There is an awful lot of talk about who will win gold in Olympic hockey. What is surprising is that the Team Sweden hockey club is not getting enough love compared to Canada and host country Russia. The 2006 gold medal winners may have been upset in 2010, but are looking like a solid choice to regain their title as the best in the world.
Tre Kronor has depth at every position, even with injuries taking their toll. Only one player, Jimmie Ericsson, plays overseas. That clues you in to how much high-end talent is playing in the NHL for the Swedes.
The loss of Johan Franzen is muddled by the addition of Gustav Nyquist, his Detroit Red Wings teammate. Nyquist has eight goals in his last eight games, including a hat trick. Team Sweden is led by all-world forwards such as Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Backstrom, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, and captain Daniel Alfredsson. The two-way play of bottom six forwards Alex Steen, Loui Eriksson and Marcus Kruger makes Tre Kronor the second deepest team at forward.
Team Sweden hockey has an issue with toughness, as none of the forwards are known for their grit. If the refs allow for size and toughness to play, then this group of 12 is in for a world of hurt.
The retirement of Niklas Lidstrom took a chunk out of Sweden’s experience and pedigree. Young defensemen have earned their stripes in the NHL and are expected to play integral roles in every situation. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Erik Karlsson, and Niklas Hjalmarsson represent a youthful defense anchored by veterans Johnny Oduya, Niklas Kronwall, and Alex Edler.
Much like the forwards, Sweden lacks size and toughness on the blueline. Larger, physical forwards will be able to have their way in the corners and in front of the net unless a few guys buck up.
Henrik Lundqvist has essentially played two seasons for the New York Rangers. The beginning of the season saw Lundqvist look sluggish, while the last six weeks have been more of what fans have been used to seeing. Assumed backup netminder Jonas Gustavsson has missed a few games of late, meaning young third-stringer Jhonas Enroth could see time if something were to happen to ‘King Henrik.’ It is odd to say that goaltending is the Swedes’ weakness, but it is in 2014.
Group C opponents
Czech Republic, Switzerland, Latvia
Projected group finish
1st– 8 points
2nd– Loss in gold medal game to CanadaPowered by Sidelines Follow paulmbanks