Antepenultimate, sort of


Only 5 of the requisite 7 games being played tonight. Not too much to report with JYP and Jokerit taking buggins’ turn to duff up Kerho and Ässät respectively, and SaiPa indeed coming away from Tampere empty handed. TPS, who seem hell-bent on helping their cousins in Lappeenranta every inch of the way, lost their ninth on the trot, this time at home to Ilves. The final fixture saw Pelicans win in Rauma; what is it with Lukko, don’t they know how to win at home? All of which leaves the table distinctly unmoved, with the only vague interest being Ilves closing HIFK to one point, the latter having a game in hand. HIFK play Kärpät tomorrow night.




According to a survey of SM-liiga players, the average salary this season for the professionals is €66436. Since some 87% of players responded to the survey, we can take that figure to be pretty reliable unless the missing 13% are all called Novak. That comes out at about €5500 per month, which strikes me as a very modest figure for the country’s top league of its number one sport. I presume that this represents runkosarja games only (I can’t see how it can be any different since no club can guarantee any more than 56 games and players are sure to get bonuses for winning their play-off games), so the latter part of the season will bump this up to some degree. Even so, whatever the final figure is is going to be far from extravagant. The median figure is reported as €44000, or less than €3700 per month. It’s not hard to see why the NHL is the ambition of so many players.

Three to go


Each team in SM-liiga has now played 53 games, that’s just three left of the main part of the season, runkosarja. The latest pairings saw Kärpät defeat Pelicans, Hannu Aravirta justifiably getting hot under the collar at some of the refereeing decisions, and Blues eventually succumbing in Tampere to Ilves, despite twice leading the game. These two results guarantee that we will win runkosarja. Third place Jokerit and their tail-chasers, Tappara, both had victories against lowly opposition, and the sixth place encumbents, JYP, brought two points home from Turku. HIFK kept their slight chances of making sixth place alive with a win in Rauma, but making up 4 points in only 3 games looks too much for them. SaiPa’s victory leaves them just 2 points behind TPS in the fight for the last play off spot, but they’re likely to come away empty handed from tonight’s game against Tappara, and another season of so-near-yet-so-far looms for them.

A couple of comments otherwise about the league table: firstly, Blues are disgustingly higher up the table than is their habit of being expensive under-achievers, and Kerho are at the opposite end compared to their custom. Apart from these its pretty much the same as almost every other season. Open league, anyone?

Time for a little idle speculation about the first round of the play offs. This is a best of three between places 7-10, seventh playing tenth and the higher placed team getting the home advantage in the final game, if it’s needed. So, who’s going to occupy them? Well, I’m going for those that are already there, but whether the order does change or not, I’ll be putting my money on 7th and 8th places to progress to the play offs proper.

Taking the hint


Looks more like a message for me… Anyways, the Tampere express finally hit the buffers last night, in Kuopio of all places. Tappara eventually losing in extra time a game they led three times. Back in Finland’s Manchester, Ilves and IFK got the handbags out for a goalless draw. Ilves won on penalties though the visitors, unsurprisingly, won on penalty box visits. Hard luck story of the night goes to SaiPa, who led in Espoo for more than three-quarters of an hour, then lost two goals in just over a minute no thanks to penalties. Jokerit overcame Kerho, the latter almost fighting back from the shock of being three down in under seven and a half minutes. JYP cemented themselves further into sixth place with a win in Rauma, though SM-liiga are currently trying to make it look a lot closer by showing the table from last Saturday. Presumably they’ll get the technical gremlins sorted out before the season’s over. In Raksila we clocked TPS for six, Janne Pesonen at last breaking Mikko Leinonen’s club record for goals in a season.

A message from muuk


Our esteemed Kärpät correspondent sent this missive, detailing the games played on Tuesday. Or yesterday, if you prefer. Tappara’s good form is leading to much merriment in the bars and pubs after their victories (Plevna on Saturday night was a festival of ill-advised blue and orange shirts), and it seems like people in Oulu are starting to niotice. Anyway, here’s what muuk has to say:

Tappara’s onward march continues with a thorough demolition of the pyjama men. One wonders what the celebrations last night in Tampere were like. We got back to winning ways, putting six past the other half of Tampere, Ondrej Kratena returning from injury with a hat trick. We seem to have ridden our injuries and the Karalahti and consequent debacle well this season, and last night’s squad was enormously powerful. Four solid lines with Tomi Mustonen (lost his place in the second line to Kratena) as the spare part attacker, and no place at all for any of the youngsters. Sure sign that the play-offs aren’t too far away.

