Month: Feb 2015

European Tour of Sports – Sweden

The Basics

Population: 9.7 M
Area: 450 290 km2
Capital: Stockholm
Summer Olympic Medals: 483 (143 G-164 S-176 B)
Winter Olympic Medals: 144 (50 G-40 S-54 B)
Popular sports
“Välkommen till Sverige”, a land of less than ten million people that seats on the top ten in medals conquered at both the Summer and Winter Olympics, a country that sees half of its population engaged in sports clubs, and in which one in every five persons actively participates in sports activities.
I’m repeating myself over every article of this series, but you wouldn’t be surprised to know that football is right at the top of the Swede’s preferences, with the national team being a regular participant in the biggest international competitions after qualifying a total of 16 times for the World Cup and the European Championships. Although the country’s best results have come on home soil, mainly the second position at the 1958 World Cup, lost at the Räsunda Stadium against Pele’s Brazil, and the semi-final appearance at the Euro 1992, the Swedish national team is always regarded as a team to watch, as the third place finishes at the 1950 and 1994 World Cup reflect the amount of talent the Swedes have been able to produce over the years. Gunnar Gren, Gunnar Nordhal and Nils Liedholm, members of the team that won Gold at the 1948 Olympics, were probably the first big stars of the sport in the country, enjoying a formidable partnership over the 50’s for AC Milan and the “Blågult” (ENG: The Blue-Yellow), but later names like goaltender Thomas Ravelli and forwards Tomas Brolin and Henrik Larsson also left their mark on European football.

Tomas Brolin celebrates a goal for Sweden on the Euro 92

At the club level, despite today’s obscurity on the European scale, the fans of IFK Göteborg had the chance to celebrate two UEFA Cup wins on the 80’s, while Mälmo FF lost a European Cup final in 1979. A look over Swedish football wouldn’t be complete without a reference to the most successful Swedish coach of all-time, Mr. Sven-Göran Eriksson, who collected 17 trophies during managing stints in 9 different countries, including league-and-cup doubles for IFK Göteborg, a team that he coached to the 1982 UEFA Cup success, SL Benfica and SS Lazio.
On the women’s side, Sweden is definitely one of the continent’s main rulers, with the national team succeeding at the first edition of the European Championships, in 1984, and the best result at the World Cup happening in 2003, a loss in the final against hosts USA. However, over the last few years, they have successively fallen just short of glory, beaten on the semi or quarter-final stages of every major competition since 2007. The 1-0 loss to Germany in the semi-final of the 2013 European Championships the country organized is a perfect example of that. Meanwhile, Sweden’s Dammallsvenskan is hailed as one of the top domestic leagues in the World, with Umeå IK vaunting 2 Women’s Champions League trophies and three runner-up finishes.

Peter Forsberg on the victory lap after the Tre Kronor defeated Finland at the 2006 Turim Olympics Final

Sharing the spotlight with football on the leading sports coverage in Sweden is ice hockey, a sport where the national team, nicknamed “Tre Kronor” (ENG: Three Crowns), currently leads the World Rankings and boasts an impressive résumé. Nine World Championships, the most recent in 2013, and nine Olympic medals, including two golds, in 1994 and 2006, fill the nation’s trophy cabinet, but the Swede’s should also be proud of the amount of talent they have nurtured. Nicklas Lidström, Peter Forsberg, Mats Sundin, Börge Salming, Håkan Loob and Mats Näslund were all players that achieved great success both at home and at the NHL level, and their level of play ranks them among the best of all-time. Furthermore, the Swedish Hockey League is considered the third best in the world and even the second tier competition, the HockeyAllsvenskan, welcomes excellent attendances.
Handball is other team sport that receives plenty of attention in the country, as the Swedes can take pride on the four gold medals at the European Championships, a record, the four titles and eleven podium finishes at the World Championships, and the four silver medals gathered at the Olympic Games. The most successful period of the Swedish handball team came between 1996 and 2002, when the country reached eight consecutive major finals (Euro, World, Olympic) due to the “Bengan Boys”, that, coached by Bengt Johansson, thoroughly dominated the sport fielding star players like Staffan Olson, Magnus Wislander and Stefan Lövgren. However, since 2003, the squad has struggled to reach the same heights, with Sweden failing to get to podium positions, except for a silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics, and occasionally not qualifying at all.
Niche team sports such as curling, bandy (a mixture of ice hockey, field hockey and football played outdoors) and floorball are also quite popular in Sweden while the national basketball team sometimes appears at the European Championships. Still, the sport has never really take off in the country even with the recent presence of two players in the NBA (Jonas Jerebko, Jeffery Taylor).

