JÖNKÖPING, Sweden – A beard is a funny thing. We’ve all seen all kinds of playoff beards over the years, from a few hairs to a full-facial hair masks, à la Henrik Zetterberg.
A beard also changes the way a person looks and by the time any playoff season comes to the final series, the players have transformed. It takes time, so the difference is most obvious only the day after, or a few days after the last final, when the players show up to a parade all clean-shaven.
The beard adds a few years onto the players, it makes them look more rugged. The beard is a proof of the length of the path towards the championship.
One of the most impressive playoff beards in the Swedish Elitserien belongs to David Petrasek. The HV71 defenceman wore his red and bushy beard – that looks almost golden – proudly in the 2008 playoffs when the Jönköping team went all the way. But Petrasek was much more than just a cool beard, scoring six goals and ten points in 17 post-season games. He scored four of his six goals in the six-game final series against Linköping.
Last season, Petrasek put up his highest points total of the career, with 27, five more that his 22 points in 2007-08 which was two more that he scored in 2006-07, which was five points more than his 15 in 2005-06, his first with HV71 after five seasons with the Malmö Redhawks.
“I think I’ve been developing quite steadily, step by step, all along. I haven’t done anything different before this season, just been working hard the same way as before,” Petrasek told IIHF.com.
The reason that would even prompt a question about his changed workout regime and such is obvious. At the writing of this, David Petrasek, the 33-year-old Jönköping native, leads the team in scoring and is third in league scoring with his 13 goals and 45 points in 38 games. At this rate, he will easily double his previous best points total in a season.
Maybe this will jinx it, and maybe it’s such a preposterous thought that it shouldn’t even be put into words, but... no defenseman has ever won the Elitserien or its predecessor’s scoring title.
Petrasek is just two points behind Linköping’s Tony Mårtensson, the current scoring leader.
Like a beard, he’s just been growing, and growing, until finally, he’s almost turned into another player.
“One reason (for the points) is that I’ve got to the chance to play on power play, with the same guys, for many years now, and we just keep getting better as a unit. We come up with new plays all the time,” said Petrasek, who’s scored eleven of his 13 goals on power play, one less than the league’s power play goal leader, Linköping’s Mikael Håkanson.
His early lead in the scoring race was easy to dismiss as an early season fluke, but Petrasek’s just been scoring and getting those points regularly. Thanks to being on the first power play unit and obviously, the way he’s playing, Petrasek also leads HV71 in ice time, averaging 22:39 a game for the team that has a seven-point lead over second-place Linköping in the standings.
“My self-confidence has just got better all the time, which also helps. Maybe this would have been more difficult when I was younger, maybe I would have thought about the points more, but now I just take it one game at a time,” he says.
Petrasek is no spring chicken, but at 33, he’s still not ready to retire, either. Far from it. He played his first Elitserien game in 1994-95, the year HV71 won its first Swedish title, and split that, and the following season with the HV71’s Elitserien team and the major junior team.
In 2000, Petrasek signed with Malmö, but returned his hometown for 2005-06 and won his second Swedish championship in 2008. Petrasek, like captain Johan Davidsson, 34, and Olympic goaltender Stefan Liv, 29, was born and raised in Jönköping, and worked his way up through the club’s junior system.
“I started playing hockey with HV71 when I was five or six, I’ve watched the Elitserien team play, I’ve been at the fan section cheering, there’s no doubt that HV71 is the team in my heart,” says Petrasek.
That’s good news for HV71 because Petrasek is in the final year of his contract with the club and will surely be a hot commodity in the player market as are Davidsson and Liv, who may also be looking to entertain other options.
Things might get hairy in Jönköping, and it’s only a good thing when the results can be seen on Petrasek’s face.Notebook:
- Peter Forsberg’s comeback has been postponed by at least a week. His recovery from a rib injury hasn’t been as fast as expected, and the doctors recommended that he stays out of Elitserien action at least another week. He has played ten games so far and scored eight goals.
- Djurgården’s power forward Jimmie Ölvestad has delivered most checks in the first 38 games of the season, 131. Second on the list is Rögle’s Daniel Rahimi, 88, and third Brynäs’ Jörgen Sundqvist.
- Ölvestad also tied a 23-year-old club record when he scored five goals in a game against MODO on January 7.
- The Elitserien’s board has discussed possible improvements to the league, including introducing smaller rinks, changing the playoff format, touch-up icing, and re-introducing a penalty shootout in regular season. All or some of the changes may be made already for the 2010-11 season, CEO Peter Gudmundson told Swedish evening paper Aftonbladet.