First off, I'd like to say that I hate typing in HTML, just like Bob, but until Blogger figures out they have a problem with paragraphs evaporating, it seems this is the only way to do business without redoing it afterwards. Get on the stick, people!
Anyway, I'm here a day or 2 early because almost all of our leagues have made it into their finals! I'm going to start with the exceptions, and we lead that off with the UK's Elite League. The first round is a soccer like 2 game, best goals series. The winners were: league champ Sheffield with a resounding 6-1 win in game one against Dundee and a 4-2 loss in the second; Nottingham, who actually played both games, winning 5-4 and 3-0 over Braehead; Belfast, tying Coventry 2-2 in the opener and winning 2-1 in game 2; and Cardiff, who swept Hull 2-1 and 6-3. Saturday will be the second round opener, with Sheffield playing Nottingham and Cardiff vs Belfast.
In Germany's DEL, Eisbaren Berlin finished off ERC Ingolstadt 4-1 for a 3 to 1 series win. They move to the semis against DEG Metro Stars, who got blasted in game one and then swept the next 3 over Alder Mannheim. Grizzly Adams Wolfsburg swept Cologne 4-1, 5-2, and 4-2 to advance to the semis against Kreffeld, who downed Hannover 5-1 in game 5 of their series.
In Finland's S-M Liiga, JYP has become yet another favorite in trouble, as they now trail their semifinal series against the Blues 2 to 0 after 3-1 and 4-3 losses. The series between HIFK and Lukka is tied at a game apiece.
In the KHL, Lokomotiv, looking dead at 3 to 0 down to Atlant, have recovered with 4-2 and 3-2 wins, the second a game that Alexander Galimov tied with just 5 seconds remaining, and Ivan Tkachenko won with just under ten minutes gone in OT. Metallurg staved off one match point against Salavat Yulaev with a 4-3 win just hours ago, keeping them alive at 4-3 down to the boys from Ufa.
We start the leagues in their finals with France's Ligue Magnus, Where Rouen won their opener with Strasbourg 5-1 with two goals by semis hero Carl Mallette, and game 2 5-3 behind Marc-Andre Thinel's 2 goals and 2 assists.
Kloten finished off SC Bern in the Swiss National League A semis with a 1-0 win to take the series 4-3. They then had to face the team they faded to finish just behind in the regular season, Davos. Davos, in another game just recently completed, downed Kloten 5-2 in game one.
Joe Jensen and Matt Kelley each scored twice to lead Val Pusteria's Wolves to a 7-2 rout of Asiago and a 3-2 finals lead in Italy's Serie A. The Wolves had taken the first 2 games 4-1 and 5-3, while Asiago had rallied for 4-3 OT and 6-3 wins to tie the series before yesterday's debacle.
In the Czech Extraliga, Ocelari Trinec rallied from 3 to 1 down to take 6-1, 5-3, and 5-2 wins and advance over Slavia Praha to the finals against Vitkovice Steel. That final series starts Monday.
In the Slovak version, Poprad eliminated Banska Bystrika 6-4 in game 7, and for their efforts get to face league champ Kosice in the finals. Kosice took 3-1 in game one; the second game was scoreless until the third period, when Kosice broke loose for 3 goals in a 49-second span and won 3-0.
In Austria's Erste Bank Liga, Red Bull Salzburg stopped the Vienna Capitals 4-1 in game seven to advance to the finals against KAC. Game one saw Tyler Schofield and Mike Craig score 2 apiece as Klagenfurt hung on for a 6-5 win over the Red Bulls.
Denmark's finals between Blue Fox Herning and Fredrikshaven's White Hawks started today; Herning took a 1-0 win in a game just finished.
Sparta Sarpsborg and runner up Stavenger Oilers started their best of seven finals in Norway's GET- Ligaen, with Henrik Malmstrom netting a goal and 3 assists as Sarpsborg raced to a 4-0 1st period lead en route to a 6-1 triumph. Stavenger had earned their way in with a 3-2 win over Lorenskog in game six of their semi.
Farjestad and Skelleftea will start the Eliteserien finals in Sweden Tuesday. Farjestad swept AIK in the semis, while Skelleftea came back from a game one loss to rout Lulea, 2-1 OT, 2-1 OT again, 2-0, and 4-3.
Next week, we'll have some new champions, and a look at the NHL winners.