Ingemar Stenmark, the men’s Alpine Skiing World Cup record-holder with 86 wins

With an abundance of snow, Sweden as always produced great athletes in winter sports, specially skiing events. In the alpine disciplines, names like Ingemar Stenmark, the best GS and slalom racer of all-time, Pernille Wiberg and Anja Pärsson are living legends, whereas Sixten Jernberg and Gunde Svan do the same for cross-country skiing, a sport where the country has amassed 74 Olympic medals, second only to Norway. And although ski jumping has never been the most triumphant discipline for the Swedes, another winter speciality, the biathlon, had his moments over time, particularly Magdalena Forsberg’s impressive run on the turn of the century, with six consecutive World Cup titles amassed between 1997 and 2002, and six golds won in World Championships.
With a total of 81 medals collected over the years on Olympic games, Athletics has a long tradition on the country, ranging from Ernst Fast’s third place on the men’s marathon of the 1900 Paris Olympics (Sweden’s first Olympic medal) to the triple Gold success of Athens more than one hundred years later. Actually, in that 2004 edition, Christian Olson took the spoils in the triple jump and Stefan Holm confirmed the Swedish tradition on the high jump, following the footsteps of names like Patrick Sjöberg and Kajsa Bergqvist. For the ladies, the gilt light shone on Carolina Klüft, the athlete that dominated the women’s heptathlon (and pentathlon) during the first decade of the new century, conquering an unmatched three consecutive world titles and posting the second highest point total of all-time (7032 points).

Björn Borg with one of the five consecutive Wimbledon trophies he captured

From the tracks to the courts, Swedish excellence provided three former tennis number one’s, Mats Wilander, Stefan Edberg, and Björn Borg, with the latter, a eleven-time Grand Slam Champion and a five-times ATP Player of the year, standing as one of the most recognizable figures in the history of the sport and probably the most popular Swedish sportsman of all-time. And we could go on, with other worldwide sports where Swedes have excelled internationally including swimming (Therese Alshammar, Emma Ingelström), golf (Hall-of-Famer Annika Sörenstam), sailing, table tennis (World and Olympic Champion Jan-Ove Waldner), canoeing (eight-times Olympic Champion Gert Fredriksson), speed skating (triple Olympic gold medallist Tomas Gustafson), horse riding and cycling (Gösta Pettersson, 1971 Giro Winner).
Yet, none of those sports can claim the lead in number of Olympic medals brought to the country, since that achievement belongs to….wrestling, with 84, the last two added at the London Olympics.
Star Athletes
Zlatan Ibrahimović (Football)
From just another tall kid of Bosnian and Croatian origins to the top of the list of most identifiable Swedes, the life of the Mälmo-born striker is worthy of a best-seller book. Growing up on a city brimming with foreign-background inhabitants, Zlatan learned to stand up by himself since his early years as a black belt in taekwondo and those lessons stayed with him over a brilliant if controversial football career. Undeniably, a stunning total of 11 national titles in 13 seasons playing for six of the biggest clubs in Europe (well, 5 plus PSG) and four top scorer awards attest the proficiency of one of the best players of his generation and an unique forward with skills and swiftness rare for a 1,95m man. Moreover, in Sweden, Ibrahimović is revered for his exploits with a national team he captains today after more than 100 games, 51 goals and appearances in two World Cups (2002, 20006) and three European Championships (2004, 2008, 2012).
Always a distinctive figure, the 33-year-old, considered nine times the best Swedish footballer of the year, was recently named the second-best sportsperson of all-time in the country and famously retorted that he should have occupied the first five positions, perfectly displaying the character and personality that has motivated several confrontations with colleagues, coaches and adversaries over the years. When his career ends, his charismatic behaviour will define his legacy in the sport as much as the fantastic executions he’s capable on the pitch (), but Zlatan wouldn’t like it any other way.

