As Färjestad and Luleå try to secure their spots at the top of the standings, the real playoff race happens at the bottom. With just 8 games remaining before the post season a new contender emerges from the bottom three to push for a playoff birth.
With the majority of teams playing just two games over the past week there wasn't much change in the standings. Both Färjestad and Luleå continue to be all but unbeatable as they currently sit tied atop the leaderboard with 82 points, 6 points ahead of both Djurgården and Frölunda. With 2 wins this week the Växjö Lakers regain a spot in the top six, moving in to 5th and knocking Skellefteå down in to 7th overall. There were no other changes in the standings as Rögle, Malmö, Brynäs and Linköping continue to sit 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th respectively. With little to no movement at the bottom of the playoff race, another teams success in February has given them a shot at a playoff birth.
Although our "top mover" this week stayed where they are in the standings, they made significant gains in an attempt to claim a playoff spot. With two games against teams they're chasing for a top 10 finish, Örebros success this week was all the more important. Starting off their week with a tight battle against Linköping, the teams exchanged goals in the 1st and finished the frame tied at 2. A blast from the top of the circle from Nick Ebert on the man advantage in the 2nd period would prove to be the game winner. An empty netter late in the game would secure their 4-2 victory. Their 2nd victory would be aided by a pair of quick goals in the 1st against Brynäs, capped off by an empty netter, they'd come away with the 3-1 win. With the 2 victories, Örebro has now strung together 4 straight wins and grabbed 5 out of six regulation victories in the month of February. At the start of the month, Örebro sat 13th overall in a relegation spot and 14 points out of a post season birth. However, with their success, they now sit just 6 points out of the top 10. With 8 games remaining they are more then capable of making the playoffs if their success continues.
Our game of the week came back on Thursday night in Skellefteå. In their fourth and final matchup of the season Skellefteå carried a 2-1 season series lead over Luleå in to this contest.
Despite struggling to get much traffic towards the net in the 1st frame, Luleå would take the lead with exactly 11 minutes elpased in the period. On just their second shot of the game, Robin Kovacs was able to beat Mantas Armalis with a nice wrist shot from the slot to give them the 1-0 lead. Skellefteå had chances of their own, but just as he has been all season, Joel Lassinantti was solid between the pipes and stood tall to keep the narrow lead intact heading in to the first intermission.
Skellefteå would really turn things on in the 2nd as they absolutely peppered Lassinantti with 18 shots in the frame, but to no avail. Luleå would reward the stellar play of their goaltender with a beautiful team effort resulting in the second goal of the game. Emil Larsson would start and finish off the tic-tac-toe passing play, with Isac Lundeström and Jesper Sellgren getting the first and second assists. Thanks, in no small part to the play of Lassinantti, the game would head to the final frame 2-0 in favour of the visitors.
Finally being rewarded in the 3rd period, Skellefteå found an answer to Lassinantti. Oscar Möller would take the nice feed out front from Joakim Lindström and a perfectly placed backhander found its way top corner to pull the game back within one. Unfortunately for them, that's as close as they would come as Luleå would hold on and come away with the 2-1 victory, aided by the 33 save performance of Joel Lassinantti.
There was a bit of a scary incident in the 3rd frame involving the Captain of Skellefteå Jimmie Ericsson and Luleå's Joonas Jalvanti. After a collision in the corner between the two players, the skate of Jalvanti came down on top of the heel of Ericsson, slicing his achilles tendon. Ericsson was sent to the hospital for emergency surgery, but will not be back for the rest of the season.
Top Line of the Week
Mantas Armalis, Skellefteå (2)
After a tough 7-1 loss against Frölunda last Saturday, Armalis bounced back this week. With a great 2-0 shutout performance against Malmö, including one of the top saves of the week, Armalis grabs his second top line of the week nomination.
Erik Gustafsson , Luleå (2)
Gustafsson lead the league this week in the plus/minus category finishing the week at +4. The defenseman was a big contributor in the victory against Skellefteå and Frölunda, including a goal aginst The Indians. He grabs his second top line appearence of the season.
Nick Ebert , Örebro (1)
The American defenseman has proved himself to be an offensive threat from the blue line all season long. He continued that trend this week with a blast from the top of the circle on the man advantage. The goal would prove to be the game winner against Linköping. For his efforts this week Ebert gets his first top line nomination.
Kris Versteeg , Växjö (1)
The newly acquired NHL veteran has proven to be a great pickup for the Lakers with 7 points in his first 5 SHL games. He registered a goal and 3 assists this week in the Lakers two games. In just his second week in the SHL Versteeg grabs his first top line honours.
Linus Sandin , Rögle (1)
Rögles hope of making the playoffs for the first time in 25 years were helped greatly by the effort of Sandin this week. Particularly in their game against Mora that saw Sandin score a hat trick and help his team earn a very important 3 points. Sandin makes his first appearence on the top line of the week.
Michael Lindqvist , Färjestad (2)
For the second time this season Lindqvist makes an appearence on the top line of the week. Although he was unable to ripple the mesh Lindqvist registered 5 assists in 2 games, including 4 in the matchup against Rögle.