Team Sweden can win Olympic gold again. Provided it can develop the regenerative healing properties of Wolverine.
Here is the roster announced for the Swedes on Sunday, which includes 13 holdovers from the gold-medal run of 2006. It's a veteran team that doesn't really have room for many whippersnappers.
King Henrik had a 2.33 GAA in six games during Sweden's gold-medal performance in Turin. Keep in mind he was on an absolute tear heading into the games: 17-3-3 for the Rangers. He's played well this season (2.42, .922 save percentage) even when his team hasn't (16-13-4 record overall). His experience in winning the ultimate prize gives him a psychological edge over most of his competition between the pipes.
Gustavsson's health isn't supposed to be a concern after a second procedure helped correct an irregular heartbeat that's interrupted his NHL career. An interesting No. 2: Flashes of dominance, some bouts of inconstancy, but the type of goalie that can live up to the "Monster" moniker when rolling. At the very least, it'll be interesting to see how he plays behind a defense that's better on the ice than on paper -- a welcome change from the Leafs.
Liv is a former Red Wings draft pick, a veteran of the Elite league and a member of the 2006 squad. He gets the nod over Johan Hedberg(notes), who's been outstanding for the Atlanta Thrashers but was left off Sweden's prelim list, and Erik Ersberg(notes) of the Los Angeles Kings. Highly regarded Jacob Markstrom was probably a victim of needed another veteran in this trio.
It's Henrik's team, and he's earned that right.
Defense: Tobias Enström (Atlanta Thrashers); Magnus Johansson(notes) (Linköpings HC); Niklas Kronwall(notes) (Detroit Red Wings); Nicklas Lidström (Detroit Red Wings); Douglas Murray(notes) (San Jose Sharks); Johnny Oduya(notes) (New Jersey Devils); Mattias Öhlund (Tampa Bay Lightning); Henrik Tallinder(notes) (Buffalo Sabres).
The big rink/small rink debate for the Olympics is an interesting one, even if it's been fairly debunked by other international tournaments played on smaller ice surfaces. With seven NHL defensemen, it's probably a moot point for Sweden; but it's interesting to see the construction of this defense with that in mind.
They have some bangers: If opponents aren't getting "KRONWALL'D!" they'll be bashed by Murray, which Fear The Fin called the most physical Sharks defenseman since Bryan Marchment (just a little less spear-y).
But while Tallinder's physical game has improved, he's not exactly a brute force. Neither is Oduya, the smooth-skating for the Devils. The Swedes have a little muscle, but Sweden's going to win or lose with puck-moving defenseman on a blue line anchored by, oh, the best defenseman of the decade in Lidstrom.
About Lidstrom: He has 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in 16 games over three Olympic tournaments. He scored the game-winner against Finland for gold in 2006. He wasn't sure he was going to lace'em up for 2010; the fact that he did is a giant boost for this team.
The most glaring omission here is probably Victor Hedman(notes), the No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 NHL draft and a big-minute player for the Tampa Bay Lightning this season. Perhaps at 18 years old and mistake-prone, they decided not to toss him in the pressure cooker. Also missing: Jonathan Ericsson(notes) of the Red Wings. But the Swedes have certainly replenished the ranks from 2006, which saw a number of players either retire or age out of effectiveness.
Forwards: Daniel Alfredsson(notes) (Ottawa Senators); Nicklas Bäckström (Washington Capitals); Loui Eriksson(notes) (Dallas Stars); Peter Forsberg(notes) (MODO Örnsköldsvik); Tomas Holmström (Detroit Red Wings); Patric Hörnqvist (Nashville Predators); Fredrik Modin(notes) (Columbus Blue Jackets); Samuel Påhlsson (Columbus Blue Jackets); Daniel Sedin(notes) (Vancouver Canucks); Henrik Sedin(notes) (Vancouver Canucks); Mattias Weinhandl(notes) (Dynamo Moscow); Henrik Zetterberg(notes) (Detroit Red Wings).
Obviously, the story here is Forsberg, which is to say the story here is injuries.
Foppa's Olympic numbers: 18 games, 19 points. He chose to stay with Modo rather than return to the NHL this season. In a short-term tournament, he can still be an absolute force ... if healthy.
Alfredsson is also a potent offensive force ... if healthy, as he's expected to miss up to six weeks with a recently suffered shoulder injury. A third of the players up front for Sweden have battled through significant injuries in the last few months. Johan Franzen(notes) has been left off the roster, but that's simply a function of his injury rehab; he could be added if he's been given the green light by Vancouver.
Getting past the "what ifs" about injuries, this is a potentially stellar group. Backstrom is in the midst of a career year. The Sedins are the Sedins, and Zetterberg is Zetterberg ... OK, "if healthy." Can't get away from the injuries.
The line configurations here will be intriguing with this mix of Swedish veterans and young guns.
Overall, Sweden is its usual well-rounded, fundamentally sound group with clutch players at every position. To defend gold, they'll need the best from Lundqvist, the healthiest from their forwards and, as in 2006, a little luck of the draw and a few upsets in other parts of the bracket.