An acrobatic move by Zlatan Ibrahimović that resulted on a stunning goal against England in 2013

Henrik Lundqvist (Ice Hockey)
The man many in New York call “King Henrik” was born on a city, Åre, primarily renowned for the alpine skiing facilities. However, Henrik and his twin brother, Joel, always preferred hockey, and it wasn’t long until they got to play for their favourite team, Göteborg-based Frölunda HC. Seven years and two league titles later (2003, 2005), their paths eventually separated and, with nothing else to prove at home, the goaltender moved on to face the best game after game.
Representing the New York Rangers since 2005, after the team selected him at the 2000 NHL draft, Henrik Lundqvist has been a mainstay for the honoured franchise since his rookie season and is undoubtedly one of the best in the world on his position, boasting a Vezina Trophy (awarded to the best NHL goalie in 2012) and four other nominations. To this day, he’s still pursuing the chance to return the Stanley Cup to the Big Apple and he keeps improving his legacy and club-records as the best goalkeeper in the “blueshirts” history.
The 32-year-old has also consistently embodied his country’s efforts on the world scale since the youth levels, with his biggest accomplishment coming at the 2006 Torino Olympics where he backstopped the Swedes to the gold medal. Since the retirement of legendary defenseman Nicklas Lidström, in 2012, Lundqvist inherited the role of Sweden’s prominent ice hockey player and he led his country to a silver medal on the 2014 Olympic tournament. His performances in Sochi further increased his popularity amongst the compatriots, but he has always been a fan favourite everywhere by way of his various community and charity enterprises coupled with a calm and friendly presence on and off the ice.
Charlotte Kalla (cross-country skiing)

Charlotte Kalla during a race at the Sochi Olympic Games

Sweden’s role on cross-country’s history has always been that of party crashers, the nation that craves to surprise the successful neighbours that have historically dominated the sport. Charlotte Kalla personifies that spirit perfectly and the native of Tärendö, a small village on the far north of Sweden, has thereby managed to build an impressive career during the era of two legends of the sport, Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk and Norway’s Marit Bjørgen, the most medalled female athlete in Winter Olympics’ history. The 27-year-old skier has almost 30 World Cup podiums since his debut in 2006 and a total of 5 World Championships medals, all of them gathered in team events. In fact, along with teammates Ida Ingemarsdotter, Emma Wikén and Anna Hagg, Kalla broke a fifty-four year gold medal drought for Sweden on the Women’s 4 x 5km relay event, with the team taking top honours on the competition of the 2014 Olympics through a performance that won the prize for most significant Swedish sports achievement of the year.
However, collective success aside, it was Kalla’s individual excellence that fuelled the most important results of her career, namely the gold medal in the 10km freestyle race of the 2010 Olympics, and the silver medals in the 15 km skiathlon and 10km classic races of the 2014 Sochi Games. The overall triumph at the 2007-2008 edition of the Tour de Ski, on her debut edition, is another important mark on Kalla’s résumé and, with the main rivals nearing retirement, her best years may still ahead.
Others: Lotta Schelin (Women’s Football), Jonas Jerebko (Basketball), Henrik Zetterberg (Ice Hockey), Frida Hansdotter (Alpine Skiing), Sarah Sjöström (Swimming) Johan Olsson, Marcus Hellner (cross-country skiing), Fredrik Lööf (Sailing), Lisa Nordén (Triathlon), Henrik Stenson (Golf)
Since the Stockholm Olympic Games, held in 1912, Sweden’s track record hosting top international events (European and World Championships) is truly remarkable, with the wealth spread across dozens of disciplines. Without surprise, this organizational expertise has been translated into the development of a sheer amount of modern, state-of-the-art sporting facilities that enable the populations an easy and comfortable access to high-level sport competitions year-round and country-wide.

The Ullevi during the opening ceremony of the Gothia Cup

To start, obvious emphasis on the Friends Arena, located on the municipality of Solna (Stockholm’s urban region). The new national stadium, which substituted the nearby Räsunda, host of the 1958 World Cup final, can hold up to 50,000 and has a retractable roof that can turn it into the biggest indoor venue in the Nordic countries. Opened in 2012, the arena, beyond the matches of the national football team, sees the home games of AIK, concerts and has welcomed the final of the 2013 UEFA Women’s European Championship.
The second biggest stadium in the country is the 43,000-seats Ullevi, in Gothenburg, built for the 1958 World Cup and a place that has hosted multiple football European finals as well as the European and World Athletic Championships. Nonetheless, the women’s national team and the city’s football clubs play at the 2009’ Gamla Ullevi, which was raised on the grounds of the old facility by the same name, and has 15,000 seats. Recent constructions are also the Tele2 Arena (2013), in Stockholm, the home of Djurgårdens IF and Hammarby IF with a capacity for 33,000, and the Swedbandk Stadium (2009), in Mälmo, a facility that holds 24,000.
In terms of (truly) indoor venues, the most important is the unmistakable Stockholm Globe Arena, the largest hemispherical building in the World, and a facility with up to 13,500 seats for ice hockey games. Several World Championships and other international ice hockey games have taken place at the Globe since 1989, but the Handball, Volleyball and Basketball European Championships were also held there. However, the capital’s ice hockey teams (Djurgårdens IF and AIK) usually play their home games at the adjacent Hovet, a 9,000 capacity arena. The 2008-opened Mälmo Arena comes in second-place by capacity (15,000 seats) in the country and is the home of the Mälmo Redhawks, the city’s ice hockey team.

