Good morning one and all! Today we continue PensBurgh's Olympic Preview Series with a look at defending world champs and top-ranked Swedes. If you'd like to check out the previous articles in the series, here they are:
WORLD RANKING AND OLYMPIC HISTORY
Swedish participation at the Olympics goes all the way back to 1920. They have had a lot of Olympic success, having won 8 medals, with two golds in Lillehammer 1994 and Turin 2006. They are also the defending world champions and the #1 ranked team in the world.
The Swedish Sochi '14 jerseys are exactly what you imagine, Ikea yellow and three blue crowns, with fake laces thrown in for good measure. Moving on.
PRE-OLYMPIC CAMP ROSTER
Sweden held its pre-Olympic orientation camp from August 12-14 in Stockholm. The absence of seasoned veterans such as Daniel Alfredsson was obvious, although it was stressed that players who weren't at camp could still make the team.
DEFENSEMEN: Jonas Brodin, Alexander Edler, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jonathan Ericsson, Nicklas Grossmann, Erik Gustafsson, Victor Hedman, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Erik Karlsson, Niklas Kronwall, Douglas Murray, Johnny Oduya, Henrik Tallinder
FORWARDS: Patrik Berglund, Nicklas Backstrom, Jimmie Ericsson, Loui Eriksson, Johan Franzen, Carl Hagelin, Patric Hornqvist, Marcus Johansson, Marcus Kruger, Gabriel Landeskog, Oscar Lindberg, Joel Lundqvist, Gustav Nyquist, Niklas Persson, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Alexander Steen, Henrik Zetterberg.
PROJECTED FINAL ROSTER
GOALIES: Henrik Lundqvist, Robin Lehner, Jhonas Enroth
Something like that. Even with some less than pristine numbers lately, Henrik Lundqvist is Henrik Lundqvist. He backstopped them all the way to gold in 2006 and he will be their guy again. Lehner is good enough to jump in should that be necessary.
DEFENSEMEN: Erik Karlsson, Niklas Kronwall, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Victor Hedman, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Hampus Lindholm, Jonas Brodin, Johnny Oduya
It was no easy task pairing the list of camp invitees down to the required 8, and certainly Alexander Edler and Jonathan Ericsson are good players that would be tough to leave out. Edler still has two games left to serve on his suspension for a hit on Eric Staal at the worlds, so it may be a factor if he gets left out. Yes, he's only 19 and wasn't invited to orientation camp, so why do I think Hampus Lindholm deserves a spot on this D? He averages 2 minutes a night more on the best team in the NHL than Olli Maatta does for the injury-riddled Penguins missing their entire defense. He also leads the entire NHL with a +22 in 36 games. Numbers don't lie. This is as talented a blue line as any. Smooth skating, some hard hitting, smart positioning, everything. Absolutely stupendous.
FORWARDS: Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Steen, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Henrik Zetterberg, Loui Eriksson, Marcus Johansson, Gabriel Landeskog, Johan Franzen, Carl Soderberg, Patric Hornqvist, Marcus Kruger, Carl Hagelin, Jimmie Ericsson
Obviously Loui Eriksson's status is far from certain as he hasn't resumed skating yet and the Bruins indicate he's not close to returning. This team is all good at left wing, with Steen, Daniel Sedin, Zetterberg, Landeskog and Hagelin. They are somewhat thinner on the right, so if Eriksson can't go, they could certainly plug Alfredsson in there. Jimmie Ericsson from SHL's Skellefteå is most definitely going to strengthen the right wing. Backstrom, Henrik Sedin, Johansson and Franzen look like the locks at center, with Silfverberg and Nyquist potentially getting looks as well.
MEET THE COACHES
Pär Mårts has been the head coach of Tre Kronor since 2010. With GM Tommy Boustedt and assistant coaches Rikard Grönborg, Stefan Ladhe and Peter Popovic, he has an experienced staff around him.
STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
Strengths: Incredible talent on the blue line. What an extraordinarily well-balanced group of players. The forwards are deep, experienced, and just excellent.
Weaknesses: Literally none that I can see. Well, maybe there are no teams without any flaws, but this is as good as it gets. As recently as a few weeks ago I was going to list goaltending as a definite strength, except Lundqvist stopped being invincible. I would still rate their goaltending as really good, though. This is all nitpicking. Swedes are excellent throughout their lineup.
Sweden was drawn in Group C, with Czech Republic, Switzerland and Latvia (in that order of play). They will breeze through the round robin stage and get a direct pass to the quarters. I don't see anyone taking on this team and coming out on top. The last time Sweden competed at the Olympics on European-sized ice, in Turin 2006, they won the whole thing with a less talented roster. They will medal in Sochi, and I think they will once again go all the way.
For the end, let's rewind the clock 20 years for another trip down the memory lane. Back to Lillehammer we go, to that incredible gold-medal shootout against Canada. Peter Forsberg. That is all.