The Liiga quarter-finals are about to begin.
#1 Kärpät vs #8 Ilves
Kärpät is going to face Ilves who beat SaiPa in the wildcard. It’s a series between the obvious favourite and the young gun team who has always something to prove. But, I can’t see the underdog, Ilves out playing Kärpät, as Kärpät is loaded with talent. They’ll be a challenge to shut down.
Look out for Ville Leskinen who might be playing his last season with Kärpät. For Ilves, pay attention to goaltender Lukas Dostal, who Ilves is loaning from the Czech club, HC Kometa Brno.
#2 Tappara vs #7 Lukko
This series will barely get any attention and has the potential to be a dull series. Tappara has all the veteran experience you could dream. On the other hand, I’m still scratching my head as I can’t figure out how Lukko got this far.
But, keep a look out for veteran winger Kristian Kuusela of Tappara. Kuusela lead Tappara in points this season and he’ll most likely help power Tappara past Lukko in this playoff series.
#3 Pelicans vs #6 HIFK
This series will have some interesting points as both teams have ex-players of each others. One of these being the best defenseman in the league and current Dallas Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen‘s former defensive partner, Oliwer Kaski. Kaski had an outstanding season with the Pelicans and his talent might have NHL teams calling about his services.
HIFK has had problems scoring this season and will be facing the Pelicans’ tough defensive unit. Their defensive unit isn’t just impressive in the defensive zone, they are also lethal in the offensive zone. With the Pelicans defense having a strong season, it hard for me to predict that HIFK will be victorious.
#4 TPS vs #5 HPK
The NHL teams who are currently playing “Crappo for Kaapo” will get an opportunity to watch Kaapo Kakko and his club, TPS take on HPK in the first round. Kakko was dominant for TPS this season and will keep HPK’s defense quite busy.
On the other hand, HPK is a one man team in Teemu Turunen (similar to SaiPa last season). Aside from Turunen, HPK doesn’t have the talent to take down Kakko and TPS.
I predict that TPS will knock out HPK and that we will see Kakko’s draft stock grow.
Whose Offense, Defense, Goaltending Is Better?
Kärpät vs Ilves
When you have Leskinen who tied for the lead in points that’s good but then you add Florida Panthers prospect Aleksi Heponiemi who finished outside the top 10 of points just as an under 20 year old, it’s difficult to give the nod to Ilves.
This not a weakness or strength for either team as they both have lost their best defenseman in the last 2 years.
When you have Veini Vehviläinen, who is probably the most dominant goalie the league has seen in years you know you’re good. But, Kärpät are at another level in net as their backup Jussi Rynnäs is better than all of Ilves’ goalies. Yep, a backup goalie.
Winner – Kärpät
Tappara v Lukko
Tappara doesn’t have an excellent offense, but they have the European league version of Jaromir Jagr; Kristina Kuusela. The man is 36 and he is still out here carrying his team to glory. On the other side of the ice, Lukko also has a weak forward core. They don’t have any amazing offensive threats or depth.
With two strong defensive assets, Ville Heinola and Veli-Matti Viitasmäki, it’s challenging to pick one team over the other in terms of their defensive units. So, this is tie for me.
Another tie. Tappara has a decent tandem of Christian Heljanko and former Minnesota Wild goaltender, Niklas Bäckström. Yet, it their tandem isn’t that great.
Lukko has a good young goalie in Lassi Lehtinen who is a bit better than Heljanko, but Oskari Setänen, Lukko’s backup isn’t good enough and will be tough to rely on in net.
Winner – Tappara
Pelicans vs HIFK
Both offenses are mediocre at times, but they can spectacular at times.
Unfortunately for Pelicans fans, they lack centre depth. But, HIFK has their own offensive issues. They have a dreadful fourth line, who tends to be quite slow.
Not even close. When it comes to defense, the Pelicans are far superior than HIFK. Kaski is the best defenseman in the league and Mikko Kousa has been exceptional as well.
While, HIFK has Teemu Eronen, they don’t have many other defensive assets.
HIFK has had problems with their goaltending as their number one goalie Atte Engren is rather injury prone. Meanwhile, the Pelicans have had consistency issues in net.
Winner – Pelicans
TPS vs HPK
TPS is easily the 2nd best offense in the league after Kärpät. They have great forwards including Kakko, Ilari Filppula, Zach Budish, Oula Palve and Petrus Palmu (Vancouver Canucks prospect).
HPK just isn’t as explosive offensively. Aside from Turunen, they don’t have much offensive depth.
Both teams have a good offensive defenseman but not much else. They have some so-so two-way defensemen, but nothing to write home about.
But, I’ll give the nod to TPS takes it as their depth is far superior to HPK’s.
HPK has Emil Larmi who is a great goalie. In 35 games played this season, he posted a robust GAA of 1.94 and a .909 SV%.
In the other net, TPS is rather inconsistent.
Winner – TPS
Hope you enjoyed this post and I recommend paying attention to Liiga’s official website (liiga.fl) for scores/news/updates.
stats from eliteprospects.com and liiga.fl