The Stockholm Globe Arena iluminated at night

The Scandinavium, in Gothenburg, completes the podium, as the 14,000 seats venue, opened in 1972, has received over the years swimming, ice skating and athletics events, for example, while turning into the place Frölunda HC calls home. Moreover, the country’s ice hockey significance defines the existence of nine other indoor venues with over 7,000 seats, almost all built during the 2000’s. Thus, towns like Linköping, Lund, Norrköping, Kalmar, Halmstad, Helsingborg, Gävle and Karlstad commonly share the burden of hosting international events with Sweden’s three main city centres.
In respect to winter sports, the main hubs are Falun, Östersund and Åre, all situated in central Sweden. The first two cities regularly welcome World Cup events of the Nordic ski sports (cross-country, ski jumping, nordic vombined) and biathlon, respectively, and have organized the discipline’s World Championships several times over the years, while Åre takes part in the Alpine Skiing World Cup frequently.
Yearly Events
There’s no shortage of sporting events staged yearly on Sweden. Elite sport leagues like football’s Allsvenskan, running from late March to the beginning of November, and hockey’s SEL (season from September to April) provide excitement all over the country, from Mälmo, in the southeast coast, to Lulea, almost on the Arctic Circle, but there’s also the chance to attend a game of bandy (October-March) or handball (September-May). Others events to note are:
Vikingarännet, traditional long-distance ice skating race
Uppsala-Stockholm, January

The Vikingarännet, a 80 km ice skating race on the frozen Lake Mälaren linking Uppsala and Stockholm

Rally Sweden, World Rally Championships
Värmland region, February
World Cup event, Cross-Country skiing
Östersund, February
Vasaloppet, traditional long- distance (90km) cross-country ski race
Dalarna, March
World Cup event, Alpine Skiing
Åre, March
Scandinavian Masters, Golf
Mälmo, June
Stockholm Marathon, Athletics
Stockholm, June

A view of the tennis Swedish Open’s main court, in Båstad

Speedway Grand Prix of Sweden, motorcycle speedway
Målilla (Kalmar), June
Gothia Cup, youth football
Gothenburg, July
Swedish Open, Tennis
Båstad, July
Speedway Grand Prix of Scandinavia, motorcycle speedway
Solna (Friends Arena), September


(PT) O último terço da fase regular da NHL em sete questões

Poderão os Winnipeg Jets regressar aos playoffs nesta temporada? (THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods)

A temporada da NHL leva já mais de 4 meses e maioria das equipas apresenta uma média de 27-28 encontros em falta para fechar a fase regular de 2014-15, pelo que os últimos dois meses prometem uma luta acesa pelos lugares de acesso aos playoffs ainda em aberto e pelas melhores posições na linha de partida. Ao mesmo tempo, a disputa pelos prémios individuas a atribuir no final da temporada aquece, com os nomes mais consagrados em perigo de serem desalojados, bem como a acirrada disputa pelas duas primeiras escolhas no draft, com a possibilidade de arrebatar os prodígios Connor McDavid e Jack Eichel cada vez mais presente na mente dos responsáveis das equipas situadas no fundo da tabela.
Conheça a seguir a resposta às mais importantes questões em aberto na aproximação à fase decisiva da época.
Irão os campeões falhar os playoffs?
Os Los Angeles Kings, campeões em 2014 (e 2012), mantiveram a grande maioria da estrutura que tanto sucesso obteve nos últimos anos mas esse facto não impede que se encontrem em situação extremamente delicada com dois terços da temporada já disputados. Com 3 pontos de atraso em relação ao último Wild Card disponível para o acesso aos playoffs, os Kings têm acusado o cansaço acumulado após três longas campanhas na disputa da Stanley Cup, e a maioria das estrelas da equipa ainda não chegaram ao nível esperado.

