It’s finally here. With the Olympics getting under way and the hockey starting soon, it’s time to roll out our preview of each team between now and puck drop. May the best team win.
The Swedish national hockey team is currently ranked number one in the world by the IIHF. Well la-dee-dah. Their head coach is
Car Parts Pär Mårts (it’s funny because it sounds different than North American names, haha), 24 of their 25 players are NHLers (exception: Jimmie Ericsson of the Swedish Hockey League), and they finished fifth at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
C, with the Czech Republic, Switzerland, and Latvia.
|Jhonas Enroth||Buffalo Sabres|
|Jonas Gustavsson||Detroit Red Wings|
|Henrik Lundqvist||New York Rangers|
|Alexander Edler||Vancouver Canucks|
|Oliver Ekman-Larsson||Phoenix Coyotes|
|Jonathan Ericsson||Detroit Red Wings|
|Niklas Hjalmarsson||Chicago Blackhawks|
|Erik Karlsson||Ottawa Senators|
|Niklas Kronwall||Detroit Red Wings|
|Johnny Oduya||Chicago Blackhawks|
|Henrik Tallinder||Buffalo Sabres|
|Daniel Alfredsson||Detroit Red Wings|
|Nicklas Bäckstrom||Washington Capitals|
|Patrik Berglund||St. Louis Blues|
|Loui Eriksson||Boston Bruins|
|Johan Franzen||Detroit Red Wings|
|Gustav Nyquist *||Detroit Red Wings|
|Carl Hagelin||New York Islanders|
|Marcus Krüger||Chicago Blackhawks|
|Gabriel Landeskog||Colorado Avalanche|
|Daniel Sedin||Vancouver Canucks|
|Henrik Sedin||Vancouver Canucks|
|Jakob Silfverberg||Anaheim Ducks|
|Alexander Steen||St. Louis Blues|
|Henrik Zetterberg||Detroit Red Wings|
Daniel Sedin (Henrik is hurt, won’t play), Henrik Zetterberg, Daniel Alfredsson, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Erik Karlsson, Henrik Lundqvist. Also, like 10 other guys.
This is a team that left Victor Hedman at home – a guy having one of the best seasons of any defenseman anywhere – so, whether that was the right call or not (not), that they were even in a position to make such an error is a compliment to their depth. So while they aren’t quite ”Canada deep,” they’re more than deep enough.
Starting with the plain old obvious: this is a team with forwards that can score – Zetterberg, Sedin, Steen, Backstrom, Landeskog and so on – that’s going to be receiving breakout passes from some of the best in the world, particularly Karlsson and Ekman-Larsson. I think their speed (from both the front and back-end) is going to push back opposing d-men which should allow them to carry the puck in across the line, and this is one patient group from there. They were blessed not have been embedded with that North American chip at birth that makes us want to get rid of the puck as soon as humanly possible. OH DEAR GOD THE PUCK’S BEEN ON MY STICK FOR FOUR SECONDS WHAT DO I DO? That means the Swedes could be dangerous going east-west in the zone.
They have arguably the best goaltender in the world. I know I bestowed that title on Tuukka Rask as well, and I know Lundqvist hasn’t had his career best season, but it’s not hard to put together an argument for him as The Guy when you look at this whole body of work. He could easily steal a game or two for the Swedes.
And, the most annoying thing (from the standpoint of the opposition) about this well-rounded group is that they’re largely of the positionally-responsible nature and have that touch of grit that means you’re not going to be given many gift-wrapped open looks, and you’re going to have to go through some tough dudes to earn your chances. Good luck to ya.
It’s not so much that they have your typical “weaknesses,” it’s that they could’ve been even better if it weren’t for injuries. Jimmie Ericsson and Marcus Kruger certainly aren’t Henrik Sedin and Johan Franzen. Also, their depth defenders are only average. Johnny Oduya and Henrik Tallinder are fine, they’re just not jaw-droppers.
Route to the Olympics
Top nine teams in the IIHF rankings get in automatically – number one overall falls within those parameters.
I really, really like this Swedish team. I was really, really tempted to call them to win it all. Again: really. But in the end, all you can do is pick the roster you think is best top to bottom and try not to guess too much. Based on that I picked Canada to win it all, so I have the Swedes taking home the silver medal. But I wouldn’t be surprised to be off by a spot here.
Times are GMT+4, (MSK – Moscow Standard Time)