The men’s ice hockey tournament at the 2014 Sochi Games is expected to be the most thrilling and popular even at the Olympics. We’re breaking down all 12 teams until the tournament begins on Wednesday, Feb. 12.
Sweden competes in Group C in the 2014 Winter Olympics. Here are five reasons why they could totally medal in Sochi:
1. Big Ice Advantage
As the Canadians and Americans adjust to life on the big sheet, the Swedes are built for it and know how to utilize it – especially when it comes to their mobile defense.
2. Their Swede Back End
Even in a post-Nicklas Lidstrom world, the Swedes have the best defense corps in the Olympics: Erik Karlsson, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Niklas Kronwall, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Alex Edler, Johnny Oduya, Jonathan Ericsson and requisite old guyHenrik Tallinder. They can fly, they can hit, they can win boards battles.
3. Henrik Lundqvist
Oh, right: There’s a pretty good last line of defense, too. Lundqvist posted a 1.34 GAA and a .927 save percentage in three games during the Vancouver Games. He had a 2.33 GAA in six games when the Swedes won gold in 2006. It’s not his first rodeo, and he’s hot right now: Giving up only one goal in four of his last seven games with the New York Rangers.
4. The Vet And Kid Mix
Some teams are the Czechs, with a group of veterans and few young players. Some teams are like the Americans, who have three players over 30. And some are like Sweden, with the perfect mix of medal-winning veterans (Daniel Alfredsson, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Zetterberg) and newbies (Gabriel Landeskog, Karlsson, Carl Hagelin).
5. Nicklas Backstrom
Who was Sweden’s best forward in the Vancouver Olympics? Backstrom, actually. He had six points in four games, playing strong two-way hockey and acting as the perfect pivot between Loui Eriksson and Daniel Alfredsson. He was the best faceoff man in the tournament (69%) as well. In Washington, he gets overshadowed by Ovechkin. He has the chance to return the favor in Sochi.
C’mon, Can These Guys Actually Medal?
Yes, and despite the injuries to Henrik Sedin and Johan Franzen, it could be a medal as gold as their jerseys.