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2014-11-24 10:16:00 | Weekly reviews
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.
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.
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
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.
2014-11-10 09:22:00 | Weekly reviews
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
2014-10-28 08:12:00 | Weekly reviews
Photo: 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.
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 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)
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.
2014-10-20 09:34:00 | Weekly reviews
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.
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.
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.
2014-10-13 13:40:00 | Weekly reviews
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.
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.
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.
2014-10-06 11:16:00 | Weekly reviews
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.
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.
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.
2014-09-29 14:15:00 | Weekly reviews
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.
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.
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.
2014-09-22 10:40:00 | Weekly reviews
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.
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.
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.
2014-09-15 13:20:00 | Weekly reviews
The first week of the SHL gave its fans everything that they had been waiting for the last 5 or so months. There were as many goals, big saves and crunching hits that we have been craving since Skellefteå AIK took the Le Mat Trophy in Karlstad. But even though the action on the ice was everything and a little bit more than we have missed for so long, it was the return of 16 time Swedish Champion Djurgården to the SHL which stole the show in the opening week of the 2014/2015 season.
The yearn for Djurgården to return and play against the country’s best exploded in Hovet on Saturday night, when 8094 lusting fans joined together to celebrate the homecoming of Sweden’s most successful club to the top league. For those lucky enough to get their hands on a ticket would all agree that it was a memorable opening night in Stockholm, seeing and hearing every diehard fan singing and dancing to celebrate their return, while cheering their team to a momentous penalty shoot-out victory to cap off an unforgettable evening of hockey.
The reappearance of Djurgården was not the only successful return in the SHL during premier week, Pär Lindohlm has also made his presence felt directly in Skellefteå after spending the last four seasons away from his home town in Norrland. After stints with Sundsvall Hockey, Piteå HC and Karlskrona, Lindholm finally returned home to Skellefteå and has taken no time settling in, leading his team and league in goal scoring with 3 goals in two matches.
Lindholm, who is more known for his passing ability, has found his place in the center of Skellefteå’s third line and will hope he can continue the point scoring productivity that took him to seventh in scoring in HockeyAllsvenskan for Karlskrona in the 2013/2014 season.
Things have not started so bright in the MODO and Leksand camps, coming away from their first two games without any points. Both teams have struggled to hit their stride in their opening encounters, lacking offensive chemistry amongst their new signings after both clubs lost key personnel during the offseason.
MODO saw the exit of their star defensemen Kyle Cumiskey and Richie Regehr along with forward Jeff Tambellini. The three Canadians, who tallied 70 points between them, where the 3 highest point scorers in the Örnsköldsvik last season and appear to be sorely missed.
Leksand IF are suffering from a similar fate to begin their season after losing 3 of their top 4 scorers, Mikael Johansson, Jacob Blomqvist and 2013/2014 Highest Goal Scoring and Best Defenseman of the year Patrik Hersley. Although General Manager Tommy Salo has looked to sign sufficient replacements, the club has started the season as the critics expected them to finish it, under the Direct Qualification line.
It has been a nightmare start to the heavily anticipated SHL career of Jeff Taffe, the American was given a match penalty for an illegal check to the head of HV71 defenseman Emil Johansson, half way through the second period, in Linköping’s miracle comeback 4-6 loss to the Jönköping club.
Taffe will already miss his team’s next match against Djurgården on Monday evening and may have a case to answer at the disciplinary tribunal after making hard contact to the head of Johansson causing blood to run from his nose.
Taffe plead his innocence after the game, saying that it certainly was not his intention to injure his opponent and is not known as a dirty player.
– It is never good when something like this happens. I am not known to be a dirty player. I didn’t mean to hit him high, explained Jeff Taffe.
– It is a situation that you wish never happened. It is good to see that he (Emil Johansson) is ok, continued Taffe.
2014-09-08 15:08:00 | Weekly reviews
Head Coaches in SHL 2014/2015 Photo: Joel Marklund / Bildbyrån
The wait is over with the SHL season just days away. The preseason has been long, as usual, and has given us all plenty to ponder over heading into the SHL 2014/2015.
There have been plenty of changes structurally to the SHL format heading into this season, as the league moves forward into a new era of hockey in Sweden. There has also been an abundance of interesting player movements that have enticed a mindful of speculation heading into the second year of the Swedish Hockey League. SHL.se English blog takes a look at three big questions heading towards the 2014/2015 season, which gets underway on the 10th of September.
