SHL - monthly review, February 2018

SHL - monthly review, February 2018

13 Feb 2018 | Adrian J
 

The Olympic Games doesn’t mean an end to fantastic matches to watch, but it does means a short pause in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) season which give us a chance to reflect on the last month’s action.

 
 
 
 

The Olympic Games doesn’t mean an end to fantastic matches to watch, but it does means a short pause in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) season which give us a chance to reflect on the last month’s action.

As it was in a month ago, the SHL has sorted itself out into three different groups: the leader out front; the battle for automatic playoff places for teams in second down to tenth; and the relegation slugfest between the bottom four teams.

With only nine games of the regular season it’s all to play for. We can have a look at a few different teams, in different parts of the table to see what’s happening:

 

Second Place: Djurgården Hockey

Although Växjö Lakers lead the league by a whopping 14 points, Djurgården Hockey have started to pull away from their rivals with 6 points separating them from third place. They are back in the winning groove and the double wins away from home at Växjö will give them enormous confidence coming into the Playoffs. They not only have the league’s top goalkeeper in Swedish Adam Reideborn, but have their goal scoring talent is spread across the lines with six different players scoring in their 3-1 and 5-4 victories over the Lakers. A special mention here will go to Mikael Ahlen, their forward whom is more used to collecting Penalty Minutes than Goals. Whilst leading the team in Penalty Minutes with 42, the Swede has only four Goals this season – half of which were scored against Växjö, including the go-ahead goal in their last meeting on 8th February.

Third Place: Färjestad BK

Färjestad BK are also back on form after a dip around the Christmas period. They won four in a row before an overtime lost in the last game before the break. Whilst they have two players in the top 6 Total Points getters in Swedish Olympian Dick Axelsson and giant forward Johan Ryno, they also have the less well-known players who are working hard on each shift. One such person is 31-year-old Per Åslund. The Swede has played for 10 seasons and over 500 games in the SHL for the team from Karlstad. He may not be drafted in the NHL, but is a regular points getter, scoring in four of the team’s last seven games, including one goal against fifth placed, Frölunda Indians.

Seventh Place: Linköping HC

At this crucial time of the year it might also be worth looking at clubs who are struggling to find that elusive winning streak that will get them into automatic Playoff places. One such team is Linköping HC whose two wins in six matches are no doubt leading to sleepless nights in the management team! Their only win since 26th January was against bottom of the table, Karlskrona HK. Worryingly, even that 3-2 win was only sealed when Norwegian Olympian Ken Andre Olimb scored in the third period with 8:42 left on the clock. The team rely on their international firepower as Nick Sörensen is the only Swede in the top seven scorers on the team. They will need all four of their Olympians to come back uninjured and in goal scoring form if they are to have any success at the end of the season. They have to play four tough matches against the top three teams, including home and away matches against the Lakers before the Playoffs start.

13th Place: Örebro Hockey

On the subject of struggling teams, we might also consider the plight of Örebro Hockey who have not won at all since 18th January overtime against Linköping HC. They have slid from a comfortable 11th place down to 13th and into the dreaded relegation playoff. The team from the Närke region have gone for the time-honoured tactic of trying to buy their way out of trouble. In 31-year-old Swede, Anton Hedman, they have a hard hitting, low scoring forward, who has had all but two years of his career in Sweden, even though he was drafted by the Boston Bruins in 2005. The former Luleå HF player has got three games under his belt for his new team, but newly signed Canadian forward Jeremy Williams and defenceman American Nick Ebert have yet to play. At 34, Williams brings with him over 400 games experience from the AHL and a taste of the NHL with 31 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He has already played in Sweden for three years in the second division, Allsvenskan. The struggling club need him to produce at least as well as he did there where he had a 0.88 Points Per Game average (PPG). Ebert may only be 23, but was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in 2012, and has already played three seasons in the AHL. This is his first season outside North America but Örebro will feel they’ve got their money’s worth if he can continue the form he has in the Kontinental Hockey League with a 0.42 PPG prior to the move to Sweden.

The standings today from first to sixth are Växjö, Djurgården, Färjestad, Malmö Redhawks, Frölunda Indians and Skellfeteå AIK in the automatic playoff positions. Below them it is HV71, Linköping HC, Luleå HF and Brynäs IF in the wildcard playoffs. There is only 9 points between third and ninth so this picture could change dramatically before the end of the season. Then at the bottom with only 10 points between all four clubs we have from 11th to 14th Rögle BK, Mora IF, Örebro HK and Karlskrona HK. In just one month we’ll find out whether the Olympic break was the beginning of the end for some teams or springboard to a playoff success.


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