change. Well in any case, it has definitely work out that way for the two cellar dwellers after their short break for the Karjala Cup.

Maybe a little bit of the Swedish success from the Karjala Cup was left in the change rooms in Dalarna and rubbed off on Leksand If players, or perhaps a little break from the unconstructive attention that has been floating around since the beginning of the season was just what the doctor ordered. No matter what the catalyst, it now appears that Leksand IF's season has done a complete u-turn and is now heading in the right direction.

Since the timely break Leksand have mustered together 3 wins and 10 points from the last five games to put them within striking distance of the rest of league, for, well, pretty much the first time this season.

Ryno in hot form

It has been a courageous effort to finally be on the verge of breaking free from the dramatic crisis that has been the club's season so far. Ironically it has been the man that has been under the most fire from the club that has stepped up to lead his team into greener times, none other than captain, Johan Ryno.

Ryno has been carrying the pressure of the awful start heavily on his shoulders, but has proven to all his critics that he is the right man to lead his men out of the hole that they have dug. Since the break, Ryno not only netted his first goal of the year, he has added another 5 more to his season tally and has scored 8 points in the past 5 games.

Although, his early defensive woes have not been completely consolidated, he has shown that his offensive prowess is what will bring points to Dalarna. His recent splurge of goals have even now made him the second highest scoring Swede in the league this season, just 1 point behind Brynäs's Anton Rödin, who has 18.

Pogge the new go-to guy in Karlstad

Things are also looking up for Färjestad BK after the international break, the Karlstad club also racking up 10 points in the last 5 matches, which has leapt them out of the danger, for the time being, anyway.

For Färjestad it has been the influence of last season's head coach Leif Carlsson who has made the difference in Karlstad, the current general manager has moved from the office to the bench where he is playing a guidance role as assistant coach, whilst maintaining his normal GM duties.

Carlsson has been brought down to the bench to advise new head coach Tommy Samuelsson on what worked for him last season,when Färjestad BK were in a similar situation, and be another voice to the team.

– I have been a piece of the puzzle in it all, explains Leif Carlsson. I support Tommy (Samuelsson) and give him some angles that can be good for him and the team. It is him that makes the decisions, but we know each other so well that we can pretty much say anything to one another without it being a problem.

– I am working both jobs and will stay on the bench for the rest of the season.

Credit also needs to be given to the outstanding play of back-up goaltender Justin Pogge. The Canadian, who had a successful year with BIK Karlskoga last season, certainly hadn't turned any heads in his cameo appearances before the Karjala break, when he had been given the start in front of Fredrik Pettersson-Wentzel. Since then though, he has popped up as the preferred starter and has impressed with a save percentage of 95.08 and has two shutouts in his four games since the week off. Besides a first period meltdown most recently against Brynäs, Pogge has been close to flawless and may just take the mantle as Färjestad's number one for the rest of the season.

Photo: Jonas Forsberg / Bildbyrån

Target practice in Örnsköldsvik

If there was trophy given to the player with the toughest job in the SHL, it would hands-down, no questions asked, be awarded to MODO Hockey's goalie Linus Ullmark. It would be very surprising to hear if a goaltender in the SHL has ever faced more shots over a three-game period than what Ullmark stood in front of this past week.

MODO are currently in a vicious downward spiral and it doesn't take any analytical ability to pinpoint the obvious cause of their destruction. If a team can allow over 50 shots in each of their last three games and a further 54 total wide or blocked shot attempts at their own goaltender you are going to have some severe problems.

They are lucky that their superstar netminder and last year's Goaltender of the Year has awoken from his early season sleep and has thrived in the tough conditions. Ullmark has put his early season issues behind him and put up 94.8 save percentage after facing a total of 153 shots during the last three games, and even recorded a shutout against Linköping, where he face a barrage of 50 shots on goal.

Jeremy Darke
English blog

2014-11-10 09:22:00 | Weekly reviews

SHL 2014/2015 – Surprises so far

Photo: Anna-Lena Bergqvist / Bildbyrån

Almost a third of the season is behind us and already we have been surprised and intrigued by how the league has played out so far. With that in mind, here are the most notable happenings, in no particular order, from around the SHL that have raised an eyebrow or two.