Elsewhere, JYP got a badly needed win in Helsinki in the fight for sixth place against IFK, and SaiPa added to Kerho’s season of woes in Lappeenranta. Probably too late for SaiPa, particularly as the teams they’re chasing, Lukko and TPS, both secured points. 

All the usual info is in the usual place.

Glen Hanlon to replace Doug Shedden at Jokerit


Sorry for the hiatus, it was partly caused by the Euro hockey tour but I never got round to posting a round-up of that. Finland did alright, and if it wasn’t for the amazing Semen Varmalov of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, they might even have won the tournament. 19-year-old Varmalov saved 41 of 41 shots in Russia’s 5-0 win over Finland, a result that was preceded by a hammering of the Czechs in Raipe Helminen’s final game and followed by a 2-1 win over Sweden.

This was the best performance of the season from Team Finland, who look to be a much more solid team who just need to hone their power plays a little. We’ll see how things go in Canada, which will be coach Shedden’s final act in Finnish hockey. It sounds like Shedden is expecting his career to progress in the near future:

Jokerit were attempting to reach a deal with Shedden until the last minute, but their paths diverged.
Shedden will be heading next season to Switzerland, as he would not agree to the so-called “NHL clause” in his contract, which states that any bonds between club and coach could not be broken even if the most attractive of job offers came in from the NHL.
Right now Doug Shedden is dividing his time between Jokerit and the duties of head coach for the Finnish national side at the upcoming World Championships in Canada. A good performance there by the Finns might well open some NHL doors to their coach.

These are the results from the yesterday’s games:

HIFK – Ässät 4-3

Ilves – KalPa 2-5

JYP – Blues 1-3

Kärpät – HPK 9-0

Lukko – SaiPa 4-1

Pelicans – Tappara 2-7

TPS – Jokerit 1-4

Here’s the SM Liiga table, which has a familiar look to it. Tappara seam to be the form team:

1. Kärpät 48 107
2. Blues 48 95
3. Jokerit 47 91
4. Tappara 48 88
5. Pelicans 49 87
6. JYP 48 80
7. HIFK 48 78
8. Ilves 48 77
9. Lukko 48 63
10. TPS 48 61
11. SaiPa 48 54
12. HPK 49 50
13. KalPa 48 43
14. Ässät 49 37

Highlights of the latest games are available in the usual place.

Loppi disfigured!


Albertan Mike Bishai sealed the deal in the last of the fratricide matchups between Ilves and Tappara this weekend to bring his team’s record to 2-4 against the city rivals this season. Ilves has good chances to finish in the leading pack, if Jyp keep on their slow slide down the ranks. A first round serie against either Tappara (not too likely) or the Lahti overachievers is all this absent blogger needs to revive his interest in the SM-Liiga, because I shall admit, lately, my attention has been on other matters. Against all odds, 15 minutes from the start of their Super Sunday matchup against the Rangers, the Montreal Canadiens sit 3 points behind the Heatleyless Alfredsson-challenged dysfunctional goaltended Ottawa Senators.

So, before I tune in to CJAD for the live radio feed, one observation. What happened to Matias Loppi? For most of the season he has been in and out of the top three scorers of the league, earning the privilege to have his face more often than not on the home page of Sm-Liiga’s website. Something must have happened lately for his publicist to pull the plug on his face being used as poster boy for the Pelicans’ remarkable season. I am putting the question out there in the open: What happened to his face? Why is there a blue dummy where his portrait should be? Ok, you can still see the old pic on his player’s page, but I smell something fishy. Has Loppi lately met with some Chris Simon wannabe from KalPa? Has he signed an exclusive agreement with Palmolive that puts a steep price tag on daily usage of his good looks? Has he gone down the self-mutilation way and tried to imitate the chap from Hellraiser? Possible, it is trendy apparently! If you didn’t know… you learned it here!

Here are the scores from Saturday:

Blues – Kärpät 1-2 JA

Ilves – Tappara 2-1

Lukko – Ässät 2-3

Pelicans – SaiPa 6-1