The SHL has seen eight of its top ten point scorers move on to play outside of Sweden this season, leaving the league with the question of where offensive productivity will come from in the 2014/15 season.
Only Linköping’s Chad Kolarik and Färjestad’s Joakim Hillding are left standing from the 2013/2014 top ten point scorers list, which leaves us contemplating where all the offensive strike-power will come from this season or if it will come at all?
If the all new Champions Hockey League is anything to go by, then the SHL and all its fans have absolutely nothing to worry about. Seven of the top ten point productive players in the CHL after the first 4 rounds of play come from the SHL, with Frölunda duo Mathis Olimb and Andreas Johnsson leading the way on 13 and 11 points respectively.
Pär Arlbrandt’s departure to Biel caused quite the fuss on the topic of huge offensive losses to Linköping and the league, but the highly anticipated arrival of Jeff Taffe to Sweden and his hot preseason form of 3 goals and 3 assists in 4 CHL matches brings premonitions of goal lights swirling over and over again this season.
Skellefteå AIK is double reigning champions Photo: Ola Westerberg
If any team has had the magnify glass held firmly over them throughout the whole entire offseason, it is double reigning and defending champions Skellefteå. The Västerbotteners have seen a mass exudos from the club after their second Le Mat Trophy in two years, and have been left to fill huge gaps left by the likes of Captain Jimmie Ericsson, Joakim Lindström, Oscar Möller etcetera and so on.
With so many big names making their way overseas Skellefteå’s coaching and management staff have stood strong behind their team, the development of their squad and the winning culture that they have driven deep into the veins of their players and the fans.
Although they have lost their six most productive players, one can only expect that Skellefteå will ride their new underdog tag as long as it holds as new stars will begin to rise up and fill the skates of the champions before them.
This offseason the Swedish Ice-Hockey Association decided that they will follow in the footsteps of the NHL and initiate the variation of hybrid icing into the game. Hybrid icing puts the initiative onto the linesman to make a call on whether he believes that the offensive team will get to the puck before the defensive player in an icing situation, where he will now allow the play to go on instead of blowing it down, as in previous seasons.
The new icing regulations is set to make for a more free flowing game of hockey, now giving teams the opportunity to have icings waved off if their players are in a point of offensive advantage after a long play from their defensive end of the ice. Teams will no doubt look to exploit their offensive speed to create new chances from quick distant counter-attack hockey.
The league has also decided to move both blue lines 1.5 meters closer to the centre of the ice thus increasing the size of the offensive/defensive zones. This increase in space lays more weight on teams to have strong skaters and technically skilled players, not only in their forward line but also defensive players must be able to move more freely.
The larger offensive zone will also give more opportunities on the powerplay by stretching the box, creating more space down low and a likelihood of more extra-man goals this season.
The tighter neutral zone should also make it easier for the new North American imports to find their stride on the European ice rink. The smaller zone should aid the problem that many international transfers have adjusting to timing issues as the cross through the middle sector of the rink.
Thousands of questions float around the abyss but all will begin to be answered in just a short time as the Swedish Hockey League hits full flight.
2014-06-04 10:45:00 | Information
The SHL and HockeyAllsvenskan, late last season, informed that there will be a structural change to both leagues and a replacement to the process of how teams are relegated or promoted to and from the SHL and HockeyAllsvenskan.
Here SHL.se will go through all of the changes to make them crystal clear:
SHL will expand from 12 teams to 14 teams to develop the structure and the strength of Swedish hockey. To do so the qualification into SHL needed to be altered to allow for the 2 team expansion after the 2014/2015 season.
2014/2015 HockeyAllsvenskan Final
In the season 2014/2015 a HockeyAllsvenskan champion will be crowned in a best-of-five game playoff between the two highest placed teams after the regular season. The winner of the final will gain admission into the SHL for the 2015/2016 season. The loser of the playoff will move into the newly formed DirektKval (Direct Qualification), which will be explained shortly.
2014/2015 HockeyAllsvenskan SlutspelSerie (playoff series)
A single playoff series between the teams ranked 3-8 after the HockeyAllsvenskan regular season will be played. This will give the highest ranked 3 teams, after the SlutspelSerie, the chance to compete for a place in the SHL through DirektKval, the 3 lower placed teams will stay in HockeyAllsvenskan. In the case of equal points after the SlutspelSerie, match results will be taken into account.