Fortune of finalist

Leading up to the season, one of the biggest concerns was how Skellefteå AIK were going to survive after the loss of many key players that have made the core of the SAIK dynasty over the past half a decade. It is apparent now that these apprehensions in the stratosphere didn't quite make it all the way up to Norrland as Skellefteå's winning culture has stood firm.

It has been a case of 'out with the old and in with the new' to keep business running as-per-usual in Skellefteå. New signings Andrew Calof, Kirill Kabanov and Pär Lindholm have replaced the irreplaceable and have kept the momentum of the era alive in the north.

The domination over their opponents may not be at the same level as it has been in the past, but the aura of the reigning champions is living on. Their systematic method of play has continued to be dangerous for their opposition and has allowed their scorers to light the lamp 55 times (tied 1st in SHL), so far this season.

Photo: Peter Skaugvold / Bildbyrån

On the other hand there is Färjestad BK, who currently sit below the Direct Qualification line in eleventh place. It has been somewhat of common ground for the Karlstad club in recent times to start the season poorly, but it does not make in any more unexpected time and time again.

It is simply a case of underperformance that has struck FBK to start the 2014-15 season, and it feels that it is only a matter of time before the fire will light behind them and they will take off towards the top. But the fact of the matter is, it hasn't yet, and the dwelling thought is always there that they might just fizzle out this time.

Discipline has been an enormous contributing factor to horrendous start to their season, topping the league with 266 penalty minutes including 4 five minute majors and 4 game misconduct penalties.

The other detail is goaltending. It is hard to win hockey games when your goaltender is under-performing and that is putting it nicely in the the case of Fredrik Pettersson-Wentzel. FPW has not found any kind of form this season and is currently ranked a lowly 13th in the league with an 89.97 save percentage and 10th in the SHL with a 2.72 GAA. To make matters worse, back-up net minder Justin Pogge has not been able to do any better during his time between the pipes, putting Färjestad in a goaltending pickle when looking forward to the rest of the year.

Imports dominating individual stats

At the end of last season there were just two Non-Swedish players in the top 10 in point scoring. After 18 games in 2014, the stats have been flipped on their head with only one Sweden born player making the same list. 

HV71's Ted Brithèn is the ninth best point productive player in the the league, but is the highest ranked Swedish scorer. The eight men in front of him are all import players from USA, Canada, Finland or Norway and of those eight, six of them are playing in the SHL for the first time this season.

Photo: Peter Holgersson / Bildbryån

Considering that stat, it is clear as day that the international scouting in the SHL has begun to improve and clubs are beginning to find players that will fit the style of game that is played in Sweden, pinpointing the skills and attributes of a player to fit their team and the way the game is played in the SHL.

The production of Linköping trio Jacob Mickflikier, Jeff Taffe and Broc Little has been a unexpected highlight of the year to date, even though the anticipation of their performance was high to begin the year.

The expectation was high for the three North Americans, but in reality there were very few that truly believed that Mickflikier, Taffe and Little would live up to their expectancy in Linköping, but it is clear that the trio will be worth their weight in gold if their form can continue for another 30 or so games.

Örebro Hockey cement spot in SHL

It is a real fairy tale story unfolding each day in Örebro, as the little guy of Swedish hockey begins to grow into a brutal force to cement their place in the country's top league.

Photo: Johan Bernström / Bildbyrån

Watching the Örebro HK of today, it is hard to believe that just six years ago they were playing tier 3 hockey. The transformation in such a short time has now seen them take on and take down the Goliaths of the SHL week in and week out.

On the back of stellar Slovakian goaltender Julius Hudacek and a powerplay that is the best in the SHL, converting at 24.56 percent, Örebro Hockey have now shown Sweden that they mean business, and will not stop their dream run until they are one day -sooner rather than later- holding the Le Mat Trophy above their heads.

Goaltending on the rise

It has been a highlight of every week to sit and watch "Veckans Snyggaste" goalie saves in 2014, because I know how hard it must be to pick out the top five every week.

The standard of goaltending this season has been a true reflection of the quality of net minders that still exist here in Sweden. As a collective group they have offered 15 shutouts from 18 rounds, while 12 of the leagues 15 registrable goaltenders boast a save percentage higher than ninety.

