COLOGNE – Some nicknames are good because they seem to fit the person better than his real name. Like, say, “Rocket”. Others are good, because they reflect the exact opposite of the person’s persona, like all the big men called “Little Mikey” in mobster movies.
Or, Jonas Gustavsson’s “The Monster”.
Gustavsson, a soft-spoken nice guy and a true gentleman, got the nickname during the 2009 Swedish playoffs when his coach, Per-Erik Johnsson, called him a real monster in the net. Which he was, when he broke the league’s shutout record and kept his net untouched for 240 minutes and 25 seconds.
He then signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent – he wears his Maple Leafs mask at the World Championship because he had his Vancouver teammates sign the Team Sweden mask he used at the Olympics – had heart problems during the training camp, underwent two heart surgeries, and somehow still managed to play 42 games in the NHL, with a 2.87 goals against average.
Gustavsson entered the World Championship as the Tre Kronor’s starting goaltender. He played four of the seven games in Mannheim, recording a 94.17 save percentage and a 1.75 goals against average. In the preliminary round game against the Czech Republic, Gustavsson made 35 saves, but the Czechs won 2-1.
He knows what to expect from the Czechs in the semi-final, but he hopes things will be different in Cologne.
“We’re ready. We have to be, it’s the World Championship semi-final,” he says.
“They’re a great team, they’ve showed it by getting to the semi-final, and they beat us in the first game. We know they will start strong, so we have to get through that. They’re a great team, but so are we,” he adds.
For Sweden, the 2-1 loss to the Czechs in the last game of the preliminary round – after wins over Norway and France – somehow made the team gel, and focus.
“We came together as a team, and all in all, we’ve got better all through the tournament. I’m sure, though, that the Czechs have got better, too, because often the big hockey nations have problems at the beginning of the tournament,” he says.
“We know that the Czechs have several really skilled players who know how to score goals and who know how to make a smart pass, they’re very creative. They often have the patience to wait for the opponent’s mistakes and will then use their transition game to strike back. An early goal by us would make things a little harder for them,” he adds.
There’s one player that most of the people in the Lanxess Arena will focus on. But Gustavsson says he’s not going to pay too much attention on Jaromir Jagr, the 38-year-old star, who leads the Czech team in scoring with three goals and six points in seven games.
“He’s an excellent player, but maybe not what he was five years ago. He’s strong, he’s got a great reach, so we’ll have to stay close to him and make sure he doesn’t get that extra time and space he wants,” Gustavsson says.
“I know that he runs their power play and that you have to be aware of him when he has the puck, but I don’t think about specific players on the ice,” he adds.