With just a few games left in the regular season, positions 3 through 7 are still undecided in the Northern Conference. The only first-round series we know for sure is #1 Minsk versus #8 Dublin. We also know a series will start in Belfast, where the #2 Giants will face either Stockholm or Moscow. If Stockholm defeats Moscow tonight, we still won’t have an answer because the Eagles would be a point or two behind the Dynamo with one game left (against Geneva) to pass them.
In the Southern Conference, where a fierce battle for position was waged for weeks, the only thing left to be decided – and it’s a big one – is who will win the Schloder Division and get second seed? Berlin is currently in sixth place, but they have two games remaining to change places with current # 2 Lisbon. One win won’t do it for the Smurfs, they will need a win and at least another point because if both teams end with 99 points and 47 wins, the next tie-breaker is goal differential and Berlin can’t win that unless they win one game by 46 goals. Even with Erik Forssell in the lineup, that seems like a lot to ask of the Smurfs.
So here’s what the first-round match-ups will look like in the South:
- #1 Bratislava vs. #8 Munich
- #2 (Lisbon or Berlin) vs. #7 Milan
- #3 Madrid vs. #6 (Berlin or Lisbon)
- #4 Paris vs. #5 Athens
President’s Trophy goes to Minsk
The race for this year’s regular season champion was as close as possible. Minsk and Belfast both finished their seasons with 120 points, but the Hussars get the trophy because they had 58 wins to Belfast’s 57. That means the trophy came down to something like a great Carey Price save or a shot that hit a post, or a single goal scored by Minsk or against Belfast. Pick any one-goal game all season and you could find a suspect.