We’re almost there… there are about 10 Regular Season games left to play and this week there is the last (very short!) international break. We think it’s the perfect time to have one quick look at the 12 National League teams and try to figure out which are their strengths and weaknesses. Try to figure out what are the chances to make the playoffs and which are the players who will play a key role from now until the end of the season.
Overall, Bienne is having a very good season. They were below the 4th place in the standings only for a week and they were the league leaders for long stretches during the first part of the season. However, there is almost a feeling that the Seeländers can really do much more…
This because too many times – especially starting from mid-November – they literally complicated their own life and this led to a series of ups and downs in terms of results.
We believe, however, that all this is part of the growth process. Last season was an exceptional one and the current season can become exceptional too. It was unthinkable in fact that everything would be perfect from start to finish. Moreover, we must consider that there are many other ambitious teams out there in the NLA… and so far, Bienne have been the third team who earned most points!
The system of play
Bienne had several ups and downs in terms of results. Regardless of this, however, performances were at least good most of the time. Or rather, the Seeländers are almost always able to create many clear scoring opportunities (from the slot) to score and therefore almost always give themselves the chance to win games. That’s thanks to a very effective and orgranized system of play in which each player has a precise role.
Accordingly to what we just wrote… Bienne have generally no problems to score. In fact, they have the 3rd best attacking record of the NLA. Antti Törmänen’s troops are able to score regularly. It’s true that recently their number of goals scored has slightly decreased… yet, surely Bienne have no problem when it comes to score goals.
The first part of the season
The first part of the season made clear what Bienne are all about. That is, arguably one of the best team of the league. Moreover, always the first part of the season, allowed the Seeländers to earn enough points to be currently third placed. It looks like there are problems right now but obviously we can’t judge from the outside… yet, if Bienne can perform like earlier this season again, this will be fun!
Overall, on paper, Bienne have a very competitive team. Jonas Hiller needs no introduction… the defense is made of enough players to be solid and resourceful at the same time… the forwards department is made of players who bring in fantasy and goals, without forgetting the bottom six. We mean, the Seeländers have got everything to be successful.
The art of doing things the hard way
Bienne, more than any other team, look like they love to complicate their own life… they lose games that they have under control, they lose games that appear to be won. Moreover, oftentime, the impression is that when the Seeländers are in the offensive zone they tend to make always an “extra pass” instead of being direct. In view of this last part of the season and the playoffs, it would be good to become more determined in this regard.
Bienne are able to move the puck around in the offensive zone quite efficiently during power-play situation… way too often, however, they aren’t able to put the puck in the net. It’s not an accident that they are only the 8th team of the league when it comes to power-play efficiency (17.2%).
Face-offs are very important in ice hockey. This is even more true for a side like Bienne who love to move the puck around. The truth is, however, that the Seeländers are the worst team of the league when it comes to face-offs won (45.6%). If we’re talking about face-offs in the offensive zone then… things are even worse! Bienne win only 40.6% of face-offs in the offensive zone. Among the players who normally take face-offs in the offensive zone, only Marc-Antoine Pouliot has an efficiency above 50.0%. That’s not good enough.
Bienne got off to a great start of the season and were even the league leaders for long time. Moreover, they were below 4th place in the standings only for a very short time. Yet, right now, they are at risk of missing the playoffs. This factor can generate dangerous pressure.
CHANCES TO MAKE THE PLAYOFFS
Bienne are currently 3rd placed and have all it takes to finish the Regular Season in the upper part of the table. It’s only fair to be a bit scared right now though… we mean, nothing can be taken for granted. If the Seeländers can stay focused, however, they will make the playoffs. No ifs, no buts.
THE TOP SCORER
Toni Rajala – 38 points (21G, 17A)
Toni “on fire” Rajala plays a key role and certainly not only because of the fact that he is the Top Scorer… when he’s in good shape he’s impressive. He’s a scoring machine and he’s even able to gift fans with moments of magic hockey!
Jonas Hiller had ups and downs, like everyone, after all. He’s still one of the few goalies in Switzerland able to make you win a game almost on his own. Or rather, he’s able to make the right saves at the right time to help the team. One thing is sure: Jonas instils a lot of confidence to his teammates.
Beat Forster got injured and missed the whole first part of the season. That was a blow for Bienne. Recently, the Seeländers have looked a bit distracted in their defensive zone… in this regard, Beat Forster will play a key role once he is again in top form. Moreover, he will bring in emotions, ça va sans dire.
WEATHER FORECAST FOR BIEL-BIENNE
The results of recent weeks and the lack of consistency made appear few clouds on the sky above Bienne… We can’t ever forget, however, that if we exclude Bern and Zug there are so many other ambitious teams who are going through a rough patch. And Bienne, are currently third placed after all…
Good luck for the last part of the season!