There's a lot happening in the various leagues around Europe right now, so I'll just try and provide a quick summary.
Kontinental Hockey League (Russia/Latvia)
The KHL are in their conference semifinals, with most of the top teams making it to the second round, save UHC Dynamo Moscow, who fell in six games to Dinamo Riga.
West Semifinal: (1) Lokomotiv Yaroslavl leads (7) Dinamo Riga 2 games to 1
Game 4 goes today, after Riga dropped their first game of the playoffs on home ice 8-4 on Saturday. Riga has a goaltending decision to make, as Yaroslavl chased Mikael Tellqvist in the last game, and Chris Holt had helped the team defeat Moscow in the first round. Lokomotiv defenseman Karl Rachunek has an incredible seven goals so far in ten playoff games and is a +12 playing over 23 minutes a night.
West Semifinal: (3) SKA St. Petersburg leads (4) Atlant Moscow Oblast 2 games to 1
It's been a bit more of a defensive battle betweeen these teams, as SKA goalie Jakub Stepanek posted a shutout to reclaim home ice advantage for the high priced St. Petersburg team. The defensive style generally suits Atlant just fine, but players like Fedor Fedorov and Jan Bulis have failed to provide the goals in this game to compliment Konstantin Barulin's strong goaltending. Despite the presence of higher profile players from the NHL, SKA continues to be lead offensively by Matthias Weinhandl, who has eight points in seven games. Game 4 goes today.
East Semifinal: (4) Metallurg Magnitogorsk leads (1) Avangard Omsk 2 games to 1
The East is full of high quality matchups right now, arguably as good as what the finals would hold. Denis Platonov had a hat trick in Game 1 to lead Metallurg to a 4-2 victory, while Juhamatti Aaltonen scored the OT winner in Game 2 to give Magnitogorsk a 2-0 lead heading home. But on Sunday, Avangard responded with a big 6-3 win on the road to make it a series again. It hasn't been an easy playoffs for the Continental Cup winning Omsk team, being pushed to seven games in the first round and now having to come back from a 2-0 deficit in round 2. The series resumes on Tuesday.
East Semifinal: (3) Salavat Yulaev Ufa leads (2) Ak Bars Kazan 3 games to 0
It doesn't look good for a three-peat in Kazan, as the high powered offensive machine from Ufa have found ways to win three tight games, including two in overtime. Vladamir Antipov scored the OT winner in Game 1, and Oleg Saprykin scored the winner yesterday in Game 3. Erik Ersberg has outduelled Petri Vehanen in goal so far, meaing Ufa can complete the sweep on Tuesday at home.
Play-ins: (10) Ilves Tampere defeats (7) HPK Hameenlinna 2 games to 0
Marko Anttila had two goals and an assist in the first game, a 5-3 victory for Ilves on the road, and then Toni Rajala and Matias Sontu scored twice in a 5-2 win at home to set up a first round matchup with first place JYP.
Play-in: (8) Kärpät Oulu and (9) Blues (Espoo) tied 1 game to 1
The Blues had a great chance to advance after winning the first game on the road in overtime on a goal by Jani Lajunen, but Pavel Rosa scored twice and added an assist to lead Kärpät back into the series. Game 3 will take place on Tuesday in Oulu, with the winner facing Ässät Proi in a best of seven series starting on Friday.
The other known matchups will include the Helsinki derby of (3) HIFK vs. (6) Jokerit, and (4) Lukko vs. (5) KalPa. The series are different than in the KHL and North America: each game alternates location, meaning the higher ranked team hosts Games 1, 3, 5, and 7. All series start on March 18.
Slovnaft Extraliga (Slovakia)
HC Kosice defeats HK Nitra 4 games to 1
HC Kosice has been a nearly unstoppable force all season long in the Slovak Extraliga, putting up an amazing 137 points in the league's 57 game regular season, and while Nitra put up some good results at home in this series, it was still not nearly enough. Two blowout wins in Game 2 and 5 plus a shootout win on the road in Game 3 helped Kosice to the five game series win. Richard Jencik led the team offensively, as did late season pickup Peter Fabus, who had been playing in the Czech Republic until mid-January.
HK Poprad defeats HK 36 Skalica 4 games to 2
This was a very low scoring series, with less than three goals in every game except game five, which was won 6-3 by Poprad. Poprad switched goalies after losing the first game 2-0, despite using Marcel Melichercik in 53 games during the regular season. Rarely used Miroslav Lipovsky put up a .966 SV% in the five games he played, including a 1-0 shutout in game six.
HC 05 Banska Bystrica defeats HKm Zvloen 4 games to 3
Five of the games were decided by one goal, culminating in a 2-1 victory for Banska Bystrica on home ice in game seven. Miroslva Simonovic had a .945 SV% in the series, while Miroslav Lazo led HC 05 with three goals and five assists. Lazo was acquired in mid-January after being released from his KHL contract with Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg.
Dukla Trencin defeats HC Slovan Bratislava 4 games to 3
The #5 seed beat the #4 seed here, marking the only "upset" in the playoffs to date. But this was no standard seven game series: Dukla Trencin came back from a 3-0 deficit in the series to pull of the win. I don't know if there was any David Krejci/Michael Leighton type momentum shift like last year's famous NHL series with Boston and Philadelphia, but the comeback started modestly: a 3-2 shootout win in Game 4, followed by a one goal victory in Game 5 before getting more comfortable wins in Games 6 and 7 (6-3 and 5-2 respectively). It wasn't a good debut for Slovan in their new rink, which will now sit empty until the World Championships at the end of April as a result.
Semifinal: HC Kosice leads Dukla Trencin 1 game to 0
In the first game of the semifinals, HC Kosice blitzed the miracle boys 9 to 1. I did tell you that Kosice was a powerhouse, and this score kind of emphasizes that point. I'm having trouble actually finding scoresheets so I can't say much about this result yet. HK Poprad and HC 05 Banska Bystrica start their series on Tuesday.
In other Extraliga news, last place team MsHK Zilina swept their series with first division winners SHK 37 Piestany, staying in Slovakia's top league for next year. Zilina was well back in the Extraliga standings with only 55 points, nineteen points back of 9th place and twenty-two points back of a playoff spot.
Deutsche Eishockey Liga (Germany)
The DEL season just wrapped up this weekend, with playoffs starting on Wednseday with two play-in match-ups, like the SM-Liiga set-up. (7) Alder Mannheim will face (10) Thomas Sabo Ice Tigers in a best of three series, while (8) EHC München plays (9) Kölner Haie. (1) Grizzly Adams Wolfsburg and (2) DEG Metro Stars await the winners of those play-in rounds, while (3) Eisbären Berlin will play (6) ERC Ingolstadt and (4) Krefeld Pinguine will play (5) Hannover Scorpions.
I'll provide regular news and scores of the series mentioned above, and have a similar update for the remaining main European professional leagues.