2014/2015 DirektKval (Direct Qualification)
The DirektKval will be played between the teams ranked 11th and 12th from the 2014/2015 SHL regular season, joining them will be the loser of 2014/2015 HockeyAllsvenskan final and the 3 highest ranked teams after the HockeyAllsvenskan SlutspelSerie.
Each team will play a best-of-seven game series against one opponent and the 3 winners will gain admission into the SHL for the 2015/2016 season. The three losing teams will play in HockeyAllsvenskan the following year.
At the end of the 2015/2016 season, and beyond, the SHL and HockeyAllsvenskan relegation and promotion process will be as follows:
As in the previous season, a HockeyAllsvenskan Champion will be crowned, although they will not gain direct admission to the SHL. The winner will move on to DirektKval, meanwhile, the loser shall move into the Playoff round, which will be explained further along.
Once again, teams ranked 3-8 will participate in a playoff series just as the previous season, although only the highest ranked team from SlutspelSerie will progress on to the Playoff round against the loser of the HockeyAllsvenksan Final. The remaining 5 teams will once again compete in HockeyAllsvenskan the following season. In the case of equal points after the SlutspelSerie, match results will be taken into account.
A best-of-three game series between the loser of the HockeyAllsvenkan final and the winner of the Slutspelserie will determine which other team will progress to DirektKval. The winner of the playoff series will move on, the loser will return back to Allsvenskan the following season.
DirektKval will see the 13th and 14th placed teams from the SHL regular season join the HockeyAllsvenskan Champion and the winner of the Playoff in a one off best-of-seven series. The two winners will play in the SHL the following year, while the losing teams will be relegated down or back to HockeyAllsvenskan.
- From SHL’s side we are very pleased with the cooperation with HockeyAllsvenskan and that we were able to find a system that was good all round for Swedish elite hockey, says Jörgen Lindgren, CEO of SHL:
- We created the development that we wanted for the SHL as a league, a program and process that began last summer with the name change and the new vision of a ‘total sports experience’ and the changes to the Play-In to the playoffs in the SHL, continued Lindgren.
2014-04-22 13:40:00 | Skellefteå AIK
Skellefteå AIK are once again Champions of Sweden after clean sweeping Färjestad BK 4-0 in the final series for the Le Mat Trophy. Skellefteå capped off their dominant season with an overpowering performance in the final against Färjestad, the Västerbotteners never loose like stumbling on the last step to a second consecutive title.
The season end has been somewhat of a relief for Skellefteå, as a pressure filled year has concluded with all expectations satisfied, as coach Hans Wallson summarized after his team's win.
- We have stood against the pressure and written history. We have had high expectations and also been written off, but we have have worked like animals and I am so damn proud.
Although the opportunity to be champion was lost by Färjestad, the season was far from a failure, the team overcome adversity and came together to give their fans something to cheer for until the final player left the ice after game 4 in Karlstad.
Joakim Lindtröm received the prize of the playoffs most valuable player, the Skellefteå assistant captain scored 6 goals and 12 assists, while leading his team and controlling the play throughout the whole postseason, this warranting the Stefan Liv Memorial Trophy.
2014-04-15 16:05:00 | Okategoriserat
There have been 330 regular season games and a further 34 in the playoffs, add in 5 play-in matches in between and we now have what we have all been waiting for after the first puck dropped 212 days ago, just two teams and the Le Mat Trophy.
The first final under the new SHL format will see last season’s champions, Skellefteå AIK, take on one of Swedish hockey’s biggest and historically best teams, Färjestad BK. Skellefteå will be out to win their second championship in a row and their third of all-time, while Färjestad will be looking to put a stop to their rival’s dominance and win their tenth title.
Färjestad’s mission of overcoming Skellefteå may be harder than getting their whole team up and over Kebnekaise, but with self-confidence as high as the mountain itself the men from Karlstad will not be seeing it as such a big challenge. Heading into both their quarter and semi-final match-ups, against Brynäs and Växjö, they were tagged as under-dogs, and they have fared just fine. The 2014 final will be no different, although this time they come up against the might and power of Skellefteå AIK.
