The first game of the 2017 World Junior Championship was very much a pitting of David against Goliath, but though there would be no upset, Denmark definitely showed signs of improvement against the team many consider the front runner to win it all.
The game began in a back and forth action, as both Denmark and Sweden had possession of the puck early. Denmark got the first shot of the game off the first sustained pressure, but Sweden nearly got the first goal as Carl Grundström got past the defence. Lasse Petersen was up to the task, however, and turned it aside.
Denmark was relentless on turn overs and it led to a surprising 5-1 shot count for them five minutes into the game. Sweden took the first penalty of the game at 6:28, and the Danish power play, so lethal two years ago, went to work. They bobbled a bit as Sweden got in on a short handed breakaway, but Petersen steered it aside with ease.
However, it would be Alexander Nylander who opened the scoring half way through the period. After that, Sweden woke up a bit, and scored again with 1:36 left in the period.
Dahlin earns his first WJC point. Eriksson-Ek puts home the rebound. pic.twitter.com/zqGVue8Mbr— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) December 26, 2016
After 20, and down 2-0, there were still some positives. Last year, Denmark got nine shots through the entire game. After the first, Denmark already had 10.
Denmark again began well, getting a couple of shots early on before Sweden pushed back, and Sweden scored again to go up 3-0 as Jonathan Dalen tapped in Gundström’s rebound.
Denmark got another power play, but Sweden finally capitalized on a breakaway as Gundström finally put the puck past Petersen.
Carl Grundström is on fire! 4-0 Sweden. pic.twitter.com/75up3kXnLp— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) December 26, 2016
Denmark regrouped afterwards though, and Christian Wejse nearly slipped the puck past Felix Sandström on the wrap around. Sweden responded to the scoring chance with yet another goal from the sixteen-year-old Rasmus Dahlin.
Rasmus Dahlin with a nice little move to earn his first WJC goal.— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) December 26, 2016
He's 16 btw. pic.twitter.com/6Saq2fHQhD
Denmark came back with a big scoring chance of their own from Rasmus Andersson, but that’s pretty much how the game went. Scoring chance for them, goal for Sweden.
With 1:38 left to go in the period, Nylander got his second of the game, with a beautiful tip-in.
William Nylander: good at hockey.— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) December 26, 2016
6-0 Sweden. pic.twitter.com/rJI1C5fYWv
Two periods down, Sweden led 6-0, and outshot Denmark 22-17.
The third period was pretty much all Sweden, though Denmark did draw another power play.
Though Sweden ran the period, true to form, Denmark never went away, and with 2:07 left to play, they made good. Nikolaj Krag gave Denmark their first goal of the tournament through all sorts of traffic
Denmark is on the board! A good shot by Krag breaks the shutout. pic.twitter.com/MyMnWeSsDp— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) December 26, 2016
Though they ultimately fell 6-1, Denmark definitely put up a better showing, only being outshot 33-22, and not being shut out as they were last year.
Sweden of course, looked like the power house that they’re supposed to be, with brilliant showings from Alexander Nylander, Rasmus Dahlin, and a strong performance from Felix Sandström.
Defenceman Christian Wejse was named player of the game for Denmark, and Sandström for Sweden.
Denmark will face off against the reigning champions when they play Finland tomorrow, and Sweden plays Switzerland the day after.
- Obviously, Denmark would like to pick up points wherever possible, but in games like this against the super powers, they mostly need to show that they’ve improved. Game one says they have. They’re definitely deeper than they have been, and a more cohesive unit. They also matched up far better against Sweden than expected. Last year they lost 5-0, and were outshot to the staggering tune of 48-9. This year, they had ten shots at the end of the first, and the end result was the respectable 33-22.
- Denmark has always been tenacious, but this year, they were able to beat Sweden to pucks, and exert some pressure in the offensive zone more than they have in the past. They were also better able to break out better this year than last. Denmark was also much more disciplined, something they’ve had trouble with in past years.
- Denmark’s overall game may have improved, but their power play was abysmal. It is on the man advantage that the absence of players of the calibre of Oliver Bjorkstrand and Nikolaj Ehlers is the most apparent, as the team struggles to make anything happen. The return of Mathias From would be a big boost in this department.
- Sweden showed exactly why they’re among the favourites in this tournament, with some impressive fire power, and a team chock full of excellent drafted players. With the exception of a slow first period, they were pretty firmly in the drivers’ seat in this game.