It may be contrarian to talk about defense with either one of those teams, but with the incredible array of talent for Canada all sublimating their egos and just filling whatever role the coach gives them ( note to Team Russia, it works, just do what the coach wants. Can't hurt, nyet ? ), and with Team Sweden playing lockdown defense almost as well, the organizers of the tourney better not expect rampant entertaining offense.
Oh sure, there will be games like the Canadian dominance of the Czechs in their opener, and Canada will give up goals. There is simply too much talent on the ice. But even with the best offensive hockey players in the world, on Team Canada, Team Sweden, and in fact all the teams, I do not think me predicting that the games that matter in this tourney will probably be low scoring affairs is too outlandish.
That should suit our secondary heroes just fine, as Team Sweden showed a profound understanding of defensive hockey against the Russians on Sunday. Sure, they had to deal with a little drama at the end, but that was a pretty dominant display against the offensively talented Russians. All four lines rolled them over, in much the same way as Mike Babcock's team does it, and that blue line is pretty good too. In post game remarks, Markstrom stressed communication with his defense, and Daniel Sedin talked about defensive hockey as "The Swedish Way ". So yeah, they're serious about this stuff.
( Short highlights here. You can click on Puck Daily on the link, and they have a much longer highlight pack for your enjoyment )
Karlsson and Hedman, Hjalmarsson and Ekman Larsson, Stralman and Ekholm aren't quite the array of talent on the home team's blue line, but that Top Four certainly fit the bill against Russia. The shots were even ( 29 to 28 for Tre Kronor, rest the box score here ) , and there was not a lot of five on five sustained pressure by both teams, ( There was some. Don't get me wrong, it was entertaining, and offensive at times... ) but the amount of times the Swedes stood up in the neutral zone was impressive, as they thwarted Russian attempts to move through the middle time and again.
First Line Report - Captain Henrik Sedin ( not sure if they call him Captain Hank as well ) made a quick play right off the bench on what turned out to be the game winner, and Daniel Sedin had four shots. That was one off the team leader, Loui Eriksson, who had 5. Russia was worried about him in front all the time, and were very aware of that ability he has to read off the Twins and find a soft spot in front, but he was still able to get there and create havoc.
What, I'm IN ? - Jakob Markstrom got the start in the opener for Sweden, and while I am not sure how much notice he got of that fact, he was fine. Russia's best shooters ( Tarasenko, Malkin and Ovechkin ) had 4, 3 and 3 shots respectively, and it took a bit of a lucky bounce for Ovie to get one by him in the last minute. ( Although he got one illegally in the final 20 seconds that probably caused a bit of unease. It was pretty obviously put in by his hand, despite his protests to the contrary , however. ) Positionally, he was very good. Russia ) especially Malkin, like to try those shots from anywhere, and Malkin had one around the chin that was dangerous, For a game where everyone was expecting King Henrik, he was excellent in relief.
Next up is Team Finland for the Yellow and Blue. As Canada is to the United States, ( or Russia ) as far as hockey rivalries go, that might even pale a bit to the rivalry of these two Scandinavian hockey powers. With the Finns losing to Team
Young Guns Millennials North America, that will add a little spice as well. That will be followed up by a game against the youngsters, which could be for Top spot in the group, pending the results against the Finns.
Tills nästa gång !