O suspenso Slava Voynov tem feito falta à defesa dos LA Kings (Ric Tapia/Icon SMI)

Dean Lombardi, GM da formação, procurou sacudir o balneário ao dispensar Mike Richards, um elemento pago a peso de ouro pela produção nos já longínquos tempos em Philadelphia, mas, para já, isso não tem resultado. Os campeões sofreram baixas importantes no ataque, nomeadamente a perna fracturada que colocará Tanner Pearson de fora até ao fim da fase regular e as recorrentes ausências do artilheiro Marian Gaborik, mas não tem sido propriamente na marcação de golos que a equipa tem carecido nesta temporada em relação às anteriores (2.70 G/J, bem acima dos 2.42 do ano passado). De facto, a um powerplay de meio da tabela (19.4% em comparação com os 15% de 2013-14), tem-se juntado uma incapacidade muito preocupante para matar penalidades (78.2%), situação que coloca a equipa sobre pressão na maioria das partidas. Além disto, o sector defensivo sofreu um rude golpe no defeso com a saída do veterano Willie Mitchell, e a suspensão sem fim à vista do russo Slava Voynov (apenas seis jogos realizados), devido a um episódio de violência doméstica, tem colocado um fardo enorme nos ombros de Drew Doughty, obrigado a permanecer no gelo metade do tempo de jogo. Como Jonathan Quick, depois de um mês de Outubro fulgurante, leva mais uma fase regular bem abaixo (0.909 sv%, 2.52 GAA) do que mostra quando chegam os playoffs (0.923, 2.22), o risco de a equipa nem lutar pela defesa do título na fase final existe e é bem mais real que em anos passados, quando tremendas fases finais colocaram a equipa como um candidato silencioso partindo de lugares modestos.
Com 58 pontos arrebatados em 53 jogos, os campeões em título vão, provavelmente, ter que ganhar 19-20 das suas últimas 29 partidas para aproximarem os 100 pontos que devem ser precisos para garantir entrada na fase final. Tarefa difícil mas certamente não impossível para uma formação que somou pontos em 18 dos seus últimos 24 jogos na temporada passada.
Quantas equipas canadianas seguem em frente?
Das 7 formações situadas a norte da fronteira, apenas os Montreal Canadiens tiveram lugar nos playoffs do ano passado. A formação Quebequense, salvo uma catástrofe imprevista, estará de novo na luta pela Stanley Cup a partir de meados de Abril, mas os ávidos adeptos canadianos terão, ao que tudo indica, mais alternativas à disposição na demanda por levar a taça pela primeira vez desde 1993. Se os Ottawa Senators e os desapontantes Toronto Maple Leafs, autores de um mês de Janeiro terrível onde somaram apenas 1 vitória em 13 jogos, parecem já demasiado afastados para ainda terem uma palavra a dizer, o contingente na conferência Oeste tem boas possibilidades de ser numeroso.
No Pacífico, se tirarmos da equação uns Edmonton Oilers a sofrerem outra incompreensivelmente fraca temporada, tanto os Calgary Flames como os Vancouver Canucks situam-se bem no meio da batalha pelos Wild Card disponíveis na Conferência, tirando proveito da fraqueza demonstrada pelos LA Kings. Os renovados Canucks aproveitaram o entusiasmo da entrada de um novo treinador e estrutura directiva para começar a temporada em força e têm conseguido manter o nível, com os irmãos Sedin e o reforço Radim Vrbata a puxarem a equipa de volta à relevância. A formação de Vancouver, com um dos núcleos duros mais veteranos da NHL, tem, contudo, ainda muito trabalho pela frente para repelir os esforços dos campeões em título e dos ressurgentes Minnesota Wild e Dallas Stars.

Já a formação do estado de Alberta é uma história de sucesso ainda maior, com um plantel claramente em reconstrução a imiscuir-se na luta pela vice-liderança da Divisão Pacífico, atrás dos Anaheim Ducks. Os Flames têm seguido a chama da enorme temporada realizada pelo capitão Mark Giordano e a equipa mostra a cada partida mais entusiasmo por se encontrar nesta situação inesperada, aproveitando assim para praticar um estilo de jogo rápido, técnico e atraente, qualidades particularmente manifestadas na nova coqueluche da equipa, o virtuoso ala estreante Johnny Gaudreau.

