When it comes to the ZSC Lions all you can say is “from zero to hero”. The Lions were coming off their worst season since 2005-06… and have gone from playouts to the “title” of “moral Swiss Champions” as they finished the regular season at the top of the table!
In our opinion, the ZSC Lions were the best of 2019-20. Rikard Grönborg’s guys played the most enjoyable hockey and were able to be very consistent as it is evidenced by the fact that they never lost more than two consecutive games. This latter fact made the players build self-confidence and allowed them to earn points even when they weren’t at the top of their game.
Zürich is basically always a title contender. On paper, the Lions have always all it takes to do great things. Not always, however, they’re able to be impressive. Often in fact, the Lions are somehow “anarchist”. We mean, they have great individuality but aren’t always able to play as a real team.
Well, in this regard Rikard Grönborg was outstanding as he was able to build a real Team, with a capital T. Symbolically the Swedish coach was able to let the lions out of their cage and was able to create a “pride of lions” incredibly hungry and united.
Zürich had a season that was memorable in some ways and could make the fans so darn proud. Let’s face it, it’s been a while since the last time the fans had so much fun at the Hallenstadion.
So, what else can we add? Congratulations, ZSC Lions!
WHAT DID WORK
System of play
In our opinion, and for our taste, the ZSC Lions played the best hockey in the National League this season. Oftentimes, Rikard Grönborg’s troops outplayed their opponents and delivered many showstopper performances. This allowed them, among other things, to be very effective also at even-strength.
Zürich certainly had no problems to put the puck in the net. The Lions finished the season with the best scoring record of the National League, they had a very high scoring percentage and scored 0 goals only on one occasion (back on mid-September in Genève…). Rikard Grönborg’s guys delivered so many great individual and team performances. This allowed them also to be very effective during PP opportunities.
The ZSC Lions made the difference during the third periods countless times. This means, among other things, that the players were in an excellent physical condition what also allowed them to be extremely consistent. In this regard, we think it’s safe to say that the staff did a terrific job.
Faceoffs are pivotal in ice hockey. A good efficiency at faceoffs in fact, helps you avoid wasting energies only to recover the puck possession. In this regard, the Lions were excellent. In fact, only Genève Servette had a higher efficiency at faceoffs in the National League.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
If there is something that can improve in view of next season… it’s the penalty killing, The Lions weren’t a disaster as penalty killers but could do better. Only Rapperswil, Langnau, Lausanne and Davos were less effective penalty killers in the Natioanl League.
Lack of discipline (during the early stages of the season)
The Lions lacked discipline, especially during the earliest stages of this season, and this cost them a lot of unnecessary penalties. Maybe it was because of the will to do well… maybe it was just a matter of time… overall, however, Rikard Grönborg’s guys should become more disciplined in order to avoid being assessed too many penalties.
THE THREE STARS
Rikard Grönborg (Coach)
“Mea culpa”. On the eve of this season, we had doubts about Rikard Grönborg. Even if only because the last time he was the head coach of a team dated back to early 2000. And instead, the 51 years old Swedish coach turned out to be the right man in the right place. It’s as simple as that. Rikard, with his staff, did a fantastic job to say the least. Sorry about our doubts, Mr. Grönborg!
Pius Suter had the best season of his career and delivered fantastic performances with continuity. He was impressive, point. He did a great job in the offensive zone and was solid when it comes to defensive play. Pius is a complete player. It’s likely that, unfortunately for us but luckily for him, he will not stay very long in Switzerland…
Garrett Roe was outstanding especially before he had suffered an injury. The Lions’ fans wondered why Zug let him go… Garrett was fantastic and made the difference many times. He’s the right player for a team that wants to win the title.
There would be many more than “three stars” when it comes to the ZSC Lions. Though, we want at least to dedicate a special mention to Maxim Noreau who – among other things – set his new record of points scored during a regular season in the National League. The points, however, are not the only thing that counts… Maxim proved for the umpteenth time that he is one of the best defensemen that joined our National League this century.
Goals For – Goals Against
Goals For – Goals Against even strength
The ZSC Lions had the best scoring record and the second-best defensive record of the National League. Moreover, they were the most effective team at even strength by far. Someone still wonders why they finished the season at the top of the table?
Goals For – Goals Against each 10’
This chart confirms what we said earlier about the excellent physical condition of the team. Rikard Grönborg were impressive from the half-an-hour on and especially during the last third periods of play.
Leading, tied, trailing
The ZSC Lions were trailing 31.8% of the time. Only Fribourg Gottéron, Ambrì-Piotta, Langnau and Rapperswil were forced to trail more. Then again… an excellent physical condition, the class and the self-confidence allowed the Lions to win a lot of games. If we may be nitpicking Zürich was not always in control of the games.
Scoring percentage – Saving percentage
The Lions had the 4th scoring percentage of the National League but “only” the 7th saving percentage of the league overall. In view of next season, it would be better to be more effective between the pipes. Even though, let’s face it, the overall saving percentage was still above 90% and therefore it was good enough.
Power-play – Penalty-killing
The ZSC Lions had the second-best PP efficiency of the National League, only Bienne was more effective. On the other hand, we said already that Rikard Grönborg’s guys weren’t the best penalty killers around… the PK efficiency in fact, was only the 8th best of the league.
THE SEASON IN ONE QUOTE
From zero to hero… the moral winners of the season!
It’s worth nothing, but the ZSC Lions are the moral winners of the 2019-20 season that unfortunately was cancelled because of the coronavirus emergency. It was right not to assign the title though. In ice hockey, playoffs are the key of the season. We’re nevertheless convinced that the Lions had all it takes to go a long way and even to win the title. It wouldn’t have been a walk in the park of course. It wouldn’t have been easy even to get rid of Lugano at the quarterfinal stages. But the Lions were the best of the 2019-20 season. Congrats for the fantastic ride!