Luleå's Joel Lassinantti has been a surprise drawcard for the Norrbotteners this season, the 21 year-old  has showed maturity well above his years putting up impressive numbers in his first full season in the SHL, a 92.28 save percentage and a 1.98 goals against average.

Gustaf Wesslau currently tops the league with a save percentage of 93.09. Wesslau appears to have returned to the form that saw him as one of the best goaltenders in Sweden back in 2011-12, and has played a big part in the success of HV71 so far this season.

Rookie of the year or MVP

Frölunda junior Andreas Johnson was a well-deserved Rookie of the Year last season, but the Swedish JVM  star is on a path to greater things, far beyond his years. The 19 year-old has stepped up another gear once again this season and has become one of the most valuable commodities not only in Frölunda, but in the entire SHL.

Photo: Ola Westerberg / Bildbyrån

With a shooting percentage of 18.18 percent, Johnson has scored 10 goals this season, but it is the matter and timing of his goals that has made his performance this year so special. 5 of his 10 goals this season have been the all important first goal of the game, giving his team the great start that every coach asks for in the change room before every match. Also, 5 times already this season Johnson has played hero for the Gothenburg fans and scored the game-winner to give his team a victory.

Nylander the Great

After missing the start of the 2014-15 due to an extended preseason stay with the Toronto Maple Leafs, 2014 round 1 draft pick, William Nylander has shown why he is the next 'big thing'.

Photo: Daniel Stiller / Bildbyrån

Nylander has played just 8 games for MODO Hockey this season, but has displayed the playmaking skills that has everyone in the hockey world talking. With 3 goals and 8 assists, Nylander is scoring at a rate of 1.38 points per game, which is higher than the current SHL point scoring leader Jacob Mickflikier at 1.12PPG.

The 18 year-old has only been held pointless once in his 8 starts so far this year and has been influential and invaluable in putting MODO's season back on track after a tough start to the year.

Jeremy Darke

2014-10-28 08:12:00 | Weekly reviews

Trending form gives standings a new look

Simon Hastegård / Bildbyrån

Another week has passed in the SHL and for the third week running we see a new team take the series lead, with the league tightening up at the top as form curves begin to viciously spike north and south. HV71 have stealthily been riding a wave of incredible form, making their way quietly up the standings and to the top of the league after 15 rounds. It has been no less than 7 games since the Jönköping club saw defeat last, only walking away once without a win in their last 10 games.

It has been somewhat of a surprising rise to the top by HV71, who have flown completely under the radar to lead the SHL. Their ten maximum 3 point wins tops the league in its category and if it weren’t for the club’s shaky start to the year, of just two wins from their first five matches, they may not be just clutching onto a one point advantage in the series.

Return of Fiala lifts HV71

The return of 18 year old Kevin Fiala from training camp with the Nashville Predators at the beginning of October has given an immediate lift to HV71. The Swiss born winger has impressed in his return to Jönköping, scoring 3 goals and 5 assists in just 6 games and has given a spark to the HV powerplay, where 5 of his 8 points have been tallied.

Team captain Ted Brithén has also been in scintillating form since his team’s last loss seven matches ago. Brithén’s has found his goal scoring prowess, netting 5 goals since the loss to Luleå and has also been the provided on 4 occasions. His hot form has not gone unseen by national coach Pär Mårts, who has rewarded the HV71 star with a national team appearance in the Karjala Tournament in Leksand, which will be played from the 6-9 November.

Goalie Henrik Lundberg celebrates (Photo: Johan Bernström / Bildbyrån)

Örebro hope history won’t repeat itself

Örebro Hockey Club has also been surprise movers this week after taking the scalps of three top teams on their quest to consolidate their place in the SHL for the second year running. Wins against Luleå Hockey, Frölunda and Växjö this week have cemented their place in the league’s top four, although, Örebro will be having flashbacks  of a similar situation last season, where they were sitting pretty through October to eventual  fallout of form and under the Kvalserien cut-off by the end of November.  

It is apparent, though, Örebro Hockey have matured from that experience and under the guidance of coach Kent Johansson have put forward much more consistent and stable performances and results to begin their second year in the SHL. A large factor to their success this season has been the acquisition of Slovakian goaltender Julius Hudacek whose big play between the pipes has given momentum to the men in front of him, like American Derek Ryan, to score goals and win it for the underdog.

