Liiga Playoffs 2018 – 1st Round
The Finnish elite hockey league is done for the regular season and headed to playoffs. The first round sees teams seeded 7 to 10 face-off in a best of three series, winners of which will reach the quarterfinal stage. In this first phase, the regular season no. 7 SaiPa will face no. 10 Pelicans and number 8 Ässät will host their almost local rivals, no. 9 Lukko.
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The mid-table teams have been hovering around their final positions for quite some time and despite a push coming from the bottom of the league, there were no late changes in that regard. From top of the table, Lukko was the biggest crash, as they only won three of their final 15 games and succumbed all the way to 9th in the standings. They’ve suffered greatly from injuries to key players and look altogether dysfunctional.
Small and feisty SaiPa, once again, surprised everyone by reaching the 7th spot. They were up the table all season without any major collapses or surges. With excellent goaltending, solid defense and young, energetic players, it’s not a nice team to play against.
Pelicans and Ässät, much like Lukko, had their problems, but managed to hold on to their playoff-spots even if the end of the regular season didn’t quite go as planned – Ässät even decided to fire the head coach in the middle of the campaign. It seemed to work and Ässät won seven of their last 10 games – right after losing 11 out of 12. They’ve a strong roster with a couple of additions and with pieces falling into their place under the new head coach, could be a dark horse in the playoffs.
Pelicans didn’t go for such drastic measures as to fire the coach. They had big problems with both injuries and seemingly lackluster performance by their top players. At times, the team looked like they wanted to be everywhere else but on the ice. Pelicans were very near a complete disaster, after winning only twice in the last nine games and seven in last 20, but with the hunting pack not able to put up a proper fight, they made it to the playoffs.
The trends on the ice are quite clear entering the 1st Round of Liiga playoffs: Ässät are going up, SaiPa is performing well on their own level, while Lukko and Pelicans are spiraling downwards. Here’s how Accuscore’s simulations predict the future:
No big surprises here, as Ässät has played remarkably better than their opponents Lukko and while SaiPa has also been in better form than Pelicans, the challengers have a bit more upside and are likely to win their home game to make it a bit closer.
As it stands, both of the favorites are likely to progress to face the winner and runner up of the regular season. If this in fact is going to happen, we’ll see Oulun Kärpät host Porin Ässät and Turun Palloseura take on Saimaan Pallo.Reminder: For every NHL, KHL and Finnish Liiga match, AccuScore has expert analysis and picks for members.
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