A packed schedule over the last week saw little change in the top six, but the bottom five are in a desperate struggle for the last 4 playoff spots as Rögle look for their first playoff birth in more than two decades.
Five game days in just six days made for a great week of hockey here in the SHL as the race for the playoffs intensifies and every point becomes that much more important. The top six saw little change from this time two weeks ago. Färjestad and Luleå both went 3 for 3, but with two overtime victories Luleå gave up the top spot, Frölunda moved in to the top three with HV71 getting knocked to fifth. With just one victory Skellefteå narrowly remains in the top six. But the major moves came in the bottom of the standings with one team in particular having a lot to play for.
Entering the week with 56 points and sitting just outside of a playoff spot in 11th overall, Rögle was looking like a team who was rejuvenanted from the ten day break and came out firing on all cylinders.
They started the week off on the right foot as they treated the home town fans inside Lindab Arena to a 5-2 victory over Örebro. They followed that up with a hard fought 4-3 win over Linköping that saw them erase a 2-0 defecit thanks to a three goal 2nd period. Their third and final game of the week saw them struggle through the first two periods against HV71 but great play from Justin Pogge between the pipes kept them in it. They came out with renewed energy in the third and rippled the mesh twice to come away with the well deserved 3-2 victory to complete the full nine point week. With their success this week Rögle moves in to 8th overall and in to a three way tie at 65 points apiece with Växjö and Skellefteå. They are also now within striking distance of the top 4. Rögle has only once made the playoffs in the SHL, all the way back in the 1993/1994 season, but under the direction of the Abbott brothers they now have a chance to secure a playoff birth for the first time in 25 years.
Our game of the week on the English world feed was also our first game of the week as the recent CHL-champion Frölunda played host to the Växjö back on Tuesday night.
The recently aqcuired NHL vet Kris Versteeg had an immediate impact for the Lakers as a nice little backhanded pass to Roman Horák set up the first of the game. Frölunda would answer back with a beautiful individual effort from Chay Genoway who picked up the puck behind his own net, weaved his way through the neutral zone and finished off the coast to coast goal with a perfectly executed wrap around to tie things up. A quick review of the goal would be necessary, but the goal would stand and the game headed to the first intermission locked at one.
Kris Versteeg would once again make his presence felt in the 2nd, the former Chicago Blackhawk would score his first SHL career goal with a quick wrist shot from the top of the circle to restore the one goal lead for the Lakers, but the lead would be short lived. Just 67 second later Ryan Lasch would pick up the puck at his own blue line and a burst of speed created a two on one opportunity. Lasch electing to shoot rather than pass was able to beat Viktor Fasth short side to bring it back to even. Lasch would then set up Simon Hjalmarsson in the slot with a nice pass from below then line and the one timer founds its way past Fasth to give Frölunda the 3-2 lead heading in to the 3rd frame.
Both teams exchanged chances in the 3rd but neither was able to ripple the mesh until Linus Fröberg was sprung on a breakaway and made no mistake, tying the game with less than seven minutes to play. The game would head to overtime tied at 3.
Despite some great chances for both teams in the extra frame, 5 minutes of 3 on 3 would not provide a game winner and the game would head to a shootout. The only man to score in the shootout was none other than Ryan Lasch who beat Fasth short side with a quick wrister and gave Frölunda the 4-3 victory.
Top Line of the Week
Joel Lassinantti, Luleå (3)
Luleå emerged victorious in all 3 of their games this week and in the process gave up just 3 goals against Brynäs, Malmö and Mora. This was in no small part due to the play of Lassinantti between the pipes who poste a .954 SV% as he grabs his third top line nomination this season.
Jesse Virtanen, Färjestad (2)
Virtanen continued his offensive production on the back end this week, scoring a goal and adding three assists in Färjestads three victories. The Finn now has 30 points in 42 games played and grabs top line honours for the second time this season.
Kodie Curran, Rögle (4)
Another offensively gifted defender is featured this week. For the fourth time this season Canadian Kodie Curran earns a spot on the top line. 1 goal and 3 assists this week brings Currans point total to 28. His efforst also helped Rögle secure a full 9 points and he continues to lead the league in defensive goals with 11.
Ryan Lasch, Frölunda (2)
The American Lasch put forward one of his best weeks of the season with 2 goals and 6 assists this week, which included a four assist performance against Skellefteå. Lasch was an easy choice this week as he is named to the top line for the second time this season.
Oskar Steen, Färjestad (2)
The young 20 year old continues to impress this season.Steen contributed in all 3 of Färjestads victories this week. With 2 goals and 3 assists his season total now sits at 28 points overall. Steens performance was more than enough to earn him his 2nd top line of the week nomination.
Konstantin Komarek, Malmö Redhawks (1)
Another big offensive performance from our final top line skater this week. Komarek had five assists this week including three in a big win against Färjestad and an additional two against the Växjö Lakers. His performance this week puts him on the top line for the first time this season.