Scoring Race Tundra in Sweden

by Peter Westermark
on

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»

Three’s Company in the SEL

by Peter Westermark
on

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
style.

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»

Thoughts on the European Game

by Peter Westermark
on

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»

Sweden names WJC squad

by Peter Westermark
on
Team Sweden named the team that will compete for the finest honours in junior hockey this week and, unlike last year, a fifth place finish will be satifactory for a squad that lacks star quality and quality 1981-born players. Instead, the tournament that will take place in Moscow, Russia, could be seen as a learning experience for a number of budding stars born in 1982.

There were few surprises in the squad, one mild one is that highly touted power forward Jens Karlsson will be left home as a ”non travelling reserve.” Karlsson was considered a possible top ten overall pick in the 2001 Draft at the start of the season, but his stock may be falling as he has only seen spot duty with Frölunda in the Elitserien. Instead, his younger teammate Fredrik Sjöström has not only skated past Karlsson on the Frölunda depth chart, but also on the Team Sweden depth chart. Sjöström, a winger born in May 1983, is the youngest player on the Swedish entry and he has recorded five points in 26 Elitserien games, which can be compared to zero points in nine games for Karlsson.

Read more»

Young quintet earns chance with Tre Kronor

by Peter Westermark
on
Team Sweden General Manager Anders Hedberg left a few big names off the roster when he named the team that will compete in the Baltica Brewery Cup that is taking place in Russia starting december 17th.

Stars like goaltender Mikael Tellqvist and forwards Jörgen Jönsson and Mikael Renberg will be allowed to start celebrating christmas early as the Team Sweden officials want a long look at five 1980-born rising stars.

That group starts with 20-year-old HV71 goaltender Stefan Liv, a candidate for rookie of the year in Sweden. Liv, along with Johan Asplund in Brynäs, are the youngest number one goaltenders in the Elitserien. The other goalie making the trek to Russia is 25-year-old Andreas Hadelöv from Malmö, a product of the highly-regarded youth hockey system in Kiruna which has produced goalies such as Peter ”Pekka” Lindmark in the past.

Mathias Weinhandl will make his Tre Kronor debut in Moscow. The MoDo winger´s career suffered a major setback last season when he was high-sticked in the eye by Czech bad boy Michal Travnicek during a game with the Swedish National Junior Team. It was not clear immediately after the accident if he could return to hockey as his right eye was badly injured. Vision in the eye has now stabilized at around 10% and it is not known how much it will improve, if at all.

Read more»

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