Örebro Hockey will be put to the ultimate test of strength when they go up against league leaders HV71 in a form-strong match up on Tuesday night in SHL.

Luleå Hockey's coach Fagervall. (Photo: Andreas L Eriksson / Bildbyrån)

Luleå Hockey have lost five straight

If there are teams with form curves going north their must also be teams that unfortunately head south, which is the case for early league leaders Luleå Hockey. The Norrbotteners have lost five straight and have only managed one overtime loss point under that time, dropping them all the way down into seventh in the league. It is a little early to declare a mini-crisis in Luleå, but as coach Joakim Fagervall explained after the team’s fifth straight loss, there are certainly a few cogs missing in the machine that is Luleå Hockey at the moment.

– We make an effort but it isn’t enough. It is a little typical of how it looks for us right now. There is a stop in the machinery, explained a disappointed Fagervall. 

– Exactly what to do (to fix the losing trend) is not easy to point out. We have to be there all the time in every situation in front of the goal. At the moment it is just bouncing a little wrong for us all the time.

Jeremy Darke
English Blog

2014-10-20 09:34:00 | Weekly reviews

Courage and fight take Frölunda to the top

The long SHL season is all about consistency if you want to be at the top of the standings come spring time. To be one of the front-runners you have to put in special performances and take points even when your back is against the wall. Frölunda HC have begun to make their statement as true contenders this season, displaying courage and fight in their two latest wins which have seen them move to the top of the SHL.

The Gothenburg club have taken at least a point in their latest 9 games and have only lost one game in regulation to start the 2014-15 season, now lifting them above reigning champions Skellefteå and into first place. Their fighting spirit to not only grab points, but wins, was on show in their two matches this week against Leksand and Luleå, where two third period performances got them over the line to take victory.

Last season’s Rookie of the Year winner Andreas Johnson has become one of Frölunda’s clutch performers, showing maturity well above his age. Johnson lit up the lamp early in the third period against Leksand IF to put his team in a strong position to take a 2-1 win. (Highlights) He then stepped up to give his team a miraculous last minute comeback victory when he scored the overtime winner against Luleå, after Max Görtz tied the match 1-1 with 4 seconds to go. (Highlights)

With young talent like Johnson flooding the Frölunda HC roster and a never-say-die attitude pouring out from every man in the Indians change room, the Gothenburg club are shaping up to become new early favourites to lift the Le Mat Trophy at season’s end. 

Kolarik to the KHL, Salmela to Färjestad BK

Player movement has once again been a feature in the news this week as the summer’s team building comes under fire and individual performances go under the microscope. 

Last year’s highest goal scorer Chad Kolarik has been sent on his way from Linköping after a slow start to the season by his standards, scoring just 4+3. Although, it was Kolariks decision to move on to KHL club Avangard Omsk, general manager Fredrik Emvall said that the club agreed with the American that it was time to part ways, while adding that the move would free up some cash to bring in a strong defensive player.

- Chad came to us and said that he wanted to leave. We felt that that in our current situation we have plenty of forwards and we need to bring in a defenceman, so this frees up a little money, said GM Emvall.

Färjestad are also a club that has begun to second guess their current roster, after their start to the year is beginning to imitate the horrendous problems they had this time last season. In a positive move from the club, Färjestad were able to sign offensive defenseman Anssi Salmela who has most recently been training with Davos in Switzerland. 

Salmela’s impact late in the season with HV71 last year was monumental, the Finn helped save the club from a devastating season start and lifted them into the playoffs scoring 7 goals and 14 assist in just 36 games. Färjestad’s sports director Leif Carlsson hopes that Salmela will play a similar role in helping his team out of their current performance rut. 

– His 21 points and 7 goals in a HV71 who had a difficult start to the season was a strong performance, said Carlsson to the club’s website.  We have been trying to find an offensive defenceman who also has routine and knows what SHL is all about.

Tellqvist performing big for Djurgården

Djurgården’s return to Sweden’s premier division has sent their fans on a rollercoaster ride, but one thing is for certain that if Mikael Tellqvist was not in between the posts they would be spending most of the time with their stomachs in their mouths. 

