Defense Will Be Key if Sweden Wants to Repeat Gold in Vancouver
As we approach the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver I figured it's time to take a look at some of the different teams competing this year and who we should be looking out for.
Sweden are the defending Gold Medal champions and look to be strong again. In 2006 they defeated Finland 3-2 to capture Gold in Turin, Italy.
Later that year they won the Men's World Ice Hockey Championships, defeating the Czech Republic and becoming the first team to ever win both events in the same year.
This slideshow will focus on the defensive side. Sweden returns three defensemen and two goalies from the 2006 Gold Medal team. They welcome five new defensemen this year and a new goalie.
This years team also consists of mostly NHL players, with a few guys who still play in Sweden. Every player has had NHL experience at one time or another.
Mattias Ohlund-Tampa Bay Lightning
Mattias Ohlund will be a good veteran presence for Team Sweden. Ohlund has competed in numerous tournaments for Sweden throughout his career and is one of their best defensemen.
Ohlund, who plays for the Tampa Bay Lightning, has been in the NHL since being drafted 13th overall in 1994 by the Vancouver Canucks. Ohlund has spent most of his career with the Canucks and is their all time leading goal and point scorer among defensemen.
In 1996, competing in his third World Junior Tournament, he captured best defensemen of the tournament and was named to the Tournament all-star team while Sweden won the silver medal.
Ohlund has previously competed in the 1998, 2002, and 2006 Winter Olympics. Ohlund played six games in Turin but couldn't compete in the final against Finland after being injured.
Nevertheless, Ohlund will be a great veteran presence for a team that is loaded with veterans and will be key if Sweden wants to repeat this year.
Henrik Talllinder-Buffalo Sabres
Henrik Tallinder plays for the Buffalo Sabres in the NHL. He is in his seventh season with the Sabres and before then he played in the NHL he played for AIK Solna of the Swedish Elitserien League.
During his time he has become known for being mostly a stay at home defensemen, but he has contributed points here and there.
This will be the fist time that Tallinder plays for Team Sweden in the Olympics. While he might not be relied upon as much as other guys he will still need to be playing at the top of his game if he wants to help Sweden bring back the gold again for a second straight time.
Johnny Oduya-New Jersey Devils
Johnny Oduya plays for the New Jersey Devils in the NHL. Oduya has become an outstanding defensmen for the Devils and has some good offensive skills for a defender.
Oduya has yet to play in the Olympics but has played in other tournaments for Sweden.
He has competed in the Euro Hockey Tour, which has Sweden compete against teams from Russia, Czech Republic, Finland, and other Swedish teams.
Oduya might not have a lot of experience, but he will be able to learn from others. His offensive skills could come in handy in case Sweden struggles to score goals.
Douglas Murray-San Jose Sharks
Along with Johnny Oduya, Douglas Murray hasn't had much experience at the international level. He is in his fifth year with the San Jose Sharks and has shown some good ability.
He has become known for his physical presence and has shown at times a good scoring touch for a defensemen.
Murray's international career has been limited, but he did compete in the 2008 IIHF World Championship. He is remembered though for laying a check on Russian Aleksey Morozov, causing Morozov to get a concussion and with Murray getting a match penalty.
Murray doesn't have much experience, but he will be helped along by guys like Ohlund and Lidstrom.
Nicklas Lidrstrom-Detroit Red Wings
Nicklas Lidstrom is by far Sweden's best defensemen and their most veteran player.
Lidstrom has spent his entire career playing for the Detroit Red Wings, capturing four Stanley Cups and winning the Norris Trophy six times. He has also made the All-Star team 10 times.
Lidstrom has competed with Sweden since playing in the World Championships in 1991, where he earned his first gold medal.
Lidstrom's best Olympic moment came in the 2006 gold medal game against Finland. With the game tied, Lidstrom scored the game winning goal helping Sweden capture the gold medal.
He was selected to the Olympic All-Star team that year as well. He has competed in three Olympics and will be a huge key if Sweden wants to recapture gold.
