Canada vs. Sweden: Preview and Prediction for 2014 Olympic Hockey Game
The gold-medal game will feature the two best teams at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Both Sweden and Canada are 5-0 in the tournament after defeating Finland and the United States, respectively, in their semifinal matchups Friday.
This matchup also pits the two most recent gold-medal winners at the Olympics—Sweden took the gold in 2006, while Canada won it on home soil in 2010.
Each team has dealt with a tournament-ending injury to a key player. Sweden lost captain Henrik Zetterberg during group play, while Canada's John Tavares hurt his knee during the quarterfinals against Latvia.
Click through for predictions, projected lineups and television information for what should be a darn good game on Sunday for all the marbles in Sochi.
TV and Live Stream Info
Will Sidney Crosby's line put a puck in the net?
It's been a downright weird tournament for Crosby. He has just two assists in five games despite an abundance of scoring chances, one of which came not long after a Canada penalty kill while he was with different linemates. Crosby along with Chris Kunitz and Patrice Bergeron were great against the Americans, but they may need to finally put one in the net to beat Sweden.
Will Henrik Lundqvist have to steal this game?
Most likely, yes. Along with Henrik Zetterberg, Sweden is also without Henrik Sedin and Johan Franzen. Even if that trio was in the lineup, the Swedes' talent level wouldn't match that of Canada. Lundqvist will need to be the great equalizer for Sweden to have a shot in this one.
“I hope we save our best for next; we are going to need it,” said Lundqvist, according to SI.com. “We’ll be facing a better team. It’s our toughest test.”
Can Sweden penetrate Canada's stingy defense?
Carey Price made 31 saves against Team USA but, as Sean Leahy of Puck Daddy notes, how many were truly difficult? Three? Maybe four? If Sweden can't solve the likes of Shea Weber, Alex Pietrangelo and Drew Doughty, they may have to take this one to a 0-0 shootout if it hopes to win.
Team Canada Projected Lineup
• Chris Kunitz—Sidney Crosby—Patrice Bergeron
• Jamie Benn—Ryan Getzlaf—Corey Perry
• Patrick Marleau—Jonathan Toews—Jeff Carter
• Patrick Sharp—Matt Duchene—Rick Nash
Extra: Martin St. Louis
• Duncan Keith—Shea Weber
• Jay Bouwmeester—Alex Pietrangelo
• Marc-Edouard Vlasic—Drew Doughty
Extra: Dan Hamhuis
• Carey Price
• Roberto Luongo
Scratches: PK Subban, Mike Smith
Sweden Projected Lineup
• Daniel Sedin—Nicklas Backstrom—Loui Eriksson
• Alexander Steen—Patrik Berglund—Daniel Alfredsson
• Gabriel Landeskog—Marcus Johansson—Jakob Silfverberg
• Jimmie Ericsson—Marcus Kruger—Carl Hagelin/Gustav Nyquist
• Alexander Edler—Erik Karlsson
• Jonathan Ericsson—Niklas Kronwall
• Niklas Hjalmarsson—Johnny Oduya
Extra: Oliver Ekman-Larsson
• Henrik Lundqvist
• Jhonas Enroth
Scratches: Henrik Tallinder, Jonas Gustavsson
Jonathan Toews, Canada
He took Team USA's top line of James van Riemsdyk, Joe Pavelski and Phil Kessel out of the game with help from his linemates, and his group will likely be asked to do the same against Sweden's top line. Daniel Sedin, Nicklas Backstrom and Loui Eriksson are Sweden's top threat and they will have their work cut out for them against Toews.
Erik Karlsson, Sweden
With Sweden's forwards dropping like flies, the defenseman has been a key part of the team throughout the tournament. He will likely log his biggest workload of the Olympics in this game and may need to score again in order for Sweden to win.
Drew Doughty, Canada
He's been flying throughout the tournament, although he only had one true scoring chance against Team USA. That could change against Sweden. Doughty is a bigger, stronger version of Karlsson and should be effective in this game.
Carey Price, Canada
Canada could've won most of its games in this tournament with a well-placed fire hydrant in the crease, but Price was sensational against Team USA in the semifinals. It's easy to forget how he good he can be when he's playing behind so much talent, but he'll be tough to crack in this contest.
Henrik Lundqvist, Sweden
He's 5-0 with two shutouts and allowed one goal on 26 shots in a 2-1 win against Finland in the semifinals. He has given up more than two goals in a game just once in the tournament, to Latvia of all teams in the final game of group play.
Lundqvist has a 1.20/.951 split in the tournament, putting him in the driver's seat for MVP honors.
Team Canada Will Win If They Stifle Sweden's Top Line
The line of Jonathan Toews, along with the defense pairing of Shea Weber and Duncan Keith, shut down the Americans' top line of James van Riemsdyk, Joe Pavelski and Phil Kessel in the semifinals. If they can do the same to Sweden's top line, this one could be a laugher.
Daniel Sedin, Nicklas Backstrom and Loui Eriksson are arguably a more formidable top line than what the Americans threw at Canada, but there's considerably less depth by comparison. If that line is held off the scoresheet, the Canadians have this one in the bag.
Sweden Will Win If They Can Score Three Goals
Even with the firepower Canada possesses, this game will be a race to three, or maybe even two. The Swedes are banged up offensively, as you may have heard once, twice or 100 times, but they are the best team defensively and that won't change Sunday.
If Sweden can squeeze a third goal out of its lineup, that should be enough for Henrik Lundqvist.
No matter how you want to play the game, Canada can win it. If it's a wide-open contest, they have the horses to outrun you. If it's a game played close to the vest, Canada has the defense capable of hanging in punch for punch.
If Sweden was at full strength, it'd have a chance. But as things stand now, Canada is the better team and will be winning gold for the second straight Olympics.
Predicted score: Canada 4, Sweden 1