Tellqvist has been the saving grace in what has been an up-and-down return to the SHL for Djurgården. The veteran goaltender has faced a barrage of shots to begin the year, but on most occasions has single-handedly kept his team in a position to win the game or take vital points from the encounter.

Behind Berhard Starkbaum and Oscar Alsenfelt, Tellqvist has been the most active goaltender in the SHL, facing 348 shots and also being engaged in the play for 295 missed shots against. A save percentage of 92.82 has Tellqvist fourth in the league, although, what also needs to be taking into consideration is that Djurgården keeper has faced 120 shots from the slot area, which is the most in the league.

The 35 year old, had his biggest performance yet against Linköping, when Djurgården took the three points with a 4-2 victory at Hovet. Tellqvist faced a massive 43 shots on goal, 18 of those from the slot, and was engaged a further 21 times by missed shot attempts to record a 95.35 save percentage in the team’s victory. 

Tellqvist has wound back the clock and found the form that saw him make 113 NHL appearances with the Maple Leafs, Sabres and Coyotes and it is on his performances that Djurgården is staying afloat in their comeback year in the SHL.

Jeremy Darke
English Blog

2014-10-13 13:40:00 | Weekly reviews

Imports out, NHLers in and CHL finals

The first stage of the inaugural Champions Hockey League has come to an end with four SHL clubs progressing to the round-of-sixteen. Skellefteå AIK, Frölunda HC and Linköping HC all qualified top of their respective groups after the double round-robin stage, while Luleå qualified as one of the five best second place entries.

The highest eight first place teams were placed into pool A and were matched up against an opposition from pool B, made up of the rest of the first place qualifiers and the five second place clubs. Skellefteå will face Finnish club JYP Jyvaskyla in the first round of the playoffs. Frölunda will not have to travel too far also taking on Suomi opposition Tappara Tempere. Linköping HC will play iconic Czech powerhouse HC Sparta Praha and Luleå drew 2013-14 Austrian EBEL champions Red Bull Salzburg.

The 1/8-finals, quarter-finals and semi-final will be a two game, total-goal series, the first game played at the lower ranked team's arena and the second game, and any required overtime or shoot-out, will be played at the home of the higher ranked team. The final will be one game, played at the home of the team with the best combined group stage and playoff record.

Connolly brothers fired

Back in the SHL, Leksand IF have continued to take action to fix their dreadful start to the season, this time it was American brothers Jack and Chris Connolly who were told walk the plank in Dalarna. The Connollys were signed in the offseason to be the offensive force in Leksand, although things have not gone as planned for the brothers, lacking any glimpse of offensive production having not recorded a single point between them after 8 games.

The brothers were obviously disappointed with the decision to be let go by the club but, of course, understand that the decision made was best for the club and for them both.

Sundqvist and Nylander back in SHL

Returning to Sweden and the SHL after spending the summer with their respective NHL clubs for training camp and preseason is Oskar Sundqvist and William Nylander. Both players had exceptional summers in North America but unfortunately could not impress enough to gain a spot on the permanent roster and have been called back to Sweden.

Sundqvist made his return to the SHL for Skellefteå on Saturday and made an impact instantly, assisting on Niclas Burnström's goal just 9:59 into the game and spent 19min 24sec on the ice.

Nylander is set to make his 2014-15 debut for MODO on Wednesday against Linköping and brings some much needed creativity and flare to a struggling team that has had a shaky start to the season.

- William is going to bring creativity and offense. William has a good energy after being in camp with Toronto and will be ready to play on Wednesday. We know that William is a player that competes in all situations and it feels good to have him in our group, explained MODO Hockey GM Per Svartvadet.

Jeremy Darke
English Blogger

2014-10-06 11:16:00 | Weekly reviews

New breed leading Skellefteå to the top

Photo: Daniel Stiller / Bildbyrån

A lot of questions were floating around the SHL stratosphere at the beginning of the season about how reigning champions Skellefteå were going to perform after losing a cluster of their top players, including their five best point scorers. Skellefteå AIK obviously missed that conversation, and after the first month of the season have now taken the familiar status of league leaders, sitting at the top of the standings.

