New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist will lead Team Sweden into the Olympics this afternoon when they take on Team Germany at Canada Hockey Place. The Swedish, as I have stated, are one of the more well rounded clubs in this tournament and I am looking forward to watching them live today. While I am not expecting a total blowout like we saw on Tuesday in the Canada game and the Russia game, I do think Sweden will come out of this one with a victory and three points in the standings.
While the team is well rounded, their strengths have to be defense and goaltending. Us Rangers fans know more than anyone about how netminder Henrik Lundqvist gives you a chance to win night in and night out. Henrik was a main reason Sweden won Gold in Torino in 2006, and will again be a major reason if they defend that title this time around in Vancouver.
Goaltending, surprisingly, has been phenomenal in the games that I have seen thus far. Jonas Hiller was tremendous for the Swiss, and both Norway and Latvia had solid goaltending in at least the first two periods of their games. Ryan Miller, Evgeni Nabokov, and Roberto Luongo did not see much action, but came up with the big saves when they were needed. In short tourneys such as this one, there is no question that your goalie will have a lot of say in how far you go, and so far the goaltending has been excellent.
Defense is where many teams can run into problems. Latvia and Norway found themselves getting into trouble against Canada and Russia when pinned in their own zone. I do not know if these foreign leagues focus more on offense or what it is, but the defensive coverage has been very poor, which leaves goaltenders on their own.
This is why I feel Sweden can breeze through this tournament as long as their defense is rock solid. You have veteran blue-liners Nik Lidstrom and Matthias Ohlund, with the younger Niklas Kronwall and Johnny Oduya serving as talented subs. Henrik Lundqvist will take a breath of fresh air when he has this defense in front of him for a change, instead of the porous squad the Rangers put out on the ice every night.
On offense you have Red Wings star Henrik Zetterberg leading the way, followed by the Senators Daniel Alfredsson and former NHLer Peter Forsberg, who now plays in the Swedish Elite League. Dallas Stars youngster Loui Eriksson is also a plus up front for the Swedes, but the big focus will be on the Sedin twins for sure. Henrik and Daniel are dynamic when playing together and will carry the mail for Team Sweden on offense.
When you look at the team as a whole after dissecting them piece-by-piece, you can see what I mean when I say they are well rounded. You have the goaltending, not depth-wise though, in Lundqvist. The defense is strong and the offense is extremely skilled.
I am looking forward to seeing how they all play together as a club this afternoon, especially because they have had a bit more time than some of the other teams to bond and unite. Like I said, I am expecting a Swedish victory today.
Team Germany has numerous NHL players on their roster, such as the Bruins Marco Sturm, Marcel Goc of the Predators, Dennis Seidenberg of the Panthers, and defenseman Christian Ehrhoff of the hometown Canucks. This is why I do not believe this game will be a blowout, but I do think Sweden should be able to handle them.
As a programming note, I know there was a lot of confusion about television channels and the games yesterday back in the United States. So for your information, my schedule says today’s Sweden-Germany game will appear on CNBC back in the States. I do not know whether that will change, but that's how it is for now.
Live in-game updates of the Sweden game will be available at twitter.com/RangersTribune . Be sure to keep tabs on my twitter during the day as well because I have been tweeting my experiences out on the streets of Vancouver, which have been interesting to say the least.