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WJC 2016 Sweden vs Denmark recap: Swedes clinch Group A with shutout of Danes

In a game that seriously tempted me to break out all the Beowulf references, Sweden beat Denmark handily.

Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Everyone expected Sweden to win this one, and they delivered. Thomas Lillie faced a constant barrage of shots in his second World Juniors game, and his first start, against Sweden.

Thirteen seconds into the game, Adrian Kempe rocketed a shot over Lillie, and it looked like the Danes would be utterly overrun. Matias Lassen, suspended for a head shot on Switzerland's Dario Meyer in the first game of the tournament, had another rough period, as Kemppe swept around him on the first goal.

Alexander True took a double minor at 8:03 for both a rough and a hold, and then the game was delayed as the ice crew had to fill a sizeable hole at centre ice. The Danes did a surprisingly good job killing the first minute of the penalty, allowing only one shot on net, despite a Swedish swarm in front of their net. However, Gustav Forsling scored twenty-two seconds into the second half of the four-minute penalty on a huge shot through a double screen.

Røndbjerg nearly squeaked a wrap-around past Sandstrom, and his linemate, Søren Nielsen, had a few strong moments in the offensive zone. Jeppe Holmburg took a hooking call on Asplund, but the Danish penalty kill, and more outstanding goaltending from Lillie, kept the Swedes off the board.

Though Sweden continued to hold the Danes under siege for most of the rest of the period, they were unable to add to their lead, and Denmark escaped with a steep hill to climb, considering they only had two shots, but not utterly insurmountable.

Concerning for Denmark, Matias From did not return to the game, reportedly returning to the team's hotel. About 4:30 into the second, Carl Grundstrom took a bad penalty on Knudsen, but though the Danes got a few chances on the power play, Sweden was the far more threatening team even short-handed.

Denmark had a few good shifts in the second period, including some long offensive zone time from Alexander True and his line.

After a second delay to patch up the ice, Sweden struck again with less than three minutes left in the period. Oskar Lindblom tipped the puck in, as a broken stick and a series of bad bounces surfaced to haunt the Danes, who had been playing a stronger period overall. That improved play did not result in a major shift in the flow of the game, however, as Sweden never at any time looked less than dominant.

That Swedish zone time and possession led to a huge shot from Edmonton OIlers' draft pick William Lagesson halfway through the third, which beat Lillie over the shoulder once again. Despite the 4-0 deficit, and the overwhelming Swedish play, Denmark continued to play hard, despite the absence of From.

Alexander Nylander, who has been noticeable and dangerous all tournament long, was finally rewarded for his efforts in the game with a nifty backhand over the pad of Lillie with 4:05 left, scoring the final goal in a 5-0 shutout victory.

Sweden picked up its 35th straight group-stage victory at the World Juniors, and will take on Canada tomorrow in the last game of the round robin. Denmark is also in action tomorrow against the United States.

Sweden now sits atop the tournament with nine points, and has clinched first place in Group A, holding the tiebreaker against the only team that can tie them in points.

Thoughts

  • Again, as it usually is, Danish goaltending was the story of the game. Thomas Lillie was spectacular in defeat, turning aside 43 of 48 shots.
  • Though the Danes were never really in this one, they have made quite the name for themselves for their relentless work ethic, and they never stopped battling. Despite lacking top flight talent like Bjørkstrand and Ehlers, True, From and Røndbjerg (not even draft eligible until 2017) have been quite good, and the team is, as Olaf Eller said before the start of the tournament, deeper than it has ever been. The future of hockey in Denmark is bright indeed.
  • Sweden now has 14 goals from 11 different players; the most offensively-talented force in the tournament, even with William Nylander sidelined. The matchup against Canada should be a very good one.