O MTS Center, casa dos Winnipeg Jets, espera ansiosamente pela estreia nos playoffs (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

Finalmente, os Winnipeg Jets, que à entrada para a quarta temporada na cidade depois da relocação de Atlanta viam a paciência dos fiéis adeptos da equipa começar a dar sinais de minguar. Aproveitando a ascensão meteórica de um jovem guardião quase desconhecido chamado Michael Hutchinson (0.923 SV%, 2.23GAA), os Jets aproveitaram as dificuldades de alguns dos rivais de divisão que os superaram no ano passado, como os Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild e Colorado Avalanche, e conseguiram garantir uma boa almofada de segurança para o que resta da temporada. Os seus 64 pontos (em 55 jogos) permitem acreditar no regresso dos playoffs à cidade, 18 anos depois dos antigos Jets terem deixado Winnipeg rumo a Phoenix, mas a luta vai ser intensa, precisando a equipa que a primeira linha de ataque, formada por Blake Wheeler, Brian Little, e o capitão Andrew Ladd, todos já acima dos 40 pontos, continue a fazer a diferença, e que Dustin Byfuglien (36 pontos), poderoso vagabundo defesa/avançado, seja a força disruptiva que tantas vezes tem feito mossa nos adversários.
Por alturas da mudança no calendário para 2015, os Jets sobreviveram a uma maré de azar que afastou três dos seus quatro melhores defesas (Tobi Ernstrom, Jacob Trouba e Mark Stuart) e a equipa tem que recuperar essa resiliência no que falta da temporada, uma vez que a perda de fiabilidade mostrada nas últimas semanas por Hutchinson e pelo parceiro de baliza Ondrej Pavelec, bem como a polémica em torno de Evander Kane (1) , que após problemas disciplinares foi operado ao ombro e não joga mais esta temporada, têm que ser rapidamente ultrapassadas sob risco de a equipa “morrer na praia” mais uma vez.
Pode alguma equipa do Este reentrar na corrida?
Com 73 pontos obtidos em 55 partidas, os Tampa Bay Lightning lideram a Conferência Este e distam 10 pontos do actual último colocado em lugar de acesso aos playoffs, os Boston Bruins, que somam 53 encontros disputados. A primeira equipa a olhar de fora são os Florida Panthers, com 57 pontos, e não faltam razões para acreditar que o alinhamento de qualificados no Este já não irá mudar.
Tanto os Bruins como os New York Rangers, que com 65 pontos somados, detêm, para já, o outro Wild Card da Conferência, são não só os dois últimos representantes da Conferência na final da Stanley Cup como mantêm os principais jogadores que os levaram ao sucesso, atravessando períodos de subida de forma após começos de temporada periclitantes. Já os Washington Capitals, colocados logo acima, com 66 pontos, dão mostras jogo após jogo que o sistema de Barry Trotz já está bem assimilado, e as melhorias defensivas trouxeram uma consistência que torna muito improvável uma queda abrupta de desempenho. Entre os restantes, os NY Islanders (69) e os Pittsburgh Penguins (68) têm-se revezado na liderança da Divisão Metropolitana desde o início e também estão bem longe do perigo, enquanto os rejuvenescidos Detroit Red Wings (71) e os Montreal Canadiens (69) vão desafiando a liderança dos Bolts na Divisão do Atlântico.

Os Tampa Bay Lightning lideram a Conferência Este (Photo by Scott Iskowitz/NHLI via Getty Images)

Enquanto isto, os Panthers têm vindo a experimentar dificuldades para somar vitórias numa altura em que o essencial Roberto Luongo, que carregou a equipa na primeira metade da temporada, atravessa uma fase menos fulgurante na defesa das redes. Com 54 pontos, os Philadelphia Flyers parecem ser a outra equipa ainda com algumas esperanças, mas o tempo corre contra uma formação que ainda não conseguiu estabilizar defensivamente e continua demasiado dependente da dupla Claude Giroux – Jake Voracek. Já os envelhecidos New Jersey Devils despediram o treinador Peter DeBoer logo depois do Natal e têm tentado subir na tabela aproveitando o grande momento do guardião Cory Schneider, mas a falta de potencial ofensivo torna pouco mais que uma miragem a possibilidade de recuperarem 12 pontos para os Bruins. Irremediavelmente afastados estão também os Toronto Maple Leafs (50 pontos), em queda livre após um Janeiro para esquecer, os Ottawa Senators (49), demasiado macios para estas andanças, e os Columbus Blue Jackets, que ficaram condenados devido a uma razia absurda de lesões que atacou jogadores essenciais.
Carolina Hurricanes e Arizona Coyotes, hora de reconstruir?

(Continuar a ler aqui)