Article written by Ryan Hale - Community Contributor
It’s no surprise that when people are talking about medal contenders for the Sochi Olympics in the Men’s hockey category that the first three that come to mind are Russia, Canada, and the United States respectively. However, Sweden should really not be that far behind. In fact there is a good chance they could sneak into the gold medal game themselves leaving two of the others to fight over the bronze. Everyone knows that goaltending wins championships, or in this case medals and the Swedes don’t have a goaltending corps to laugh at. Henrik Lundqvist is one of the NHLs best goaltenders and his brand new 7 year $59.5 million dollar contract with the Rangers is proof enough of that, even if he is having a bit of an “off” year with a .918 SV%. However, if for some reason he appears to be having a bad tournament Jonas Gustavsson would be a great replacement. When Jimmy Howard went down earlier this year he stepped up and filled the gap nicely in his stead, even earning the nickname “Gust-of-win” with some fans.
Beyond their stellar goaltending duo though is their D corp. How could you go wrong with names like Ekman-Larsson, Edler, Hjalmarsson, Kronwall, and Ericsson? Having a solid defensive front standing in the way between the opposing forwards and their goaltenders might make this Swedish squads one of the hardest teams to score on in the tournament. Plus, you never know when someone is going to get “Kronwalled” which could easily change the momentum of a game. The combination of goalie and defense that Sweden can put on the ice might provide them with an opportunity or two to steal a game.
This isn’t to say that their offense will be lacking either. Their forward lines will not garner the most notoriety but they should be able to pot some goals. Alexander Steen is having a break-out year for the Blues and although his brother will be missing due to an injury Daniel Sedin is always a threat to score when he is on the ice. They should be able to support their goalies, if only just enough to win by one or two goals when it matters. So, keep your eye on this Sweden team. The Czech Republic will be their biggest test in the group rounds and they play each other first on Wednesday. Look for Sweden to come out strong and then cruise to their automatic bye the next two games if they can get a win against the Czechs.