STOCKHOLM - MODO is in an interesting place right now, and not just because Peter Forsberg's comeback train has started there this week. The reigning champions have been on a rollercoaster all season long, but seem to have found their place in the middle of the pack, for now.
They are currently fifth, one point from last season's third place, and two points from the second place. Maybe the team is finally gelling, despite problems early on in the season.
This is what the season looks like for MODO: w, l, l, w, w, l, w, l, w, l, l, l, w, w, w, w, w, l, l, l, l, w, l, l, w, w, l, l, l, w, w, w, w, w, w, w, l, l.
A win is followed by a loss, four wins by four losses. Win some, lose some.
However, in January, the team is 5-2 in the Swedish Elite League. Maybe the trip to the European Champions Cup was good for them, even with the losses to Metallurg Magnitogorsk and Slovan Bratislava. Maybe they would have lost those two anyway, to fit the pattern, and those losses would have snapped their nice winning streak in the Swedish Elitserien. Now they got seven in the row, and advanced to the top three.
Rollercoasters can be fun - but not always for the nervous fans. Every loss is a potential start for a new losing streak, every win a step away from the losing streak.
MODO's season has been troubled by injuries, and continues to be that way. Niklas Sundstrom, one of the important leaders of the team missed almost a month with a shoulder injury. Also, Mattias Timander, Per Hallberg, and Hans Jonsson have suffered from injuries, all key players both on and off ice.
But MODO wouldn't be "the heart of hockey" if it didn't find young players to replace its veterans. The MODO machine keeps cranking out great players, and these days, they seem to be excellent defencemen, like Victor Hedman, 17, who made the All-Star team in the World Junior Championships in January, and Jens Westin, 18, who made the team in November and has played a really mature game ever since.
Injuries aside, does last season's championship have an effect on the way they play now? Maybe MODO is suffering from a classic case of title hangover. No, says the club. However, being a reigning champion affects the way the others come to the rink against them, says the coach.
According to MODO's coach, Harald Luckner, other teams have a defensive frame of mind in their games against MODO. They play the neutral zone trap, and simply look for MODO's mistakes.
"We had to pay a steep price for the way we played in the past, and for our championship last season, but I guess that's just the way it goes," Luckner says. "We'll just have to prove to everybody that we can win even against teams that try that."
Basically, things are just fine for MODO. It's just that their erratic season gives reason for concern whenever the team loses two in a row. However, they still have a month and a half to get the key players back, and their game to click.
And a week to add another player.
"Obviously, we would like to have depth in the team. I believe that the team would benefit from getting some additional energy into the locker room. It's always good to get in new players to break the pattern," says team captain Per Svartvadet who is one of the players MODO is looking to. With only four goals in 38 games, on pace to six, half of last year's goals, the captain needs to step up.
However, last season, he had 18 points in 20 playoff games when MODO marched through two seven-game series and one six-game series to the championship.
Don't count them out. The season's just begun.Notebook:
- Want to see goals? Go see a Brynas game. Only three teams have scored more goals this season - and none have had more goals scored against them.
- Timo Parssinen signed a new, two-year deal with Timra to cover the 2009-10 season.
- Frolunda's 8-2 win against MODO was the club's biggest this season.
- HV71's Finnish defenceman Mikko Luoma leads leads in defencemen scoring with 30 points in 40 games, ahead of another Finn, and teammate Pasi Puistola (25 points in 40 games).