The pain, the pleasure

In Sweden, only a handful of teams have earned their place in the postseason

27.02.2008
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Will Leksand's former NHL goalie Ed Belfour face Mora's top scorer Eric Beaudoin in a Dalarna derby for the Elitserien spots? Photos: Leksands IF/Mora IK

STOCKHOLM – According to a song by Queen, pain is so close to pleasure. As Freddie Mercury sings of a life lesson, of life, of yin and yang, and the duality of everything.

Ooh, ooh, pain is so close to pleasure, yeah, yeah,
Sunshine and rainy weather go hand in hand together all your life,
Pain and pleasure, oh, oh, pain and pleasure,
When your plans go wrong and you turn out the light,
But inside your mind you have to put up a fight,
Where are the answers that we're all searching for,
There's nothing in this world to be sure of anymore,
But if you're feeling happy someone else is always sad


The song, while more than 20 years old, may as well be about the Swedish Elitserien in 2008. The hype about the most exciting Elite League that league executives were promoting in September are turning out to be true. With eight games left, the playoffs race is wide open.

That’s the pleasure side of the equation. The Yang, the 'sunny place'.

The other race, the one that has people losing sleep, sweating through nights and losing their hair is the one that has two teams playing in a qualification round-robin with the best teams in the Allsvenskan, the league one tier below the Elitserien. And that’s just the fans. What the players, coaches, and team managers are feeling is probably worse.

That’s the Yin. The 'shady place'.

Right now, the last five teams are nine points apart. Skelleftea AIK is holding on to the last playoff spot, ten points behind Djurgarden Stockholm (which seems safe with 73 points and games against Mora and Brynas at home), but only one point ahead of Sodertalje, in ninth place. Lulea is five points behind Sodertalje, tied with Mora, and three points ahead of Brynas, which is dead last in the standings.

The five teams have five games between themselves remaining. Sodertalje has games against Brynas and Lulea this week. Brynas plays crucial games against Sodertalje and Skelleftea. Mora is 3-3 in its last six games, and if it loses points this week against Djurgarden and Farjestad, the following week will make people in Mora nervous as the team plays against Brynas and Lulea.

While a playoffs spot is gold, ninth place would probably be just OK with all Mora fans. Having to play in the qualification series against teams that have been looking forward to it all year is no fun. Having to play against teams that have former and future NHLers is no picnic, but having to face the local competitor, a legendary team only 50 kilometres down the road, that has Ed Belfour, minding the net - Leksand -  can be a nightmare.

When Mora started this season with Magnus Arvedson as their coach, it was asked what was the worst thing that could happen this season. “I don’t care if I get fired because I know I’ll survive. But it would be a disaster for the club to be demoted from the Elitserien,” he replied, his voice trailing.

Should Mora end up in the qualification series, and should they not manage to get one of the two spots available and instead end up in the shade while Leksand claims a spot in the sun, one thing is for sure. Mora’s pain would make Leksand’s pleasure twice as big.

Notebook:
  • Brynas coach, Olof Ostblom, desperate to wake up his team, went with Jacob Markstrom, 18, a magnificent goalkeeping prospect, against Frolunda. Brynas lost 2-4.
  • Farjestad was in a dire situation with both of its goalies injured. But junior Andro Michel, 17, earned a win against Linkoping, and a tie (1-1) against Djurgarden.
  • Fredrik Bremberg picked up two assists last week against Sodertalje. After his assist to Jiri Marusak’s goal, the game was stopped, the puck was taken to the bench, and Bremberg received a standing ovation for breaking the club scoring record. The point was his 483rd, one more than the former record, held by assistant coach Mikael Johansson.

RISTO PAKARINEN

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