The loss of key personal such as inspirational captain Jimmie Ericsson, Joakim Lindström, Oscar Möller and 2012/2013 highest point scorer Bud Holloway, left many holes to be filled in the roster for Skellefteå to begin the 2014 season. But the reigning champions have begun the new year where they left off last season, at the top of the SHL. There is a new breed of superstars that have now risen in Västerbotten, and have taken their chance to step out of the shadows and become the new leaders on the quest to another Le Mat-trophy.

The quality recruiting of General Manager Lars Johansson during the off-season has paid off instantaneously for SAIK with new signings, Canadian Andrew Calof, Pär Lindholm and Russian born Kirill Kabanov stepping up to the plate and leading the new wave of Skellefteå AIK talent. The new trio have scored 10 goals and 14 assists in the first 8 games and have taken more than 27 percent of the team’s total shots on goal.

It has also been the somewhat surprising form of defenceman Tim Heed who has picked up his on-ice work rate to start the new season, averaging close to 3 minutes more ice-time per game in 2014 than he did last year spending 15.51 minutes TOI/GP. Heed has also been troubling the score keepers much more to begin the year, sharing the honours as the league’s highest scoring defenceman with Luleå’s Jan Sandström, with 7 points, 2 more points than the 23-year-old scored during the entire season for Skellefteå last year.

North Americans leading the league

Andrew Calof (6G+2A), who hails from Princetown University, is not the only North American who has found his feet directly in the SHL after making the move over the Atlantic, American Jeff Taffe has also hit his stride directly once landing in Sweden. Taffe had been linked to a move to Linköping over the previous two off-seasons but failed to make the move. Now that the NHL merited star has finally made his move from the States, he has not disappointed the White Lion fans. Taffe shares the lead in the league’s point scoring standings with teammate Jacob Micflikier, the former Hershey Bears assistant captain proving to be a key playmaker with 10 assists.

Micflikier is also enjoying a fast start to his SHL career, having an instant chemistry with line-mate Taffe, who has been the provider on all 6 occasions of his North American counterpart’s league topping goal scoring tally. Micflikier has spent the last two seasons playing in Switzeland’s NLA where he scored 77 points in 83 games.

Leksand record first points

There was an enormous sigh of relief in Dalarna on Saturday night when Leksand IF held on to a one goal lead for almost 2 periods of play against Örebro HK to eventually take their first points of 2014/2015 season. (Highlights) It was long serving forward Jens Bergenström who was the hero in Tegera Arena giving his team the lead at 4:46 in the second period, and for the first time this season Leksand where able to hold off their opposition to take the win.

Amazingly enough, Leksand’s 3 point win take them within just 2 wins away from ninth position in the standings, with MODO Hockey, Färjestad and Djurgården all struggling to find any consistent form in 2014.

Jeremy Darke
English Blog

2014-09-29 14:15:00 | Weekly reviews

Still no points for Leksand and streaks that has come to an end

Leksand has still no points in SHL after two losses the last week against Luleå and MODO. After the loss against MODO, Leksand decided to release back-up goaltender Joel Gistedt from the club, after just 20mins of game time this season. 

The club then released a message saying that they have replaced Gistedt with prodigal son Joakim Lundström who returns to Sweden once again after an up-and-down season last year in the KHL and Finnish Liiga. Salo has also picked up defenceman Daniel Josefsson, who was an unsigned free-agent after failing to find a new club during the off-season, coming off a disappointing previous year with AIK.

Luleå and Skellefteås streaks come to an end

On the ice, Luleå and Skellefteå’s season streaks have come to an end when both Norrland clubs left Saturday’s sixth round pointless. Luleå suffered their first loss of the season, 4-2 against preseason favourites Växjö Lakers. Meanwhile, reigning champions Skellefteå left Jönköping pointless for the first time this season when they lost to HV71 4-3 in regular time.

HV71’s win against Skellefteå could not have been timelier, allowing the club to celebrate the rise of Johan Davidsson #76 jersey number to the rafters with the respect that the HV legend deserved. Davidsson began his professional career in Jönköping and also ended it there, the 38 year old, retiring at the end of last season after giving HV71 a total of 15 seasons of his career, 11 of those as captain of the club. It was an emotional ceremony before Saturday’s match and Davidsson was full of appreciation and thanks to his long-serving HV71.

- I would like to thank my big family, HV71. I want to thank all of you players, coaches, supporters and all the people I have worked with. Together we have fulfilled dreams in a big way every day. A big thankyou for allowing me to achieve many of my dreams, said a very touched Johan Davidsson.

