We continue our whirlwind tour across European playoff leagues by looking at a couple of popular leagues in middle of the continent.
National League A (Switzerland)
There wasn't a lot of drama in the first round of the Swiss league playoffs, with all top four teams holding serve and no series going the full seven games. Even the play-outs involving the bottom four teams were boring, with the teams that finished 11th and 12th losing to the teams that finished 10th and 9th respectively. I guess you can say that in the NLA's case, the playoffs have been just a confirmation of the regular season to date.
(1) HC Davos defeats (8) Fribourg-Gotteron 4 games to 0
The "other" Petr Sykora led Davos in scoring during the regular season, but only suited up for one game in this series. So it was up to Jaroslav Bednar to lead the way, and he did. His three goals and five assists led the team in scoring as Davos lit up Cristobal Huet worse than he ever was even in the NHL. Huet ended up with a 5.33 GAA and .763 SV% in the four game demolishing as Davos outsocred Fribourg 22-5.
(2) Kloten Flyers defeat (7) ZSC Lions 4 games to 1
The battle of Zurich ended Bengt-Ake Gustafsson's NLA coaching career, but this was a far more competitive series than the one mentioned above. Kloten won all of their games by only one goal, including two in overtime. Victor Stancescu scored the series winning goal in Game 5, while Tommi Santala led the Flyers offensively with five points. Key defenseman Micki DuPont did get hurt and missed Game 5, and if he misses a lot of time it could definitely impact Kloten's championship aspirations.
(3) SC Bern defeats (6) SCL Tigers 4 games to 0
Another first round sweep, as Europe's most popular club (in terms of attendence) easily advances. Benjamin Conz didn't have much of a chance in this one: he still posted a .917 SV% but this was a dominant showing all around by SC Bern. The series ended with Martin Plüss scoring in overtime of Game 4, though Ryan Gardner led Bern in scoring with one goal and five assists.
(4) EV Zug defeats (5) Geneve-Servette 4 games to 2
The only series where the result was in doubt, this was a high scoring series with three overtime games to end it. In Game 1, Eric Walsky led Geneva to an 8-5 win with a hat trick, which was matched by Damien Brunner for Zug in Game 2's 6-2 game that tied it up. Walsky was at it again in Game 4, scoring the OT winner to even the series at 2. Game 5 ended in an ever popular playoff shootout, won by Zug 4-3, setting up another overtime thriller in Game 6. And this time, yet again, Brunner answered Walsky's challenge by ending the series. Glen Metropolit led Zug in scoring with two goals and seven assists, and while Walsky's five goals topped Brunner's four for the series lead, it ultimately was not enough.
Play-Outs: (9) EHC Biel defeats (12) Ambri-Piotta 4 games to 2
The bizarre play-out format rewards the series winner by ending their season earlier... the longer you play, the worse you are. Ambri-Piotta built up a two game to none lead in this series, but eventually Biel broke through their defensive shell and posted four straight wins, ending their season in a kind of anti-climax.
(10) HC Lugano defeats (11) Rapperswil Lakers 4 games to 0
Not much to write about here, Julien Vauclair ended the short series in overtime in Game 4, but other than that it was three fairly straight forward regulation wins for Lugano. Rapperswil must now face Ambri-Piotta, and they'll have home ice advantage to help them. The loser of that series will have to play the winner of the NLB Finals for a spot in the NLA in 2011-12, as Lussane HC and EHC Visp will face off in that final for the chance at promotion.
Tipsport Extraliga (Czech Republic)
The Czech playoff set-up is close to Finland's: play-in rounds determined who the top two teams in the regular season would face in the quarterfinals. The play-ins were best of 5 series, and saw #7 ranked HC Slavia Prague and #8 ranked HC Litvinov advance. There is also a play-out series, which is a round robin format between the bottom four teams (11-14) that also includes the head to head results from the regular season. The last place team after that has to play the top team in the 1.Liga for the right to play in the Extraliga next year.
(1) HC Ocelari Trinec defeats (8) HC Litvinov BENZINA 4 games to 2
Martin Ruzicka led the way offensively in this series as the top ranked team from Trinec won all their home games handily and finally broke through on the road in Game 6 with a 4-1 win on Monday to advance to the semifinals. Martin Adamsky had a goal and an assist in the deciding game, while Peter Hamerlik continued his excellent year in goal by posting a .935 SV% in the series after a .929 in the regular season.
(2) Bili Tygri Liberec and (7) HC Slavia Praha tied 3 games to 3
The Prague based team may have needed a full five games to qualify for the quarterfinals, but they're sure giving the White Tigers a run for it while they're there. However, Liberec has picked away at a 3-1 series deficit and are playing at home for Game 7, after a dramatic 3-2 shootout win on Monday. Petr Nedved (yes, him) got the shootout winner. Game 7 goes Wednesday.
(3) HC Vitkovice Steel defeats (6) HC Mountfield 4 games to 2
This series was notable for the fact that the series actually started in Ceske Budejovice instead of Ostrava, and was in a 2-3-1-1 format probably due to arena conflicts. Vitkovice won Game 5 in a shootout, and then proceeded to win on the road with a 33 save shutout from Roman Malek.
(5) HC Eaton Pardubice defeats (4) PSG Zlin 4 games to 0
One game was decided in overtime and one went to a shootout, but all the bounces went Pardubice's way in this short series. Jan Stary led the way with three goals and four assists in the sweep. The teams actually finished tied in the regular season standings with 88 points each, but the results didn't bare out that these were two evenly matched teams.
Other Results from Monday:
KHL: SKA 2, Atlant 1 (OT): Longtime NHLer Sergei Brylin scored his first goal of the post-season in overtime to lift the St. Petersburg team to a 3-1 lead in the series. Game 5 goes Wednesday in St. Petersburg.
KHL: Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 6, Dinamo Riga 2: The top ranked Western Conference team is starting to put it all together after a first round scare, easily defeating Riga for the second straight game in their tough home rink. Karl Rachunek scored his mind-boggling eighth goal of the post-season in this one. Remember, he's a defensemen and it's only the second round. Yaroslavl has a chance to wrap up the series at home on Wednesday.
Slovak Extraliga: HC Kosice 5, Dukla Trencin 0: It's going to be a monumental upset if someone can take out Kosice, and if Trencin doesn't hurry they'll be down 3-0 for the second straight series. Michel Miklek scored twice to lead the offensive charge. Kosice leads the semifinals 2-0.
KHL: Avangard Omsk @ Metallurg Magnitogorsk (Metallurg leads series 2-1); Ak Bars Kazan @ Salavat Yulaev Ufa (Ufa leads series 3-0).
Elitserien: HV71 @ AIK Stockholm (AIK leads series 3-0)
SM-Liiga: Blues (Espoo) @ Kärpät (Oulu) (Best of 3 series tied 1-1)
NLA: EV Zug @ HC Davos (Game 1), SC Bern @ Kloten Flyers (Game 1), Rapperswil Lakers @ Ambri-Piotta (Game 1)
Slovak Extraliga: HC 05 Banska Bystrica @ HK Poprad (Game 1)