Niklas Kronwall-Detroit Red Wings
Niklas Kronwall is another member of the Red Wings who plays for Sweden. He has become a mainstay at defense for the Red Wings and has had experience at the international level.
He was selected in the first round by the Red Wings in 2000 and is in his sixth season playing for Detroit. Kronwall is known for his open ice hits and his defensive skills, but he can also put up points. Last year he finished with 51.
He won gold with Sweden at the 2006 Olympics. Originally he had pulled out after sustaining an injury, but after Mattias Ohlund was injured, Kronwall was called in to replace him.
He has also won gold with Sweden at the 2006 World Championships and silver at the 2003 World Championships.
Kronwall is only 29, but has had plenty of experience. He will be a huge part of Sweden's defense next month.
Magnus Johansson is one of only two players for Sweden not playing in the NHL right now. Johannson is one of the teams' veterans and currently plays for Linkopings HC in Swedens highest league, Elitserien.
Johannsson has spent most of his career in Sweden but also had a short stint in the NHL. During the 2007-08 season he split 45 games between the Chicago Blackhawks and Florida Panthers. He recorded 14 points during those games before deciding to return to Sweden after the season.
Johannson has played for Sweden in six World Championships including ones that captured bronze in 2002, siver in 2003, and gold in 2006.
Johansson holds numerous records for his hometown club, Linkopings, including points in a regular season and goals in a regular season.
If Sweden wants to repeat, Johansson will have to be on the top of his game.
Tobias Enstrom-Atlanta Thrashers
Tobias Enstrom is the youngest defensemen on Sweden this year. He is 25 and plays for the Atlanta Thrashers in the NHL.
Enstrom has competed in the World Junior Championships and World Championships for Sweden. Before coming to Atlanta he played for Modo Hockey in Sweden. During his time in Sweden he won Rookie of the year.
Enstrom has yet to compete in the Olympics until now and he will most likely be a bit nervous. He will be helped along by the rest of the veterans.
Henrik Lundqvist-New York Rangers
Henrik Lundqvist is going to be the No. 1 goalie for Sweden at this years Olympics. He is one of the best goalies in the NHL and has been nominated for the Vezina Award three times.
He also holds the record of being the only goalie to win at least 30 games in his first four seasons. During his time in Sweden he played for Frolunda FC, where he captured the Honken Trophy for best goalie three straight years.
Lundqvist has played for Sweden in many different tournaments. He got his first real playing time in the 2004 World Ice Hockey Championships where he was named to the Tournament All-Star team.
During the 2006 Olympics he led Sweden to the gold medal after going 5-1 and letting up just 12 goals in all. For Sweden to have a chance at winning gold again, Lundqvist will need to be at the top of his game and keep the puck out of the net at all costs.
Stefan Liv is the only other defensive player for Sweden that is not currently playing in the NHL, although he has spent some time in the NHL. He spent one year playing for the Detroit Red Wings, but spent most of his time with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL. He finished with a save perecentage of 89.5 before deciding to go back to Sweden once the season ended.
He currently plays for HV71, where he won Player of the Year in 2007-08. He has competed in many tournaments for Sweden over his short career.
Liv has played for Sweden at the World Championships in 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2009. He also competed in the 2006 Olympics as backup to Henrik Lundqvist.
Liv most likely won't see much playing time, but Sweden can feel comfortable that they have such a good backup in case anything happens to Henrik.
Jonas Gustavsson-Toronto Maple Leafs
Gustavsson is one of the youngest players for Team Sweden this year. He is only 25 and plays for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the NHL.
Gustavsson has spent pretty much his entire career playing for AIK of HockeyAllsvenskan. His best year came in 2008-09 where he posted a goals against average of 1.96 and had a .932 save percentage.
He did even better in the playoffs with a 1.03 goals against and a .961 save percentage. He helped lead his team, Farjestad, to the league title.
Gustavsson has yet to play for Team Sweden in international competition, but will in years to come. He probably won't get much playing time at the Olympics either, but if he continues to fine tune his game he will get his chance eventually.