JÖNKÖPING – He showed it at the 2009 IIHF World U20 Championship in Canada and he shows it in the Swedish playoffs. Mattias Tedenby can fly. And he has taken his HV71 with him, to yet another playoff final.
Hockey playoffs is the stuff that fairytales with princes and monsters are made of. That’s where all the heroes have gone, if anybody’s wondering. The playoffs turn boys to men, mediocre players to stars, and stars to gods.
Sometimes it’s just a mirage, a hockey fan’s faint hope and eagerness to see something where there is nothing. The player who scored an important goal didn’t take his game to the next level the following season, but instead, was the same old grinder as before.
Sometimes, however, the playoffs do set the stage for a breakthrough.
Let’s say there’s a 19-year old kid who hasn’t really arrived in The Show yet. Let’s say he’s on top of the class, in the world, mind you, in his own age, but he hasn’t taken the last step in the men’s league yet. He’s in the precarious zone between a wunderkind – who has come through the club’s own ranks - and a bona fide star.
Let’s say his name is Mattias Tedenby.
Two years ago, Tedenby played with HV71’s under-20 team, as a 16-year-old. He was a highly touted prospect together with Modo’s Victor Hedman and Timrå’s Magnus Pääjärvi-Svensson, who himself called Tedenby the best Swedish player under 17 at the time. Last summer, the New Jersey Devils drafted Tedenby in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft, 24th overall.
Last season he spent with HV71’s under-20 team, as a 17-year-old, played his first Elitserien games, and even scored a goal that the readers of the Elitserien’s official website voted Goal of the Season. He ended the season with a golden helmet on his head, in a traditional celebration of the Swedish champions. In last season’s playoffs, he averaged a minute and a half of ice time, and was left of the score sheet.
This season, Tedenby has even got a spot inside the HV71 Elitserien team’s locker room -- last season all stalls were claimed so he changed into his equipment in the under-20 team’s locker room -- as he signed a one-year contract with HV71. He started the season with HV71, played one Champions Hockey League game as well, but in mid-October, was sent to Oskarshamn in Allsvenskan, the league just below Elitserien, to get ice time, and to regain his confidence.
After 13 games, and 11 points, Tedenby got the call to return to Jönköping. In December, Tedenby got the attention of Sweden when Team Sweden advanced to the final in the World Junior Championship in Ottawa, Canada, and he collected 1+4=5 points in the six games, including an highlight reel assist in a game against Slovakia after he had stickhandled his way past three Slovakian players.
“I’ve worked on my stickhandling a lot, both on my own on the ice and by playing on the streets in the summers. There are also a lot of great tricks on YouTube you can watch,” Tedenby told in an online chat with Swedish Aftonbladet’s readers recently.
In the Elitserien, he played about ten minutes a game and collected four points in 32 games in the regular season.
So, a good season, even if it had ended right there. But then came the playoffs.
When the other teams’ coaches decided to not pick Timrå as their quarterfinal opponent, HV71 was stuck with them and they were in trouble. They were trailing with 3-1 in a best-of-seven series, but managed to dig themselves out of the hole as the first team in Elitserien history to do that - thanks to the goaltender Stefan Liv and one Mattias Tedenby who scored a goal in four consecutive games, including the first goal of the Game 7.
And yet, he’s still only played a little more than in the regular season, just 11 minutes per game, ninth most of the team’s forwards. In the semifinal series against Frölunda, HV71 scored only five goals in three games, and Tedenby was yet to collect his first point.
And then, in Game 4, Tedenby took a pass on the red line, then accelerated like only he can, skated around a Frölunda defenceman and fired a wrist shot that beat Johan Holmqvist. He scored the game-winner in Game 5 and added an assist on the goal which broke Game 6 open. HV71 won the series four games to two and advanced to the final against Färjestad.
It’s playoffs time now. This is when legends are born. Shift by shift, goal by goal, win by win.
- Jonas Gustavsson, Färjestad, broke the Elitserien’s shutout record in FBK’s semifinal series against Skellefteå AIK. Gustavsson, nicknamed “The Monster”, kept the pucks out for 240 minutes and 25 seconds, beating Thomas Östlund’s old Elitserien record of 201 minutes and 18 seconds. The longest shutout streak in the Elitserien playoffs was Frölunda’s Henrik Lundqvist’s 175 minutes and 20 seconds.
- Frölunda and Färjestad announced their plans to play an Elitserien regular season game outdoors, in the Ullevi stadium in Gothenburg. The game will be played on December 28, 2009, and the clubs hope to break the old Swedish attendance record, 23 192, also in a game played in Ullevi. “The capacity is 30 144 and we hope to reach that,” said Frölunda CEO Mats Ahdrian.
- HV71 captain Johan Davidsson was awarded the Golden Helmet as Elitserien’s MVP, as voted by the players in the league. It was the first time the 33-year-old center won the most coveted award in Elitserien.
- Rögle and Södertälje are on their way to secure a spot in the Elitserien for next season as well. As the qualification series reached the halfway point, Rögle, still undefeated, topped the standings with 14 points in five games, while Södertälje had 11 points, after their tie and a loss against Rögle. Fourth-placed Västerås is four points behind Södertälje.