HV 71 is once again leading the Elitserien but its arch rival Färjestad is just over its shoulder.
By Chipp Reid
HV 71 is once again on the rampage in the Elitserien.
The Blue Bulls have racked up 11 wins in their first 15 games this season, and sit in first place, three points ahead of defending league champions Färjestad. Even more impressive than the record is the way HV 71 has scored.
The Jönköping team has scored 64 goals in those 15 games. Team captain Johan Davidsson, who spurned a chance to return to the NHL over the summer, leads the league in scoring with 26 points off 6 goals and 20 assists. Linemates David Petrasaek and Jukka Voultainen are second and third in scoring. Petrasaek has 24 points – 10 goals, 14 assists – while Voultinainen has 19 points from 10 goals and 9 assists.
It’s nothing new for HV 71. The Blue Bulls have piled up leads and goals at the start of each of the last seven season, only to come up empty when the playoffs begin. HV 71 has just two titles since 2000 despite having the most regular season wins and points since the new millennium of any team in the league. And, its nemesis is sitting in second place.
Färjestad, with nine wins and a tie in its first 15 games, is in the same position it was last year when it stormed past HV 71 to win the regular season and overall championships. The Wolfpack continue to work with a mix of younger players and veterans, although it no longer has former NHL star Jörgen Jönsson. The New York Islanders and Wolfpack captain retired after leading Färjestad to the title last season. The Wolfpack found a replacement for Jönsson in Severin Blindenbacher, a Swiss national team player the NHL Phoenix Coyotes drafted.
So far, however, it’s Marcus Johansson that is leading the way in scoring for FBK. The 19-year-old left wing, a first-round pick of the Washington Capitals, has 10 points from 6 goals and 4 assists. Blindenbacher has just three points.
Scoring has been the Woldpack’s Achilles heel so far this season. Färjestad pulled level in goals allowed and goals scored Oct. 29 after shutting out third-place Skellefteå 4-0 at the Kraft Arena in Skellefteå. Canadian player Kent McDonnell had a goal and an assist to lead the Wolfpack to the win.
The victory gave FBK a one-point lead over Skellefteå, which sits in third place, five points ahead of fourth-place Luleå. Linköping is fifth with 22 points while Brynäs, Djurgården and Frölunda round out the top eight with 20 points each.
In what could be the biggest shock of the early season, once-mighty Modo is in last place with just 10 points. The Örnsköldsvik power house lost nine players to retirement or the NHL draft last year and has just three players with more than four years experience in the Elitserien.
Modo’s latest loss came Oct. 29 when it traveled to the Scandinavium in Göteborg only to loss 4-2 to Frölunda. Not only is Modo in dead last, but the home of Peter Forsberg is also nine points out of the relegation playoff spot.
Joining Modo in early season woes is Timrå. After several seasons as a top-four finisher, the bottom seemingly fell out for TBK, which brought in 13 new players at the start of the season. Timrå has just 11 points from 15 points.
The entire Elitserien was in action the weekend of Oct. 31-Nov. 1.