The SEL regular season came to a close Tuesday in dramatic fashion. As mentioned in my post from the weekend speculating about the possibility of Mika Zibanejad returning to North America; his team had matters in their own hands today.
Unfortunately a Djurgården loss combined with a late equalizing goal for Linköping, earning them a point (eventually going on to lose a shootout in what probably was the least dramatic overtime/SO of all time since the standings were already set) bumping DIF to 11th in the SEL table, joining the terrible Timrå in the relegation playoffs.
Mika, Freddy Claesson and Djurgården will now face the aforementioned Timrå along with four teams from SEL-2 (Örebro, Leksand, Karlskoga and another team yet to be determined) in a home-and-home with the top two earning SEL spots for the next season. The 10th game will be played April 6th, after that all signs point towards Mika hopping on a plane from beautiful Sweden to Ottawa, and perhaps a quick visit to Bingo despite his countryman André Petersson’s advice to stay away.
Zibanejad has been struggling to string good games together, and even though it has been a terrible year for Djurgården, he was expected to be a key guy on the team after such a strong start to his SEL career. Whether expectations were too high is open to discussion, his 13 (5+8) points in 26 games doesn’t look all that bad in a low scoring league, but the effort level on a nightly basis hasn't quite been as strong as his rookie season fresh out of juniors. Perhaps there’s no reason to be too hard on a young guy playing his first full season as a senior on an underperforming team. Hopefully he can now play a key role in keeping his club in the SEL. These games will be a good experience for him, filled to the max with pressure and anxiety. Especially in Djurgården's case, as they go into this as heavy favourites.
In what has been a more successful story, both from a team and player perspective, Jakob Silfverberg’s Brynäs are going to the playoffs. They will face 5th seed Frölunda, starting Sunday.
Silfverberg, as you might have heard, has had a terrific year, finishing second in SEL scoring, sniping 24 goals while adding 30 assists in 49 games as an integral cog for the league’s most efficient power-play. In a year that started slowly, Silfverberg has since produced with an impressive consistency. Following a second minor shoulder injury (said to be unrelated to each other) The Silfver Surfer finished the season with 29 points in his last 20 games, including a 15-game point streak entering the playoffs.
Once Jacob's playoffs are over, you can bet on him being named to the Swedish roster for the World Championships (coincidentally being hosted by Finland and Sweden this year).
Speaking of Djurgården players, lesser known Senators prospect Fredrik Claesson has really had a breakout season as a steady defensive defenseman. Of the very few bright spots on the team, the play of him and draft eligible forward Pontus Åberg have been two. Claesson is not flashy, and definitely nowhere close to the NHL, but he hits the people, and blocks the shots.
The forgotten Swedish prospect, Marcus Sörensen, ended the SEL-2 regular season (playing with Borås, on loan from Skellefteå) with some better games down the stretch, and will now play in the SEL-2 relegation playoffs. The Anders Forsberg sleeper pick, has struggled with injuries after being loaned to SEL-2, and hasn’t really been the sensational diamond in the rough many were hoping for; 8+9 in 27GP for Sörensen, who should be tearing it up against weaker competition in the SEL-2 relegation games.
Look for further updates here and on Twitter (@steffeG) as the playoffs/relegation games get under way shortly.
*Footnote: I was barred from titling this "How Swede It Is", "Capital Gains" or "Swede Sensation" due to copyright claims by TSN.ca and NHL.com.