2016 World Cup of Hockey: Team Sweden preview
With a chip on their shoulder following the loss to Canada at the 2014 Olympics, Sweden has something to prove.
Sweden is looking for revenge, after what many players thought was a missed opportunity to win gold back at the Sochi Olympics.
The Swedish dressing room has had a quiet air of confidence around it. There has been a lot of talk about gelling as a team, and making sure that everyone accepts roles that might be different than what they normally have with their NHL teams. The goal is gold, and they will not be content with anything less.
|Jhonas Enroth||G||NHL||Toronto Maple Leafs|
|Jacob Markström||G||NHL||Vancouver Cannucks|
|Henrik Lundqvist||G||NHL||New York Rangers|
|Niklas Hjalmarsson||D||NHL||Chicago Blackhawks|
|Anton Strålman||D||NHL||Tampa Bay Lightning|
|Mattias Ekholm||D||NHL||Nashville Predators|
|Oliver Ekman-Larsson||D||NHL||Arizona Coyotes|
|Hampus Lindholm||D||NHL||Anaheim Ducks|
|Erik Karlsson||D||NHL||Ottawa Senators|
|Victor Hedman||D||NHL||Tampa Bay Lightning|
|Filip Forsberg||F||NHL||Nashville Predators|
|Mikael Backlund||F||NHL||Calgary Flames|
|Marcus Krüger||F||NHL||Chigaco Blackhawks|
|Patrik Berglund||F||NHL||St. Louis Blues|
|Jakob Silfverberg||F||NHL||Anaheim Ducks|
|Niklas Bäckström||F||NHL||Washington Capitals|
|Loui Eriksson||F||NHL||Vancouver Cannucks|
|Daniel Sedin||F||NHL||Vancouver Cannucks|
|Henrik Sedin||F||NHL||Vancouver Cannucks|
|Carl Söderberg||F||NHL||Colorado Avalanche|
|Carl Hagelin||F||NHL||Pittsburgh Penguins|
|Patric Hörnqvist||F||NHL||Pittsburgh Penguins|
|Gabriel Landeskog||F||NHL||Colorado Avalanche|
The thing that sticks out most with this roster is the amount of skilled defensemen. Assistant coach, and former Montreal Canadien, Peter Popovic said "This is the best ever blue line that has played for Sweden."
In some form of addition by subtraction, one could argue that the defensive corps actually improved when Niklas Kronwall bowed out of the tournament. The question right now seems to be if it is Mattias Ekholm or Hampus Lindholm that will be the sixth defender on the roster.
It seems likely that Victor Hedman will play with Anton Strålman, while Niklas Hjalmarsson will skate beside Oliver Ekman-Larsson. As such, the lone open spot is next to one of the best defenders in the world, Erik Karlsson.
While Karlsson has been spoken about in all media, it has been Oliver Ekman-Larsson that has played the most minutes in the exhibition games. The often overlooked Arizona Coyotes player will play a huge role for his country, right up there with the superstar Karlsson.
You also have to count Henrik Lundqvist as a strength, especially considering that defense in front of him. He should flourish and he looks incredible motivated and confident. Without needing to wear the C, he is the team’s leader, and he has always done well at international competitions.
The offense is a big question mark, to be honest. A top line with the Sedins and Loui Eriksson is not something that will scare most teams. The line that will be leaned up on to pull some heavy duty is the trio of Filip Forsberg, Niklas Bäckström, and Patric Hörnqvist.
Can these two lines really produce enough offensive output to accomplish the goal of winning the tournament? Certainly a tall task, to say the least.
Erik Karlsson will be the dynamo that will get Sweden going. Coach Rikard Grönborg has decided that whatever defensive faults Karlsson has are far outweighed by his strengths, and will play his team that way. All eyes will be on Karlsson, and he will cherish the opportunity to play his game on such a stage.
In the last game against Finland, the power play unit with the Sedins and Loui Eriksson looked strong as well. With Karlsson on the point it also opens a door for Oliver Ekman-Larsson to have a go with his wrist shot rather than a big Karlsson howitzer.
In all, the powerplay with those two could be very key in compensating for the weaker forward group. It should be interesting to see if they can capitalize on their opportunities, and give Sweden a leg up on the competition.