The cold weather that swept over Scandinavia this week is the perfect
climate for looking at the Elitserien scoring race. It has never been
colder, with no one at the top averaging over a point per game.
The players who were supposed to score have either had rough seasons or have
been injured. That is the main reason that players such as veterans Ulf
Söderström of Färjestad and Mikael Wahlberg of MoDo is forming the top duo
in league scoring. Granted, they are good playmakers, but the scoring race
this season looks very pale compared to last season when Huselius was
scoring in every rink in Sweden, and Jörgen Jönsson and Mikael Renberg, now
with the Toronto Maple Leafs, battled to catch up with him.
Jörgen Jönsson, a team mate with Ulf Söderström in Färjestad, had a slow
start but is coming to life as he has now scored 28 points in 32 games. He
should be over a point per game when the season’s over. Henrik Zetterberg,
perhaps the players that most anticipated would take over the torch passed
on by Huselius has been living in a mightmare offensively in Timrå. Zetter
has scored only three goals and 14 assists in 31 games, but it seems nobody
in hockey is disappointed with his contribution. It is claimed that he has
taken a more defensive role this season, and because his team is struggling
he doesn’t get a lot of opportunities to score either. Zetterberg has had a
lot of success offensively internationally with Team Sweden – he even scored
four times in a game against the pesky Finnish team in the Sweden Hockey
Ga Read more»
The Elitserien is at its halfway mark and three clubs have taken possession
of the top three spots, creating a gap to the fourth place in the league.
Perennial powerhouses Djurgården and Färjestad are hovering around the top
spot, as usual. They are joined by HV71, who made a splash in the transfer
market this past summer when they signed players like Finnnish forward Kalle
Sahlstedt and Johan Davidsson, who returns to the club after failing to
establish himself in the NHL.
Another big factor in HV71’s rise to the top has been young goaltender
Stefan Liv who is boasting a 2.17 goals against average and an impressive
92.1 save percentage. Liv, who is drafted by the Red Wings, has also starred
for the Swedish national team and could be named to the olympic team later
this month. He would suit up as the number three goalie in a ”see and
learn”-role behind Edmonton’s Tommy Salo and Pittsburgh’s Johan Hedberg.
Liv, who has grown up watching Dominik Hasek carry teams on his back, looks
like he has been influenced by the Czech star but plays a more conventional
Another revelation for the team has been norwegian forward Per-Åge Skröder
who was a fringe player in the Elitserien until he joined HV71. He is
leading the team with 21 points in 25 games.
Back-to-back champions Djurgården is again near the top of the league,
despite losing a dozen players over the summer, which usually means that the
new players with the team are doing quite well. Mikael Håkansson, who played
last year with the St.John’s Ma Read more»
The European hockey leagues are anything but conservative. Many changes have
been made to the game over the last couple of years and several has panned
out very well. Granted, there has been ill-advised changes such as the
ridiculous helmet-rule, which states that a player must go for a line change
immediately after losing his helmet. If he doesn’t he will get a minor
penalty for delay of game.
Two changes that has helped to speed up the game has been the removal of the
red line offside and the new face-off rule which reduces the length of
breaks in play substantially. If the NHL are truly serious about opening up
and speeding up the game they should consider making these exact changes.
The traditionalists will probably be against the removal of the two line
offside, but it has done a lot to open up the game in Europe which has been
plagued by the trap even more than the National Hockey League. The trap
originated in Europe and has since been adopted by North American coaches as
it is a good way of giving a team with so called limited talent a chance to
win. But, it is boring to watch, and as much as those in love with the game
or employed by the game hate to admit it, the growth of hockey will be
determined by how entertaining it is to watch. Not many fans will turn away
from the game even if teams continue to practice the trap, but it will
certainly be harder to recruit new fans as long as the “chip it off the
glass”-mentality is a central part of a coach’s way of thinking.
At first, the ever defensive Swedish nation Read more»