The SHL season of 2018/2019 has come to an end and here, we take a walk down memory lane, reflecting at the season.
Saturday september 15th kicked off the 2018/19 SHL season. The first half of the season was back and forth and it was unclear whether we would get another clear cut and dominant winner like the Lakers were last year. At the one month mark, Linköping HC was proving to be the team to beat, with 6 regulation wins and just a single regulation loss in the first 9 games, they sat at the top of the league with 21 points overall, 3 ahead of 2nd placed Malmö Redhawks. Regular season winners Färjestad found themselves in 12th place with just 8 points, having won just 2 of their first 8 games. Defending champs Växjö Lakers also got off to a bit of a bumpy start with just 3 wins in the first month.
Despite struggling in the first month of the season, two teams were able to turn things around and went on an absolute tear. Both Luleå Hockey and Färjestad BK started stringing together wins and climbing the leaderboard. Luleå Hockey, having started the season with just 3 regulation wins in their first 8 games, and Färjestad BK with their early season struggles found themselves on the right end of a hot streak. Over the following two months both teams put up impressive numbers in the win column. Färjestad BK winning 15 games and losing just 6 and Luleå Hockey winning 14 games and also losing just 6. With their win production over the course of November and December, Luleå Hockey and Färjestad BK found themselves leap froggin back and forth in the top 3 spots in the league. The other team joining them at the top was the Frölunda Indians, whose consistent play kept them near the top of the league all season long. However, not all teams were fortunate enough to keep pace with the league leaders.
Timrå IK punched their ticket to the big league last season after defeating Karlskrona HK in the relegation/promotion tournament and were looking to prove to the league and the fans that they were good enough to stay. A great start to the season saw them put up 4 regulation wins and 1 overtime loss in their first 6 games, including wins over the defending champion Växjö Lakers and Färjestad BK. Unfortunately for them their success was short lived. Over the same span where Luleå Hockey and Färjestad BK were winning, Timrå IK was going in the opposite direction. With just 7 wins and 16 losses leading up to the new year, the newest team in the league found themselves in last place heading in to 2019.
The leaderboard and the race for the top was still fairly close at the start of 2019. With 53 points, the Frölunda Indians sat in 1st overall, however, just 6 points seperated 1st and 7th, so the race for top spot was still far from decided with just under half the season remaining.
Spring - a new reality
January saw multiple teams drastically change their spot in the standings. On December 31st Djurgården Hockey found themselves 8th overall and Linköping HC found themselves 4th overall, just 4 points back of top spot. However, these two teams would go on opposite streaks. Over the month of January, Djurgården Hockeys offense came alive and managed 6 regulation wins in 9 games, which propelled them in to 2nd overall with 63 points. Linköping HC, on the other hand, managed just 1 win in regulation and 3 overtime wins in the same span. Despite winning games, missing out on the extra points due to overtime, Linköping HC found themselves in 8th overall at the end of the month, and just 4 points away from dropping out of the top 10. Brynäs IF also had a tough month with just 2 wins, one regulation and one in overtime. With their struggles they dropped out of the top 10 and in to 11th overall with 53 points. Mora IK, Örebro Hockey and Timrå IK:s struggles also continued throughout the month and were at risk of falling out of reach of the rest of the pack. Starting February, Timrå IK was sat last with just 36 points, Örebro Hockey 13th with 42 points and Mora IK 12th with 43 points. However, Örebro was determined to turn things around.
Over the month of February and in to the early parts of March, Örebro Hockey put together a record of 9 wins and just 1 loss. Piling points in to the win column they managed to go from 14 points out of a playoff spot on February 1st, and at risk of relegation, to just 3 points back of the 10th and final playoff spot on March 3rd. There was now a 3 way race between Linköping HC, Brynäs IF and Örebro Hockey for the final playoff spot. The race for the post season would come right down to the wire for these three teams. The final game of the season would be needed to determine which team would make a post season appearence. With Örebro Hockey sitting 10th overall, both Linköping HC and Brynäs IF needed a win and losses from the other two teams. However, all 3 teams lost in their final game of the season and Örebro Hockeys miraculous push for the playoffs was complete. But they weren't the only team with an impressive run heading in to the playoffs.
Both Luleå Hockey and Färjestad BK continued to dominate and late in January, they both started extremely impressive win streaks. Over the last month and a half, Färjestad BK went 15-2, inclduing a 10 game win streak, and Luleå Hockey went 14-1, including a 12 game win streak that was stopped by Färjestad BK in the second to last game of the season. That win over Luleå Hockey proved extremely important in fact as both teams finished the season with 101 points, but with the better goal differential, Färjestad BK claimed the title of regular season champs. The top six was rounded out by Frölunda Indians, Djurgården Hockey, Skellefteå AIK and Malmö Redhawks. The Redhawks were able to sneak in to the top 6 with a win in their final regular season game, coupled with a Lakers loss. The final four teams in the post season were Växjo Lakers, HV71, Rögle BK and Örebro Hockey.
Despite finishing 9th, Rögle BK had and impressive season under the command of rookie Head Coach Cam Abott. They started the season with just 4 wins in their first 14 games, but turned things around in November. From that point on they remained in the top 10 for the majority of the season. It was also their first playoff birth in more than 2 decades and just their second playoff birth in team history.
