KHL.ru continues its pictorial chronicle of the IX season of the Championship with a look back at a below-par season for the men from Helsinki.
The team from the Finnish capital has been competing in the KHL since 2014, so this was the third season in which the Championship featured the “Jokers,” and by their own high standards it was a disappointing campaign. However, all will be forgotten if the Helsinki Men succeed in the forthcoming “jubilee” season - it is not only the tenth anniversary for the KHL but the fiftieth for Jokerit.
Jokerit finished the IX Championship in 12th spot in the overall regular season standings, and secured that all-important 8th place in the Western Conference. At one stage, the Finns seemed unlikely to even qualify for the playoffs, but they produced a stirring finale in which they won five of their last seven matches.
The Helsinki Men were under the guidance of head coach Jukka Jalonen, known to fans of the KHL from his work from 2012 to 2014 on the SKA Saint Petersburg staff. Assisting the 54-year-old Finnish specialist were Raimo Helminen, Hannu Virta, Markus Ketterer and Mika Saarinen.
Danish center Peter Regin was the team’s leader in 2016-17. The former Senators, Islanders, and Blackhawks forward took 48 (19+29) points from 57 outings, making him top sniper and top provider. Two North Americans, forward Brian O’Neill of the USA (16 goals, 20 assists) and Canadian defenseman Charles Genoway (7 goals, 18 assists), also enjoyed productive regular seasons, and recorded 2 points each in the playoffs.
Jokerit play in the Bobrov Division, which meant they had four encounters with near-neighbors SKA Saint Petersburg. The first two games went to the eventual champions, but the Finns took double revenge by winning the other two meetings. As for Jokerit’s eventual conquerors, CSKA, the Finns won two out of two meetings in the regular season.
Jokerit’s 8th-place finish earned them the “privilege” of facing regular season champions and Gagarin Cup favorites CSKA in the first round of the playoffs, The Army Men ended the Finns’ season with a 4-0 series sweep, but we should note that all four games were very closely-fought battles, and three of them needed to be settled in overtime.
One contest in which Jokerit is practically guaranteed a medal is the rankings for the best-supported team. In 2016-17, the Finns had the third-highest average attendance in the KHL (beaten only by SKA and Dinamo Minsk), and this despite the disappointing results throughout the season. No matter what happens in the future, Jokerit’s superb fans will not desert them.