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11-06-2012, 09:26 AM
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Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Bergisch Gladbach
Country: Germany
Posts: 18,622
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As I am bored, I thought I'd let you guys know how these three Swedes have been doing in Cologne over the first quarter of the season over here. The "tl;dr"-version: pretty damn good, helping the team to a surprising 1st place.

Tjärnqvist and Holmqvist make for our top pairing. I can't even say too much about Tjärnqvist's play, because he isn't too noticeable - in a good way. Makes smart plays, shows good vision and has been very solid defensively. In 18 games, he has 2 goals and 8 points, while being -3, which I wouldn't attribute to him too much.

Holmqvist has been rather amazing, I have to say, even though his defensive shortcomings that most of you guys warned me about have been visible. But his offensive skills are outstanding in the league. With 4 goals and 13 assists (almost PPG), he leads the league in scoring for defensemen (+/- 0). His shot is tremendous, and he displays great vision in the offensive zone. His first pass has been pretty good, and turnovers haven't been seen too often. That said, when he's defending, he's obviously not quite as impressive. Interestingly, especially in the first weeks over here, he was going for absolutely huge hits in the neutral zone a lot. He usually missed and never got the other guy completely, leading to a lot of odd man rushes. Still, his offensive abilities alone make him a great addition to the club and the leauge. His slap passes on the PP are something I haven't seen at this level in the DEL, for example.

Falk has been centering what's our top line on paper (our two best lines are relatively interchangable, though, and they are similarly productive). It consists of three new signings with him, AHL-import Chris Minard and DEL-veteran Nathan Robinson. Surprisingly, they had rather impressive instant chemistry right out of training camp. Robinson is speedy, skilled and hard to knock of the puck, thus creates lots of room, while Minard is a less visible sniper that finds room and uses his tremendous shot and quick release when he gets the puck there. Falk is the perfect compliment to them with his two-way game, usually covering for the defensively below-average Robinson, while being able to help out offensively, as well. He's been a bit snake-bitten in terms of goalscoring (just 1 goal in 18 games), but his 11 assists have played a role in linemate Minard leading the league in goals at this point. He also plays with a bit of a badly needed edge, being a bit of a pest for the opposing team, while barely crossing the line (to taking a penalty) himself.

After quite a few years between embarassment and mediocrity, the three have been a big part of taking this traditional club back to the upper echelon of teams in the DEL. As we're headed into a bit of a break for a national team tourney, the Haie (mainly due to a terrific 7-game winning streak to start the year) are sporting a 4-point lead over powerhouse Mannheim, and even 7 points over league champs Berlin (currently in 5th), with both of those clubs getting some big help from their lockout signings, Marcel Goc and Dennis Seidenberg in Mannheim, and Claude Giroux and Danny Briere with Berlin (scoring each around 2.5 points per game).

With the way the season has started for Cologne, the Haie decided to not bring in a lockout-signing unless the NHL season is cancelled and they'd be staying for the year. If the NHL resumed play, those other teams would find themselves having to cope with losing key contributors midway through the year, and in Berlin's case short two licenses for foreign players. However, the break couldn't come at a better time, seemingly, as the Haie for the first time have lost consecutive games and added a third.

I hope I'll find the occasion and be able to tell you guys about remotely similar positive results from your countrymen as the season progresses. Cheers!

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