The first round of the playoffs were over quickly. With a best of 3 series, the first team to 2 wins moves on and both the Lakers and HV71 came away with 2-0 series wins. Both series had one OT game, but neither Rögle BK or Örebro Hockey were able to force a deciding game 3. HV71, as the lowest seed, would face Färjestad BK in the quartfinals and Växjö Lakers would take on Luleå Hockey.
The Färjestad BK/HV71 series would prove to be the most exciting series of the quarterfinals. Despite being the lowest seed and facing off against the regular season champs, HV71 was able to force a game 7 in Löfbergs Arena but would fall 3-2 in game 7 as Färjestad BK punched their ticket to the semi finals. This series also included the second longest game in SHL history. Game 5 clocked in at more than 117 minutes of play time and was finished by Oskar Steen scoring in triple overtime for Färjestad BK.
Luleå Hockeys dominance carried in to the playoff. Having finished the regular season with just one loss in their final 15 games, they continued their hot streak. Luleå's offense proved to much for Växjö Lakers in the first 3 games of the series and Luleå Hockey went up 3-0. No team in the history of the SHL has ever come back from a 3-0 series defecit and so the defending champs found themselves in a big hole. They were able to stave off elimination in game 4 with an overtime win. Unfortunately for the Lakers, game 5 would be their final game of the season and Luleå Hockey moved on to the quarterfinals.
After coming away with a 2-0 shutout victory in game number 1, Skellefteå AIK struggled to shutdown Djurgården Hockeys offense in the next 3 games. Djurgården Hockey outscored Skellefteå AIK13-6 over the course of games 2,3 and 4 and took a 3-1 series lead. Coming in to Hovet for game 5 and with their season on the line, Skellefteå AIK managed a narrow 3-2 victory. Unfortunately for them, Djurgården Hockeys offense proved to much in game 6 as they fell 4-1. It was a sweet victory for Djurgården Hockey, as they were able to exact revenge against the team who beat them in the semi finals last year.
The fourth and final series in the quarterfinals was a dominant performance by the Frölunda Indians offense. The Indians were able to outscore the Malmö Redhawks 21-9 in the series, including a big 7-2 victory in game number 3. Malmö Redhawks came away with a tight victory in game 2, but that's all the success they would have and Frölunda Indians punched their ticket to the semi finals with a 4-1 series win.
The semi finals were all set, Luleå Hockey V Frölunda Indians and Djurgården HockeyV Färjestad BK. Djurgården Hockey had made it to the semi finals last year but were bested by Skellefteå AIK and were sent home early. They were hoping that wouldn't be the case this year.
Coming in to the semi final against Luleå Hockey, Frölunda Indians had lost just a single game against the Malmö Redhawks and their offence was flying. Lead by Ryan Lasch and Rhett Rakhshani they were not to be trifled with. But it wasn't only their offense that would make a difference in this series, but the play of Johan Mattsson between the pipes. In the 5 game series, Mattsson posted two shutout victories. Taking a 3-1 series lead in to game number 5, Frölunda Indians offense was to much for Luleå Hockey and a big 6-2 victory secured their spot in the SHL finals. Their 2nd finals appearence in just 4 years.
After splitting games 1 and 2, Djurgården Hockey put together back to back wins and gave themselves a chance to close out the series in game 5, Färjestad BK had different plans. In games 5 and 6 Färjestad BK:s offence absolutely exploded and managed to outscore Djurgården Hockey 14-3 and forced a final and deciding game 7. Coming in to game 7, having been up 3 games to 1 and being blown out in the previous two games, all the pressure was on Djurgården Hockey. Färjestad BK was also playing in front of the home town crowd, and with their performance in game 5 and 6, had a lot of confidence head in in to the final game. Unfortunately for Färjestad BK, Djurgården Hockey proved to much with the 4-1 win, Djurgården Hockey punched their ticket to the SHL finals to face off against the Frölunda Indians.
In the first SHL final ever between teams from the two biggest cities in Sweden, Frölunda Indians won the first game 5-3, having scored two goals on the powerplay and one empty netter to seal the deal. Djurgården Hockey quickly responded with a 5-1 victory in the second game and the high-scoring games would continue with Frölunda Indians regaining the lead in the series through 5-2 in the third meeting. But Djurgården Hockey didn't bulge and came back to tie the series at two with a 3-2 win in Stockholm.
Thus far the teams had held their home ice and Frölunda Indians would continue to do so, winning the fifth game 6-2. But when against the ropes, Djurgården Hockey couldn't come back a third time despite home ice. In the sixth and final game of the series, Frölunda Indians ran away with another 6-2 win thus sealing their fifth championship title.
On Sunday, May 5th, the annual SHL Awards were held and the winners were as follows:
Goalkeeper Of The Year Joel Lassinantti, Luleå Hockey
Defenseman Of The Year Jesse Virtanen, Färjestad BK
Forward Of The Year Ryan Lasch, Frölunda Indians
Coach Of The Year Thomas Berglund, Luleå Hockey
Rookie Of The Year Emil Bemström, Djurgården Hockey
Most Valuable Player Jacob Josefson, Djurgården Hockey
Goal Of The Year Nils Höglander, Rögle BK
Save Of The Year Adam Werner, Färjestad BK
The awards were awarded based on the performances during the regular season 2018/2019.