Let’s throwback to the last season and see what we had when we watched Jokerit’s 3rd season in the KHL after a quite successful first two.
Basically, nothing worked on the ice, not the scoring, not the power play or the box play formations and there was in general poor defending as well.
Therefore, they lost many games, such games as they should have won, and they were overrun by the big teams, both home and away.
But, somehow, perhaps a bit miraculously, they managed to reach one of the two last playoff spots that were at stake throughout the regular season.
Although there wouldn’t be much more fun than that, Jokerit’s fate was sealed as we all knew within, as CSKA had absolutely no issues to eliminate the Finnish team in four straight games.
Some might talk about the famous “success hangover,” which causes teams who have reached the highest level and made a first successful couple of seasons then be at their worst the following term.
Although, I wouldn’t say that they were suffering from a hangover or too high expectations except for the fans, but rather I suspect that the organization was not really used to the league and the fact that things can change.
On the other hand, Jokerit didn’t have a competitive team enough to make games even exciting, as all got as bad as it could get, no matter what they tried.
So far in this season 2017-18, the tune sounds merrier for the Helsinki team, and they have reached 15 winning games in a row.
The incredible streak of Jokerit ended up in St. Petersburg, where they lost 4-3 in OT, but was so close to achieving the 16th win.
And if we talk about a single player:
Ryan Zapolski’s stunning club record ended at 245 min and 36 seconds of shutout minutes. The previous record was held by Tim Thomas, whom we knew as a wall for the Boston Bruins some years ago.
Zapolski should be a strong candidate to be one of the goalkeepers in the US Olympic team in South Korea 2018 because he’s one of the best tenders outside the NHL.
Another player that is in vogue this season is the super prospect, Eeli Tolvanen. An incredible talent that has the capacity to reach as far as the imagination can reach.
The shot is as accurate and hard as his countryman Patrick Laines.
The whole team has another approach and belief in their own capacity this year and after the game against SKA St. Petersburg, they have shown that they can disturb the defending champions, even in St. Petersburg where it is normally very tough to play.
One significant question we must ask though: is Jokerit a true contender for the title this year?
It would be easy to believe that when we have seen the team’s game so far in the season, but, on the other hand, I would say: why not?
If a non-Russian team could win the Gagarin Cup in the nearest future, it would be Jokerit undoubtedly, I’d think.
And, this season has demonstrated that there is capacity in the team to achieve that, also that there is much more force to dig out from the players, which means that they haven’t shown yet their absolute best even if they have played on a very high level.
I am sure that the Jokerit players have something similar to this quote in mind during every practise and game:
Unity is a strength… when there are teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.
-Mattie Stepanek, American poet 1990-2004