Rob Schremp arrives to Skellefteå AIK

American Rob Schremp has returned to Sweden after 2 seasons away playing all around Europe. Skellefteå AIK, have acquired the services of the previous NHL centre, who recorded 19 goals and 22 assists in 2011-12 season playing for MODO.  Schremp was excited about his opportunity upon his arrival in Skellefteå on Wednesday, expressing his anticipation to Skellefteå’s web-TV.

- I’m really excited to come back, especially with a team like Skellefteå, said Schremp and continued. They have a really strong team and when I got the opportunity I was really excited to join this.

Schremp will give more North American firepower to the champion’s forward lines, adding to young Canadian star Andrew Calof, who has started his first season with the club in blistering fashion, leading the league with 5 goals in 6 matches.

Jeremy Darke
English Blogger

2014-09-22 10:40:00 | Weekly reviews

Luleå and Leksand at either end of spectrum


Photo: Simon Hastegård / Bildbyrån

The season is only in the early stages but many intentions, or lack thereof, have already been made clear after just four rounds. Luleå Hockey have made the statement early that they will be setting the benchmark through the autumn, while Leksand IF will have to do things the hard way, fighting from the bottom of the standings.

The season has begun in almost perfect fashion for Luleå Hockey, starting off the year with four wins from four games, their only blemish on a 12-from-12 point start, their penalty shoot-out win in the season opener against close rival Skellefteå, giving away a sympathy point.

Much of the fuss around Luleå has been the surprising goal scoring form of veteran defender Jan Sandstöm. The thirteen year servant of Luleå has never scored more than 7 goals in a single season for the Norrbotten capital, and went through the whole of last season scoreless. Although, the assistant captain has begun 2014 in emphatic style, proving that even at the age of 36 it is never too late for your goal scoring to blossom, leading his team with 3 goals from 4 games.

New goaltending pair impress in Luleå

The early success of Luleå is also a result of the big play of new goaltending pairing Joel Lassinantti and Daniel Larsson. Both goaltenders are new to Luleå’s top team and had a lot to prove heading into the SHL season. The 21 year old, Lassinantti, had been in the Luleå Hockey system since 2008, playing his junior hockey for the club before going on loan to HockeyAllsvenskan clubs Almtuna and Asplöven the previous couple of years. He has now been given his opportunity and has begun his SHL career in impressive style making 45 saves in 2 games only allowing 1 goal a game against Örebro HK and Brynäs IF.

His partner, Daniel Larsson made the move from relegated AIK after a tough season with the Stockholm club and hasn’t disappointed during his initiation in Norrland. Larsson has started the year with a save percentage of 93.65, and was the penalty shoot-out hero in his team’s win in the season premier against Skellefteå.

Leksand’s offence under the microscope

At the other end of the spectrum is Leksand IF, who has not been able to muster a single point in their first four games of the season. The last team to start an SHL season so poorly was, in fact, well, Leksand IF, in their 2005/2006 campaign where they went on to finish last in the regular season. Alarm bells are ringing loud and clear in Dalarna, and the panic button has got to be under the fingertips of the usually erratic Tommy Salo.

Leksand’s offense has struggled significantly to begin the year, only scoring 3 goals in 4 matches, two of those goals being scored on the powerplay.  With only one goal scored in 5v5 play in four matches Leksand’s offense is obviously being put under the microscope and is were changes will have to be made.

If we take a look at some shooting numbers for a moment we can see that Leksand sit at the bottom of the table in regards to shots from the shooting sector (slot) with just 48, even though their 116 total shots ranks them fifth in the league, this means that only 41% of their shots on goal are coming from a good scoring position.

This tells us that there is a real lack of presence in front of goal for Leksand and if things are to change they need to be getting more bodies in the shooting sector to create betting scoring opportunities.

It is not only their offence that has been taking a hammering, their defence has also been lacking real stability. Allowing 146 shots on goal, the Leksand defence have allowed the most shots fired at their goaltender than any other team in the league. If it were not for the consistent stellar performances of Oscar Alsenfelt, who has started all four games, they may have been looking at much more demoralising scorelines.

Jeremy Darke
English Blog


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