It's time, say I, for my monthly update on the fun world of European hockey. Some of the league's are nearing their season's ends; I'll be going down the list in order of those finishes today. Records will combine OT games into the total wins and losses, except in Sweden and Finland where they actually have ties.
Austria's Erste Bank league will be done with their regular season on the 11th, and KAC Klagenfurt (35-20) still leads the pack by 5 now over Red Bull Salsburg, with the Vienna Caps 6 out and my VSV squad in 4th, 12 back.
Italy's Serie A closes the day after Valentine's while Berlusconi recovers; Valpusteria's (26-11) lead over Renon has slipped to 5. This is a league with 8 playoff teams out of 9 total, and it looks like Alleghe (9-28) will be the odd man out.
The next four all end their regular season on the 20th. First, the Czech Extraliga, where we had 5 teams within 7 points; now, we see the Steelers (Ocelari) Trinec (28-19) and the White Tigers (Bili Tygri) of Liberec ( 29-18) tied at 87 points apiece, with third place Vitkovice Steel having dropped 7 points off after a rough January which included back-to-back 6-1 losses against Trinec and former contender HC Mountfield. KHL kandidate Karlovy Vary is among 4 teams within three of each other fighting for the last 3 playoff spots.
The Slovak Extraliga shows Kosice (42-9) continuing to pound the league, leading another failed KHLer, Poprad, by 18 points. The Extraliga also has an under-20 year-olds team (Orange 20) that plays a reduced schedule- and a good thing, that. The young'uns are 2-23, and are being pummelled to the tune of 37-114 (And if you think that's bad, we still have China Dragon coming up).
Speaking of which, it's time to detour to the Asia league, where the Oji Eagles are trying to hold off the hard-charging Nippon Paper Cranes. The Eagles (25-9) lead the origami squad by 4 points with only a slate of games to be played on the 19th and 20th left. The Dragons have finished their season of torture, closing January with 9-1, 9-3, and 8-2 losses to High1, 11-0, 13-2, and 12-0 losses to the league leaders, and 9-0, 6-2, and 8-2 losses to the Cranes. All of which has them finishing 0-36 (with two losses in OT) and being outscored 46-248, 85-12 with 3 goose eggs in those last 9. I'd pay good Yuan to see them play Orange 20, wouldn't you?
The last of the February 20th finishers is the Russian KHL. In the west, Lokomotiv has pretty much locked up the #1 seed. My boys from Yaroslavl (32-18) have widened their point lead to 14 over both division rival Atlant and fellow division leader UHC Moscow Dynamo. 4 of the remaining six playoff spots have been clinched by Atlant, SKA St. Pete, Severstal Cherepovets, and a resurgent Spartak team who went 10-2 in January. Of the 4 remaining teams, 3 of them (Dinamo Riga, Torpedo, and Dinamo Minsk) are within 6 points in the fight for the last two spots. In the East, Avangard Omsk (38-12) leads the conference and their division by 2 over Salavat Yulaev Ufa, with fellow division leader Ak Bars Kazan 8 back and Metallurg Magnitogorsk 11 out- all four of them better than any of the west teams besides Lokomotiv. All the playoff spots have been clinched in the east; Yugra (the new kids on the block), Sibir, Barys Astana, and Neftekhimik have the other 4 slots.
Denmark's AL Bank Ligaen ends the next day, and it can't be soon enough for SonderjyskE. The boys from Vojens in south Jutland (27-7) have pissed away their entire 14 point lead from two months ago, and are now tied with Blue Fox Herning (27-8) with 81 points, 19 better than anyone else. Fortunately, their season series is over, and SonderjyskE took 4 of 6 from Herning.
In Switzerland, HC Kloten's Flyers (35-10) continue to lead HC Davos 103-99, with last year's champs from Bern still drifting along in 4th. They wrap up on the 22nd.
In France's Ligue Magnus, it's pretty much status quo ante, with Rouen's Dragons (17-4) leading the Dukes of Angers and the Gothics of Amiens by 4 and the Raptors of Gap by 5. They finish on the 26th.
The GET-Ligaen of Norway closes out on the 27th; Sparta Sarpsborg (32-7) have 93 points, increasing their lead to 12 over last year's runner-up Stavenger Oilers and 16 on defending champ Valerenga.
Sweden's Elitserien, which ends March 5th, has the unusual novelty of having the top 4 teams pick which of teams 5-8 they want to play in the first playoff round. HV71 (28-17-12) has pulled ahead of Skelleftea by 3 points, with Farjestad 5 back.
Also odd is the set-up for Finland's S-M Liiga (ending March 9th). The top 6 teams essentially get a bye while 7-10 play each other to see who gets the last two spots. Here we see JYP Jyvaskyla (33-10-4) has doubled its lead to 9 over Assat. With so much time left, its impossible to guess how the playoffs will shake out other than that defending champ TPS Turku (9-27-11) won't be in it.
The Deutsche Eishockey Liga finishes on the 13th of March; Grizzly Adams Wolfsburg (25-16) continue to lead, by 5 over last year's regular season champ (and playoff flop) Eisbarren Berlin. DEG has hit hard times and dropped back from the runner-up slot.
The UK's EIHL finishes last of all, on the 20th of March. As I said last time, the good teams in this league are really good and the bad ones... well, you know. The current darlings of this hard fought group are the Cardiff Devils (31-7), currently holding a 3 point margin over Sheffield, who's won 9 of 10. These two have basically been feasting off the league's dregs, including Sheffield's 18-1 cakewalk oven Edinburgh last month.
While I'm at it, here's the NHFFL's commisioner's cup standings after the Pro Bowl. The State Ducks lead with 138 points, and Aaron Rodgers yet to play in the Super Bowl. Next comes the Elks, with 133 and Ben Rothlesburger and his defense. T-Cubs are 3rd with 99 and Steelers Rashard Mendenhall and Mike Wallace and GB's Greg Jennings; SVA 89 with Packers Mason Crosby and Brandon Jackson; the Angels with 84 and Packers john Kuhn and Donald Driver; The Sunset rangers, also at 84, with nobody left; The Beagles with 81 and Hines Ward; Buzz with 78 and the Green Bay D; and with no one in the Super Bowl, the KCAs and Rhinos at 61, the Clock BBQs with 59, and the B2s at 40.