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Lausanne equalizes the final series again

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Lausanne equalizes the final series again

For once, goalkeeper Simon Hrubec is a weak point at the ZSC Lions. Also because the Czech conceded two solid goals, Lausanne equalized the series at 2-2. Are the favorites holding their nerve?

He normally parries such shots in his sleep: Simon Hrubec is overcome by the Swede Robin Kovacs to make it 2-0.

Salvatore Di Nolfi / KEYSTONE

Marc Crawford has had a few capable goalkeepers in his ranks in his long coaching career spanning more than three decades. When he won the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 1996, his number 1 was Patrick Roy, one of the most legendary goalies in NHL history. In the Canadian national team he coached Martin Brodeur and in Chicago Marc-André Fleury – both multiple Stanley Cup winners. In short: It means something when Crawford says that Simon Hrubec is one of the best goalkeepers who ever played for him: “I don’t want to compare. But he is at the top. A very hard worker and extremely mentally strong.”

It’s just before 11 p.m. on Tuesday evening when Crawford starts to give a short speech in defense of Hrubec. ZSC has just lost game 4 of the play-off final series in Lausanne, 2:5, and not least because of the Czech goalkeeper. Hrubec, 32, has provided ZSC with important services since his signing in the summer of 2022 and can confidently be described as the best goalie in the National League. But in Lausanne he had an evening to forget, he would normally keep the goals to make it 0-2 and 1-3 in his sleep, they were unusual mishaps at the wrong time.

One would have liked to ask Hrubec himself about his performance, but the Czech cannot be mentioned in the play-offs. He continues a bad habit once introduced by Arno Del Curto in Davos, according to which goalkeepers are not available for interviews during the play-offs; Leonardo Genoni then continued the tradition stoically, as if he were a melancholy silent man who had just emerged from an Ari Kaurismäki film.

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Defender Yannick Weber says: “You won’t win a title like that.”

And now Hrubec. «We made this decision together. He should focus on sport. There are enough players who like to talk,” says sports director Sven Leuenberger. Which is of course true, Hrubec’s antipode Connor Hughes, for example, is even happy if you are interested in the story of his fascinating rise.

The ZSC’s refusal is a strange attitude, because such a special regulation would be unthinkable in the major North American sports leagues, for example. There are clear rules there, even superstars like LeBron James or Patrick Mahomes are available after every game. There are hefty fines for misconduct. This is not least because the league and the club owners know what the most important source of money is: media rights. In the National League, 30 million francs per year are spent on TV rights alone. One would expect that with all the financial support, main licensee MySports would be able to speak to the key figure after the most important game of the season so far.

They are debates for other days. For the ZSC it’s about ensuring that this series doesn’t slip away. After the Zurich team started the play-off with nine wins in a row, they now looked vulnerable for the second time in Lausanne. The defender and team leader Christian Marti tried to put the situation into perspective and said: “It’s the final, Lausanne is a very good opponent. We didn’t expect to be able to drive down here in jeans and win. That would be nice, but it’s not like that.” But he also said: “We are conceding too many goals at the moment. Lausanne comes through the middle zone with a lot of speed. We have a hard time with that.” And his defense colleague Yannick Weber even said: “You won’t win a title like that.”

Coach Crawford sounded more conciliatory, saying he had seen a lot of good things. The Canadian mourned the unused top chances during a 97-second double majority in the middle third: “Once we hit the crossbar and once we didn’t hit the empty goal. Hockey is like that sometimes. We have to quickly forget this evening and look forward.”

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The last time they won seven home wins in a play-off final was in 2007

A goldfish-like memory is an advantage in the play-offs, but there are things worth remembering for ZSC. The Zurich team are still the favorites in this series. They were the best team in the qualification and have found an answer to everything in the play-offs so far. The home team has always won the final, so it certainly doesn’t hurt that ZSC has the home advantage. It has only happened once that a final produced seven home wins: in 2007, the record champions Davos defeated SC Bern 1-0 in the Belle.

The decisive shutout was achieved by Jonas Hiller, one of the best goalkeepers in the history of Swiss ice hockey. Hrubec has also been able to hex his team to the title with a clean slate: In April 2021, he won the decisive sixth final game 1-0 in the KHL with Avangard Omsk. With ZSC, Hrubec has already played three times to zero in this play-off. It wouldn’t be surprising if he managed a strong reaction in the Swiss Life Arena on Thursday. In any case, Crawford’s trust is unshakable. The coach said: “Simon has won us so many games, I’m not worried about him at all.”

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