Skellefteå have dominated all season long and have never really looked off course in making their way to the final for the fourth consecutive year. The postseason has not really been much of a challenge for the reigning champions either, brushing aside both HV71 and Linköping by a 4-1 series win. A second title in just as many years appears almost inevitable for the Västerbotteners after such an imperious and commanding year.
Although, the last time these two clubs met in the final of 2010/2011, the first of Skellefteå’s current finals run, it was the men from Karlstad that celebrated, wining the Le Mat Trophy 4-1 in the 7 game series.
Skellefteå’s offense is in a scary state if you are a Färjestad fan. The current danger that Joakim Lindström, Oscar Möller and Jimmie Ericsson are delivering has undoubtedly given many of the Färjestad players’ nightmares over the last few nights, and has certainly been the biggest headache for Coach Leif Carlsson in the lead up to the final.
If you add Skellefteå’s playoff secret weapon, Viktor Arvidsson, to the list of offensive problems the Karlstad club will come up against, you have the top four point scorers so far in the 2014 playoffs. The quartet have scored 19 goals and 28 assists between them in just 10 games. The Västerbotteners on a whole are also scoring at a scary rate of 3.8 goals per game and are averaging a whopping 33 shots.
On the other side of things, it has been Färjestad’s ability to unsettle their opponents physically that has been one of the most impressive parts of their game throughout the end of the regular season and during the playoffs to date. If FBK are going to put up any sort of fight in this series they are going to have to get under the skin of Lindström and Ericsson, a task easier said than done. Tough guy Ole-Kristian Tollefsen will have to play physical and put on big hits to irritate his opponents and put a spanner in the works of the mechanical Skellefteå offence.
The Färjestad offense has not been short of chances throughout these playoffs, although a lack of a quality finishing has been a slight downfall in their game. With just under 30 shots on goal averaged each game, the Karlstad club have been able to put their opposing goaltenders under constant stress. Milan Gulas has been the most trouble offensively for FBK scoring 5 goals so far in these playoffs, shooting the puck 32 times with an impressive 15.63 shot effectiveness. Magnus Nygren has been relatively quiet to his standards so far this postseason and will have to take more of an advantage when given the chance to shoot from blue line during this series.
As strong as Skellefteå’s offense is, the defence is just as sharp, their two-way style of hockey being the key to their dominance throughout the whole year and in the playoffs. SAIK’s ability to keep their opponents chances to a minimum is second to none, constantly keeping their opposing forwards to the outside limiting any opportunities in front of their own goal. Skellefteå’s defence has only let in 17 goals in this year’s playoffs and more impressively has allowed only 256 shots on goal; to put that into perspective that is 100 shots less than Färjestad.
Coming into an SHL final goaltending is always going to be a talking point, and this year is certainly no different. There is going to be a battle at between the pipes as Marcus Svensson and Fredrik Pettersson-Wentzel, go head-to-head, which will produce highlight after highlight on SHL Play throughout the whole series.
Pettersson-Wentzel has already faced 356 shots on goal this postseason and has performed brilliantly, holding a 93.54 save percentage. PW’s hot form needs to continue as he will be called upon repetitively to come up big for Färjestad during this final series.
Marcus Svensson on the other hand has not been asked to do as much work as his rival, but has been just as impressive. He has a 93.36 save percentage this postseason and will carry in high amounts of confidence heading into the final.
If 5-on-5 play has not caused enough sleepless nights for Färjestad then the thought of 5-on-4 would have certainly done the trick. Skellefteå’s powerplay has been almost unstoppable during the 2014 playoffs, answering for 15 of the teams 38 total goals.
To make matters worse for FBK, their boxplay has only been killing penalties at 81.08 percent in these playoffs and has allowed 69 shots in 37 short-handed opportunities. If FBK allow Skellefteå to set-up their offence with the man advantage, they will find themselves in a warzone of shots that will only have one possible outcome.
Unfortunately for Färjestad they have not been able to get their powerplay underway during the 2014 playoffs, struggling to find ways to setup in their offensive zone or hit any real rhythm. Skellefteå’s strong boxplay should not have any problems killing off a currently lacklustre Färjestad man advantage.
2014-04-14 11:15:00 | Färjestad BK
(Photo: Simone Syversson, Pic-Agency)
Färjestad’s fairy-tale run back to greatness after a tough start to the season continues, the Varmlanders beat Växjö Lakers 4-2 in their semi-final series, in a brutal clash.
