As they say in Sweden, “once is nothing, two times is a habit.” But to win eight out of 16 post-season games, including all four in the final series, in overtime is nothing short of spectacular. HV71, from Jonkoping, clinched the Swedish title by beating Djurgarden in six games. Only one game was settled in regulation time.
The championship was the club’s second in three years – HV71 has made it to the final three straight years now – and third in the past six years.
The post-season MVP was HV71’s captain, former NHLer Johan Davidsson. He was tied for the lead in post-season scoring with linemate Jukka Voutilainen. Adam Almquist, a 19-year-old defenseman who collected 11 points in 16 games, tied for the lead in defensemen scoring with teammates Pasi Puistola and David Petrasek.
After Davidsson received the league championship Le Mat Trophy from league CEO Peter Gudmundsson, he simply passed it over to defensemen Per Gustafsson and Petrasek. Gustafsson, who’s been on all four HV71 championship teams (1995, 2004, 2008 and 2010), didn’t play in the post-season due to an injury and announced his retirement after the season.
FINNISH CINDERELLA STORY
TPS Turku coach Kai Suikkanen said after the last game the team had been happy to finish sixth in the regular season and to actually make the playoffs. It was the first time since 2004 the club had qualified without having to play in the wild card qualification round.
And they got a little happier after the first round when they downed Rauma Lukko in four straight games, then ousted regular season winners JYP in six.
In the final series against Hämeenlinna HPK, TPS took a 3-0 series lead, dropped a game at home, but finished the job on the road, becoming the lowest-seeded champion in league history.
Suikkanen, 50, has quickly ascended to the top of Finnish hockey. He took a coaching job in the Finnish Mestis, one tier below the SM-liiga, four years ago and won the title. In his first full season as an SM-liiga coach, he won the championship.
“I’m really hungry to go forward and to get to work with such fine players as we had,” Suikkanen said. “I hope this isn’t the end of my coaching career. I assume I am at the beginning of my career.”
The older brother of the Detroit Red Wings’ Valtteri Filppula, Ilari, was named the playoff MVP. He led his team in scoring with 14 points in 15 games, tying for second in the post-season. TPS defenseman Lee Sweatt – who said he’s signed a contract with the Vancouver Canucks – led the league in goal scoring, with seven in 15 games.
TO THE WORLDS
The Finnish SM-liiga was the last European league to come to the end of 2009-10, so the club hockey season is over. There’s still the annual World Championship, played in Cologne and Mannheim, Germany, which starts the first week of May.
The top European nations play the last leg of the Euro Hockey Tour (EHT), an unofficial European Championship tournament, in Stockholm, Sweden May 1-2.
The first games were played Thursday and both went to a penalty shootout. Finland beat Russia 5-4, with 18-year-old Mikael Granlund getting the winner in his first men’s national team game. He has already played in the world juniors and the under-18 tournament in Minsk this season.
Team Finland coach Jukka Jalonen also picked defenseman Sami Vatanen, another 18-year-old, and Teemu Hartikainen, 19, to his EHT team. Whether they will make the World Championship team remains to be seen.
The Czech Republic beat Team Sweden 2-1 after a shootout. Jakub Klepis beat Jacob Markstrom in the Swedish goal to win the game for the Czechs.
Sweden, like Finland, has several young players on its EHT squad with Markstrom, Victor Hedman, David Rundblad, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson – who had the attention of Kevin Lowe and Steve Tambellini Thursday – still in the battle for a spot on at the worlds. Hedman scored his first Team Sweden goal to tie the game, assisted by Paajarvi-Svensson.
The oldest player on Team Sweden is Michael Nylander, 37, who finished his season with Helsinki Jokerit in the Finnish SM-liiga. Nylander collected seven points in 14 regular season games and three in the two post-season games the team played. Jokerit was ousted from the post-season in the wild card round.
How’s this for going out in style? Hannover Scorpions coach and former Team Germany coach Hans Zach, 61, announced early this year that he’d retire after the season. But before going, he led his team to fourth in the regular season and then to the club’s first German championship when the Scorpions swept the eighth-seeded Augsberger Panthers in the final.
Zach was also the first German coach behind a championship team bench since Dusseldorf won the German Bundesliga three consecutive years between 1991 and 1993. The coach of those teams was…Hans Zach.
Eye on Europe will be featured on THN.com every Friday throughout the season. Risto Pakarinen is a Finnish freelance writer, based in Stockholm, Sweden who also writes for NHL.com and IIHF.com. When not writing about European hockey on THN, he’s probably writing about hockey at ristopakarinen.com/hockey as Puckarinen.
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