With the 2010 IIHF World Championships getting set to face off in Germany on May 7, the playoffs in the top leagues in Europe have either been concluded or will shortly.
In Finland's SM-Liiga, TPS Turku has the opportunity to win its 11th championship Wednesday with a victory against HPK Hameenlinna. TPS currently leads the best-of-five series by a 3-1 margin. If HPK prolongs the series, Game 6 would be held in Turku Saturday and a deciding seventh game would take place Sunday in Hameenlinna.
Elsewhere in Europe, champions have been crowned in Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Germany. Following is a rundown of the European club team champions for the 2009-10 season.
HC Pardubice (Courtesy: HC Pardubice)
Czech Extraliga: Hasek leads HC Pardubice -- Over the course of his illustrious career, Dominik Hasek has captured two Stanley Cups, an Olympic gold medal and, now, two Czech Extraliga titles. "The Dominator" came out of retirement this season to play for his hometown HC Pardubice club. The 45-year-old was certainly solid during the regular season (2.26 GAA, .922 save percentage, 1 shutout) but he was nothing short of brilliant in the playoffs, posting a 1.68 goals-against average, .937 save percentage and three shutouts.
In so doing, HC Pardubice reeled off 12-straight playoff wins to capture the Czech championship. The team lost the opening game of the quarterfinals to HC Trinec, but won the next four contests. Pardubice then went on to sweep highly favored HC Liberec in the semifinals and HC Vitkovice in the finals to win the fifth championship in team history.
Tomas Popperle (HC Plzen) was the top regular-season goaltender in the league, posting a 2.20 GAA and .925 save percentage. Roman Cervenka (HC Slavia Prague) led the league in scoring during the regular season with 43 assists and 73 points, while Petr Ton was the top goal scorer with 34. Cervenka also led the playoff scoring race with 9 goals and 24 points in 16 games. Former NHL forward Roman Vopat (HC Litvinov) led the league in penalty minutes with 177 PIMS.
KHL: Ak Bars wins another Gagarin Cup -- After a third-place finish in the Kontinental Hockey League's Eastern Conference during the regular season, Ak Bars Kazan won its second straight Gagarin Cup after defeating HC MVD in the seventh and deciding game of the finals.
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En route to the championship, the Ak Bars swept Kazakhstan club Barys Astana in the best-of-three Eastern Conference quarterfinals, downed second-seeded Metallurg Magnitogorsk 4-2 in the best-of-seven semis and, in the conference finals, beat top-ranked Salavat Yulaev Ufa in six games.
During the regular season, Sergei Mozyakin of Atlant Mytishchi led the lead with 66 points while former NHLer Marcel Hossa (Dinamo Riga) paced the circuit with 35 goals and Alexei Yashin (SKA St. Petersburg) led with 46 assists. The most penalized player in the league was Darcy Verot (Vityaz Chekhov), who racked up 374 minutes in the penalty box. Ak Bars goaltender Petri Vahanen was the top goalie, with a 1.73 goals-against average and .935 save percentage, although Metallurg's Vasily Koshechkin's 8 shutouts were the most in the league.
Elitserien: HV 71 works overtime to don Golden Helmet -- Swedish champions in 2007-08 and runner-up last year, HV71 Jankaping captured the fourth championship in franchise history, downing Djurgardens IF Stockholm in six games in the best-of-seven finals. HV 71 also captured first place during the regular season.
Although HV 71 was favored to the win the championship, the road to the Golden Helmet was hardly an easy one. Of their 12 playoff wins, HV 71 won eight of the games in overtime. In the finals, five-straight games went past regulation, including the finale. At the 4:19 mark of overtime in Game 6, HV 71 captain and playoff MVP Johan Davidsson (15 postseason points) carried the puck to the blue line and Teemu
Laine snapped the series-winning shot into the net.
During the regular season, Norwegian left winger Mats Zuccarello-Aasen (Modo Hockey) led the league in scoring with 64 points, while Jan Hlavac (Linkapings HC) tallied a league-high 30 goals and HV 71's Davidsson paced the league with 46 assists. Andreas Jamtin (Linkaping) led the league with 125 penalty minutes. Top Florida Panthers prospect Jacob Markstram (Brynas IF Gavle) was Elitserien's best goaltender, sporting a 2.01 GAA, .927 save percentage and five shutouts.
Swiss National League: SC Bern ends 5-year drought -- SC Bern is the richest, most popular and most hated team in Switzerland's National League. The club annually ranks as the European club with the highest attendance and usually ranks at or near the top of the standings in the regular season. The club recently won its 12th Swiss championship, but first in the last five seasons, after squeaking past Geneva-Servette in seven games in the finals. Three of the games went overtime and five ended with one-goal margins. In the deciding game, Bern shook off an early deficit to go on to win, 4-1.
For the third-straight season, Bern captured first place (102 points in 50 games) during the regular season. The last two years, the club collapsed early in the playoffs, losing in the first round. This time around, SC Bern swept HC Lugano and the Kloten Flyers.
During the regular season former NHL forward Randy Robitaille (HC Lugano) led the league with 49 assists and 65 points. Josh Holden (EV Zug) was the top goal scorer with 30 goals. Wesley Snell (EV Zug) was the most penalized player with 78 PIMs.
Slovak Extraliga: HC Kosice repeats as champions -- Throughout most of Slovak hockey history, HC Slovan Bratislava has been the most dominant and wealthiest team. But HC Kosice has recently emerged as the scourge of the league, winning the championship last season and upsetting favored Slovan in the 2009-10 finals to repeat as champions.
Slovan, which won the title in both 2006-07 and 2007-08 before giving way to Kosice last year, had a dominant regular season, racking up 117 points in 47 games, 21 points ahead of second-place HC Banska Bystrica and 36 more than HC Kosice. But Kosice tuned up their game in the postseason and went on to win the best-of-seven finals in six games. Kosice won two games on road ice en route to the championship.
During the regular season, Slovanâs Lubomir Vaic finished as the league's top scorer, posting 53 assists and 73 points in 61 games. Martin Kulha (Slovan) topped the league with 32 goals. Last season, Zigmund Palffy set a league scoring record. This time around, he finished third in the circuit with 65 points in just 42 games played.
DEL: Clean sweep for Hannover -- The Hannover Scorpions became a first-time league champion in Germany's DEL after sweeping the Augsberg Panthers, 3-0, in the best-of-five finals. Hannover won the deciding game on home ice, 4-2, after taking Game 2 in overtime (3-2) and winning the series opener by a 4-2 score.
In the regular season, Jeff Ulmer (Frankfurt Lions) led the league in scoring with 37 goals and 74 points. Norwegian forward Tore Vikingstad (Hannover) was the top playmaker with 50 assists. Oft-troubled veteran defenseman Jere Karalahti (Hamburg Freezers) was the most penalized player in the league, with 193 PIMs. Jean-Sabastien Aubin (DEG Metro Stars) was the top statistical goalie in the league with a 2.45 goals-against average and .922 save percentage. Rob Zepp (Eisbaren Berlin) led the league with five shutouts.