There was no shortage of emotion or feeling in the series between Färjestad and Växjö, both clubs showing no mercy when throwing their weight around to unsettle their opponents. It was certainly a series for the enforcers, with plenty of scuffles and big hits, a tactic that favoured the newly revived Karlstad club, using their tough guys to unsettle their opponents, just as they did in their quarter-final clash against Brynäs.
A new and improved Färjestad BK has continued to get stronger and more and more impressive after their trip back from Canada. Their new aggressive style of play has proven to work in their favour, overpowering Växjö with muscle, to create chances for their goal scorers to hit the back of the net, something that just didn’t happen for the club earlier in the year.
The team has taken huge steps back to becoming what everyone expected them to be at the beginning of the year and now find themselves in the final to play off for the Le Mat Trophy, after a very ordinary regular season.
– Thos is not a one-man-show from my side, the whole association got stronger when it went tough, explained Färjestad Coach Leif Carlsson:
– We built the team enormously after the AHL trip to Canada; we travelled a lot and had many hours to talk with each other. Now we are in the final, we battle and have high moral in the group.
After opening up early in the series it became a tight affair and it was Färjestad’s ability to fight from behind in the third period, giving them the opportunity to win matches and ultimately take the series after six games. The final three games of the series FBK were able come back from a one goal deficit in the final period, winning two of those three games and losing the other in overtime after a freakish and unlucky goal.
Växjö exceeded the expectations of many this year, finishing third after the regular season and putting up a strong fight in the semi-final, in the club’s first ever playoffs in Sweden’s top league. Although Växjö have had a record breaking season, they still feel that they have come up short after continuously showing their hunger to go deeper in this year’s playoffs.
– I think that we had a good season where we played well in SHL, had a good series against Luleå, said Växjö coach Sam Hallam after his team’s emotional series loss. We are certainly not satisfied, it is empty and you feel almost nauseous when it ends so quickly.
Färjestads’s win now sets up an epic SHL final against hot favourites Skellefteå. The Karlstad club will be looking to win their tenth Championship in history, while the Västerbottners will be trying to finish off their dominant year with their second consecutive Le Mat Trophy.
2014-04-09 12:20:00 | Skellefteå AIK
(Photo: Bert Söderström. Pic-Agency.com)
Skellefteå AIK will compete for their second straight Le Mat Trophy and will look to become back-to-back champions, becoming the first team to make it to the final in the playoffs on Tuesday night.
It always appeared inevitable as the indestructible Skellefteå team glided through this year’s playoff semi-final, against Linköping, just as they did in the quarter-final, winning the series 4-1.
If Linköping were the giant killers in their quarter-final against Frölunda, then the giants got their revenge, Skellefteå simply stomping all over the White Lions, outscoring them 22-7 in the five matches played.
– We let in too many goals when we ourselves have been coming into the game, said Linköping coach Roger Melin after his team’s semi-final loss.
The production continued from SAIK’s big guns Jimmie Ericsson, Joakim Lindström and Oscar Möller as it did against HV71. The trio dominated the play visibly out on the ice and also on the score sheet, Ericsson picking up another 3 goals and maintaining his huge stature in front of goal, while Lindström and Möller dictated the play once again, putting together a six point series to share the playoff point scoring lead with 13.
– It feels so good. The boys are just shooting at me and I am just hoping to get a touch on them before they go in, explained Jimmie Ericcson to C More on his goal scoring form.
Skellefteå now move on to their fourth consecutive final and will be striving to be the first team to win the Le Mat Trophy back-to-back since Djurgårdens IF in 2000 and 2001.
For Linköping it is time to find some closure on their up and down season, while taking out the positive fact that they were able to get themselves together when they needed to the most, pushing their way through to the semi-finals, where they unfortunately met a stronger and more determined opponent.
Linköping didn’t appear to be the same team the forced their way past the Play In against MODO Hockey and the quarter-final against Frölunda, lacking the energy and will power to fight against the hockey machine that is Skellefteå.
– We didn’t lose a match in the last seven or eight games (of the season), then went into the Play In with that feeling and we won two games there, explained Melin to C More:
– We had a really good feeling going into the quarter-final, we battle hard in those games. I don’t know if it took too much energy or if we just were not bothered to put up a fight when we met an even stronger opponent.